The World Baseball Classic has proven important for the countries involved. Now that Baseball has been removed from the Olympics, this has become a venue that intersects the Olympics with the World Series. Each country has its dream team of players from Major League Baseball and other Professional leagues in Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Cuba, who has been a major factor during international amateur competition for decades, is always an interesting part of the Classic. The history of baseball in the Caribbean basin traces back to Cuba.
It takes about three to four hours to drive down to Miami from Central Florida. I took that trip last year to see something that happens once every four years now. I actually bought the tickets to Game 6, at a discount, a few months before without knowing what teams would be playing. Round two of the World Baseball Classic was held in two pools. This one was at Marlins Park in Miami. The other was at Japan Dome in Fukuoka, where Japan, Chinese Taipei, Cuba, and the Netherlands played.
Needless to say, I was pleased to know that the game I would see was Dominican Republic vs. Puerto Rico. I had been following the Team Puerto Rico (my fellow Boricuas) since the beginning of the tournament. They earned every win of the World Baseball Classic, having a margin of three runs or less in each game. In their first match with Team USA, they lost 7-1 but came back in the second match 4-3 to narrowly advance.
Marlins Park, home of the Miami Marlins, opened in 2012. It has a retractable roof, and a giant glazed wall behind right field that frames the new Miami skyline of condominium towers. Its the only park with a fish tank that wraps around the backstop behind home plate, holding 600 gallons of seawater. And yes, players have check how durable the glass is with a few baseball line drives.
Some other unique things you'll see are a Bobble Head Museum, a Clevelander Bar & Swimming Pool, and lots of artwork displayed throughout (The owner is a world renowned Art dealer). Then there is the Home Run Sculpture behind centerfield. Some people are still trying to make sense of it. I'm one of them. Neon lights, fog, and moving parts turn on when a Marlin hits a home run.
Financing of the park is controversial in Miami. Seating capacity is 37,442. That makes it the third smallest park in Major League Baseball. But, when you're there, it seems much larger for some reason. Maybe its because the playing field appears further away from the seats. Its either that or the other amenities that were built into this contemporary building.
There is nothing like the level of competition in the World Baseball Classic, more than just a playoff atmosphere. It's a patriotic electricity. Every corner of the park had a rally. The noise carried on long after the game. Puerto Rico lost to Dominican Republic 2-0 on Saturday march 16, 2013. These two teams would go on to the Semi-Finals with Teams Japan and Netherlands at AT&T Park in San Francisco. Ultimately, Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic would face each for the third time in the final game.
Puerto Rico had great wins along the way that included beating Teams USA and Japan (2006 and 2009 Champions). But, the Dominican Republic was too stacked with talent, going undefeated to win it all. They had something to prove from their shocking early exit in 2009 after being eliminated by an up and coming Netherlands program.
The currents of patriotism were hard to resist by fans. But, it was a victory in itself to see two teams from the Caribbean basin, where baseball roots run deep, to play in the championship game.