Play Ball! Opening Day finally arrives!
That’s right, baseball fans! Spring training has wrapped up and with it, the World Baseball Classic as well. This spring saw some amazing action from all kinds and this reporter was buried under hours and hours of footage to watch every single night.
Like a little kid in a candy store, I was able to catch some of the more exciting minor league prospects getting opportunities they normally wouldn’t have due to the WBC. With the veteran vacancies on the MLB squads, most games consisted of players who would normally never get a spot in the sun on the MLB level during spring.
Our Eric Filia
Even in the Mariners camp there were opportunities abound for a farm system that’s been bare for years but has recently borne fruit. Some notable players from our coverage last summer in Everett were even able to make it onto the field, which would never have happened any other year. NWL MVP Eric Filia was about to sneak into 6 games, which is quite a jump considering he was in Short-season Single A last year. Max Povse, the recently acquired hurler from the Braves was able to get some work in and impress the team. He’s headed down to Double A to start the season, and may not last long there based upon his performance.
That good old global game
The World Baseball Classic has made a believer of me. My Co-Editor Ian Loney can attest to this fact. Prior to the start of the tournament I admit I wasn’t sold on the concept. I hadn’t really cared too much in the past, and national pride isn’t something I care too much about. Not having a horse in the race so to speak, I didn’t find much to watch.
This year was different; I’d done the research and looked over rosters and predictions. I knew the Japanese and Dominican Republic teams were to be feared, along with Puerto Rico as always. But I wasn’t prepared for the intensity of which both the players and the fans brought to the game. I wound up being awake at 1:30 AM PST for the opener of Israel vs Korea in Seoul, and found myself entranced. The crowd was in full on party mode for the entire 4+ hour game! Every situation mattered, and I found myself hanging on nearly every pitch.
Was this October? No, it was the WBC, and only March! As the tournament progressed the fever only rose and the competition stiffened. In the Quarterfinals, Team USA found themselves in a win-or-die situation against the Dominican Republic. The stage was set for some serious drama, and what followed were probably some of the best baseball this writer’s ever seen. Every single pitch mattered. Every grounder run out at first base at full speed. The Dominican roster read like an All-star team composed of All-star rosters, and the USA roster had a few more seemingly “pedestrian” level players (like Matt Carpenter! *gasp*). But in the end, Team USA pulled it out, and went on to win the tournament.
That all being said, the WBC has some issues that remain. For one thing, if you don’t have MLB.tv, you couldn’t watch most, if not ALL of the games. This needs to change next time, with at the very least the semi-finals and the Final itself being on ESPN 2 or something. The world needs to see more of this!
With that, Spring has finished and it’s time for the Boys of Summer to take the field. The Mariners have a completely new mentality and an excellent shot at ending the longest playoff drought in the majors this year. Stay tuned this summer!
Around the League:
- As weird as it is to say this, but at the time of writing, Madison Bumgarner is the MLB leader in home runs after hitting 2 today against the D Backs in the afternoon opener. He’s the all-time leader for HRs by a pitcher in his organization now, as well. 130 years of history from one of the league’s oldest franchises and Bumgarner has truly made a name for himself.
- Strange Injuries – Drew Smyly won my 2017 award for the weirdest named injury ever. I know the season is young, but who has ever heard of a “soggy arm”? Did he lose the bones in it? Did it become pasta without him realizing? Thank you to the Mariners for providing some comic relief to deal with the fact we start 2017 with our 5th starter on the DL.