If you haven’t been the biggest fan of the World Baseball Classic in past years, I can’t really blame you. Team USA was 10-10 coming in to this years Classic. That doesn’t really scream, “come watch and get excited about our team”. A lot of people are saying that even this year Team USA doesn’t have nearly the team that they should and I can’t really argue. The fact that Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Clayton Kershaw and Chris Sale are not on the roster will always make for a valid argument in that department. But the reason I am even sitting here writing this article, is because I want to talk about the team that IS on the field.
This year Team USA is on their way to the Championship Round. The fact that they have made it there, without even the best athletes from their respective country, says a lot about the team on the field. As I tuned in (beer in hand) to the first game of pool play, it was Team USA vs Colombia. I whole heartedly expected to watch a lack luster performance with guys on the field that seemed to not even be trying. More like a game down in Peoria at the beginning of Spring Training. Sorry, but the memories of Team USA on the field not even trying were just burned into my memory from the last World Baseball Classic. But man was I wrong with that assumption.
What I saw on the field were guys that had passion and wanted to show that they belonged wearing those beautiful red white and blue colors. They wanted to show the world that this year, Team USA was here to play. The Colombia game was supposed to be an easy W for Team USA but Colombia starting pitcher Jose Quintana (Chicago White Sox) threw an absolute gem. The turning point for me and what absolutely made me believe that this team was here to play happened in the bottom of the sixth inning, and it wasn’t a 400 foot bomb either. Arenado stepped to the dish with a runner on third and two outs. He had a decent at bat but ended up striking out swinging. On the swing the ball got passed the catcher and to my surprise, Arenado took off like a rocket to first base. I couldn’t believe my eyes, the Major League leading RBI man from last season just took off full speed out of the box on a third strike. (Nothing like a Bryce Harper strikeout where he just walks immediately to the dugout.) Even more shocking was that Arenado slid headfirst into first base, jumped up and was absolutely ecstatic to be called safe. For his efforts the runner from third scored and that tied the game at 2-2.
I was ABSOLUTELY all in after seeing that. Team USA must have felt the same because the passion that followed the rest of the game was unreal. It almost felt like playoff baseball (which as a Mariners fan I don’t have much experience with). Team USA walked off in extra innings with a W and that is how the Classic started for Ole’ Glory. Sitting on my couch, I could not wait for the next game. It was only March but these games mattered. You could tell the guys on the field felt the same way. From Christian Yelich to Adam Jones to Brandon Crawford, these guys were all in. I couldn’t help but sit back and just beam with sweet, sweet American pride. Just knowing that these guys were going to give 110% and represent Team USA had me searching for my American flag tank top and a Budweiser.