I sat there in the stands on a cold, windy Monday night at Dodger Stadium. When I got the tickets off StubHub, I had hope of seeing the US or Venezuela, because like most Americans, I get star struck when I see the big name players.
Much to my disappointment, the Championship matched up Korea and Japan for the fifth time in the tournament. My disappointment did not last long how ever, as the drive through downtown was filled with many cars bearing the Korean flag and others with those of Japan.
The passion of the fans was only rivalled by a college rivalry game, and the buzz was out of this world.
Surprisingly to me, the crowd was predominantly pro-Korean, and this could not be more evident than when Shin-Soo Choo tied ballgame with a solo homer in the fifth. Fans were literally dancing in the aisles, and the Top Deck of Chavez Ravine rattled as if a quake was rocking Seoul. Every batter was greeted with a chant of nearly 30,000 strong belting out their name, banging their thunder sticks, and leaning on every single pitch.
Ichiro's atbats were the pinnacle of the game in my eyes. The Japanese faithful stood on their feet with pride and gusto, while Ichiro was booed and jeered by the Korean crowd. Ironically it was Ichiro who won the game for Japan in the 10th, in one of the hardest fought atbats of the night, lining a two-run single to center.
After the game I sat there trying to recap the night, staring down at the celebration. Was this tournament successful in my eyes?
Well, to give you some insight, there were only three people booed Monday night. Alex Rodriguez during an advertisement, Bud Selig while he presented the medals, and the aforementioned Ichiro. Aside from the Japanese captain, the jeers paralleled what has been wrong with baseball: Bud Selig and steroids.
To answer my question, yes it was, because the game featured the way baseball should be played. These teams play how the National League used to be played, before the home run's importance on the game magnified.
The games might not give them justice on ESPN or what not, but when you go there first hand, it is out of this world. Selig surely created this tournament to pit the US and Dominican, but because of the mind set of those teams, and the lack of American fan support, its not wonder that heart wins championships.
The Asian countries play with heart no matter the game or a competition's perceived importance, something the MLB lost a long time ago. Sure, players like Eric Byrnes, Mark DeRosa, and Justin Pedroia play with heart, but the are they vast majority.
Thankfully Japan and Korea play with passion no matter what.