When the WBC tournament started, there was little hope for South Africa. Many bets were placed on the United States and the Dominican Republic. Those two teams were were stacked with Major League Baseball stars–as well as Venezuela and Puerto Rico. These teams were expected to dominate.
Something happened on the way to the championship. The United States was eliminated in round two. The Dominican Republic lost in the semis. South Korea had dominated the Asian division, but suddenly found itself packing it’s bags. From the dust emerged two teams: Cuba and Japan. Between them only two major leaguers could be found. Yet, somehow they made their way to final.
The Cubans had a history of baseball talent and the Japanese had Ichiro. Perhaps the other teams had better talent and bigger wallets. It seems that the thing that set Japan and Cuba apart was their ability to play as a team.
The final game was full of excitement. In the end Japan came out on top. Their fans cheered as they celebrated. Then we saw something that never happens in the World Series. While Japanese celebrated, the Cubans came on to the field. The teams formed two lines and proceeded to congratulate and shake hands. Just like Little League.
After the hand shaking, the digital cameras came out. Ichiro posed for several photographs with his Cuban opponents. Cuban and Japanese players took pictures together for their own collections.
The WBC had it’s glitches. Pitch counts stifled great pitching performances. Umpiring was less than stellar. But the games were alot of fun. South Korean was a huge surprise. Japan pulled out a win when it was necessary. Venezuela showed an array of talent. South Africa almost pulled out a win over Canada. It was nice to see the regular players as well as the millionaires. And, it was great to find two teams in the final who treated each other with respect and had fun with it. It showed alot of class.
[Photograph credit: Tracy Scott-Murray, www.sxc.hu]