Pura Pasión

25 things we loved in the World Baseball Classic (so far)

What have we liked so far about the 2017 World Baseball Classic?

What wasn’t there to like?

  • La pura pasión, the unbridled passion displayed by fans and players.
  • Team Dominican Republic a.k.a. #PlatanoPower selling out Marlins Park two days in a row.
  • People dancing in the stands and in the streets.
  • MLB Network’s Matt Vasgersian rhapsodizing about güiros, hollow gourds with notches that produce a ratcheting sound when rubbed with a stick or tine.
  • Tito Polo, a New York Yankees farmhand and the best new baseball name, sacrificing body and soul in the outfield for Team Colombia.
  • Ricky Martin‘s music blaring in the Estadio de Béisbol Charros de Jalisco in between innings.
  • Fans serenading Team Puerto Rico with a long, improvised percussive riff of bomba and plena from the Petco Park stands long after #LosNuestros beat the defending champions Dominican Republic in the first game of Round 2.

And, most of all, the fact that many people finally embraced the notion that baseball is played differently around the world. Pride and emotion are part of the game. Along with bat flips, chest bumps and group hugs, too.

So that’s eight. Here are 17 more of our top moments from the WBC.

The Players

1. Yadier Molina’s throw and Javy Báez’s no-look tag while pointing to Molina to nail Nelson Cruz when he attempted to steal second base in the opening game of the second round. Slick, fancy and so-in-the-moment, up there with any Magic Johnson no-look pass. Baez claims he didn’t know what he was doing until he saw the replays. I quote Doña Trini, my 83-year-old mom who was watching from Puerto Rico: “Sure, buddy.”

2. Mets rookie pitcher Seth Lugo, a self-proclaimed “Quarter-Rican” from Louisiana, who decided to play for his paternal grandfather’s island. Fighting for a roster spot this spring, he started against Team Venezuela in the first round and kept #ArepaPower scoreless during 5.1 innings.

3. Miguel Cabrera’s home run to open the ninth inning and tie the tie-breaker game against Italy in the first round. Manager Omar Vizquel and Team Venezuela were getting second-guessed and booed back home, putting national pride and personal reputations on the line. “Miggy’s home run took 150 kilos off our back,” said Vizquel.

4. Nelson Cruz’s eighth inning home run that shocked Team USA in the first round and completed Team Dominican Republic’s thunderous comeback from a 5-0 deficit. The shot – and shouts – heard all around the Caribbean. “I’ve played in the playoffs. In the World Series. This is the biggest home run I’ve ever hit,” Cruz said.

WATCH: Nelson Cruz talks to La Vida Baseball about baseball life in the Dominican Republic

5. Adrián González’s walkup song at Jalisco during the Mexico-Venezuela tie-breaker game. We think the beat is techno-pop Banda fusion, but it got us pumped up and dancing.

The #Power

6. Hat tip to MLB.com’s Jesse Sánchez, who has been posting fun and poignant moments during the WBC, including a video of two men dancing in the stands in between innings. “I miss my father and grandfather,” wrote Jesse, and that’s all he had to say.

7. #PlatanoPower, Team Dominican Republic’s ode to Fernando Rodney’s rally plantain that propelled them to the 2013 WBC championship. Latin culture is all about family and food, as this Players’ Tribune video vividly documents.

8. But lost in the fun and bad food puns is that Puerto Ricans also love their plantains, preferably green, sliced diagonally and fried twice. As #LosNuestros showed on Tuesday, they owe it all to the power of #tostones.

9. The number of times players mentioned country and family as the reason they signed up for the WBC. That simple. The Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado’s father is from Cuba and his mother from Puerto Rico. But because both are extremely proud to be American citizens, he decided to suit up for the USA. “They raised me to take pride in being from this country,” he said.

10. On the other hand, Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado was born in Hialeah, Florida, to Dominican parents. He opted for #PlatanoPower because of his abuelito Francisco Nuñez, the grandfather from La Vega who raised him and reminded him every day to practice his bunting. Like Manny said in a moving tribute, “Gracias abuelo. This is for you.”

11. How the players are even more emphatic in Spanish about their reasons for representing their countries. Francisco Lindor told El Nuevo Día, Puerto Rico’s largest newspaper, “We grow up dreaming of playing for Puerto Rico. It’s so different to how people are raised” in the United States.

12. The New York Yankees reliever Dellin Betances, born in Brooklyn to Dominican parents, basically told off reporters who questioned his decision to decline an invitation from MLB’s Joe Torre to join Team USA, saying “Los dominicanos nacemos donde nos da la gana.” Idiomatically translated: “Dominicans are born wherever the hell they want.” Betances even printed the phrase and the Dominican flag on a T-shirt and proudly posed wearing it.

The PRIDE

13. The number of national baseball correspondents that praised and raved about the WBC and how the games differed from the MLB regular season, starting with Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan. Passan pointed out that “The World Baseball Classic is exciting. The World Baseball Classic is dramatic. The World Baseball Classic is important to those who do choose to play.”

14. MLB.com’s Richard Justice, who wrote, “Virtually every player who has participated has called it one of the best things they’d done in baseball.”

15. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, who quoted Israel manager Jerry Weinstein saying, “It feels like the World Series, but only bigger.”

16. FOXSports.com’s and MLB Network’s Ken Rosenthal, who wrote “There is one word that perhaps describes what we’re missing…The word is joy.”

17. And, finally, Fangraphs.com’s Paul Swydan, who made the best suggestion to date: Suspend the MLB season and play the World Baseball Classic in July. To that we add, create an All-Star, USA vs. the Rest of the World matchup on Day One and then spend the next two weeks celebrating the culture of pelota.

Because it’s The Americas’ Game.

Featured image: Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images Sport