Today I attended my second and final WBC game, and once again I picked one whose result was never seriously in question — and one that did not have significance to the standings. But does it matter? Baseball is fun, and international baseball is even more fun.
I came to the stadium early both to soak up atmosphere and because I had figured I would get a very early start on Chanukah shopping by scooping up Team Israel swag. I had not found any on Monday and was told to come back because they’d get more in. Well, they did not get more in, there was pretty much not a single Team Israel item for sale anywhere in the stadium. I picked up the last thing I could find - a Youth Small t-shirt which I managed to squeeze into (it wasn’t pretty). Someone in the merch business did a terrible job predicting demand!
I did get there in time to see some Team Israel warmups and a few players signing autographs.
Venezuelan fans were out in force, excited to watch their team go undefeated.
The game was quick — under three hours — and more engaging than the score might suggest. Venezuela scored three in the first with some sharply hit balls, thanks to a lineup featuring Jose Altuve, Gleybar Torres and Ronald Acuna Jr., but Team Israel pitcher Robert Stock recovered to pitch a clean second and third.
They tacked on two more runs in the fourth and sixth on solo homers by Suarez and Escobar.
Team Israel had opportunities — they had three walks and nine hits, with baserunners nearly every inning. But they had no extra base hits and grounded into two double plays.
Two former Rays got hits for Venezuela - David Peralta, and Robinson Chirinos. Chirinos came in to catch midway through the game, and I noticed that he had a smile and a few words for each batter that came to the plate. At first I thought there might be some veterans he knew (e.g. Danny Valencia and Ryan Lavarnway, two former major leaguers) but I saw he did the same for players who are currently just in A ball. So that’s just Robinson being a nice guy, and it was great to see.
A few other observations: Miami seems to be one place that has not abandoned the “kiss cam”, and yes they did at some point focus on two men who did indeed pretend to kiss and hilarity ensued (that’s sarcasm in case that wasn’t clear).
I took a shuttle bus back from the stadium and a bunch of us spent the ride trying to parse the WBC tie breaker rules. We could understand win percentage, we could understand head-to-head competition, we even understood drawing lots, but everything else is a bit of a puzzle. My baseball shuttle chums were just taking a break before heading back for the more significant Puerto Rico v Dominican Republic game tonight.