The country of Brazil notched a resounding victory for the globalization of baseball with their victory in became a more-exciting-than-it-had-any-right-to-be final in Panama, becoming the sixteenth and final team to the reach the World Baseball Classic in March. The Brazilian team might only feature one active Major League player — Yan Gomes, who barely counts but is rightly considered a legend in his native country — yet the young team edged out the more established Panamanian team 1-0 in Panama City.
The Brazilian team deserves a great deal of credit for beating Panama on their home soil twice in five days. The play was ragged at times – thanks in no small part to this epic baseball running mistake/dropped infield fly ball combination, it was exciting all the same.
The Brazilian team is inexperienced and younger than you can imagine, with two players who aren’t yet 18 years old making contributions. With only one big leaguer, the Brazilians looked to manager Barry Larkin to add some big league experience and savvy from his Hall of Fame career. Via MLB.com’s WBC microsite:
Many of the coaches and staff that are associated with the team worked with these guys when they were 10, 11, 12 years old,” Larkin said. “So it’s been kind of one family-type of baseball community there. Once again, the future is incredibly bright.”
Brazil joins Canada, Spain, and Taiwan as the final four qualifiers to compete in the month-long tournament in March. While it lacks the fevered support of the World Cup in soccer, this event is great fun no matter who does or does not suit up for their country.
Countries new to baseball such as Brazil and Spain may not last long with the tournament kicks off this spring but this infusion of new blood and enthusiasm to the game is very welcome. With a population of nearly 200 million, getting the good people of Brazil on-board with baseball is a good thing for the future and health of baseball.
The tournament begins with Pool A play on March 2nd in Fukuoka, Japan, where the defending champs are joined by China, Cuba and one of the four qualifying nations – with the seeding and placement of the four qualifiers still to come. The final goes March 19th at AT&T Park in San Francisco. I don’t know about you but I cannot wait.