I think maybe what I might take most out of the World Baseball Classic is its insistence on portraying the entire scope of the best moments, what makes baseball the most artful game.
Sure, there are plenty of shots like this during the MLB regular season, but they don’t get this dramatic until October, and it’s a nice reminder. In other sports, the biggest moments are focused on one point. The last shot, the big goal, the touchdown. The action all crescendos to one spot. In baseball, there’s so much happening everywhere at once in a spot like this. There’s the initial thunderous contact at the plate, and then following the ball in its arc toward the outfield wall. There’s the centerfielder chasing down the ball off the wall. There’s Ohtani and Ukyo Shuto rounding the bases, as Munetaka Murakami rounds first while Mexico sets up for the relay across the whole length of the field, even as futile as this one was. The entire Japanese roster spilling out of the dugout and all turning into third-base coaches. The Mexican players already slowly walking off who are separate from the failing relay throws. It’s a mural of the best of baseball, the inverse actions of each team and yet all in harmony and rhythm, spread across a wide tableau.
There’s also this still image:
Before all that action, the frantic last moments that combine to form one last piece from a memorable game, there’s this. Giovanny Gallegos knows it’s over, which is why the feeling goes out of his knees. There’s still much to be done, and things that could go wrong on either side, and yet Gallegos knows none of that is coming. His fate was decided with that decisive crack off Murakami’s bat. Nothing can be more decisive than that sound, cutting through the brief pause of the raucous crowd as a pitch is delivered.
None of this is complete without the Japanese call:
Boy, that sure sounds like it matters.
With the final being Japan-USA tonight, there’s little question it will be the most-watched baseball game, worldwide, in history. It has the potential to include Ohtani marching out of the bullpen like the Reaper to face Mike Trout in the late innings, but even should it not include that the drama will be pretty high, at least one hopes.
As more people tune in there are more people beseeching MLB to do this every year. But the rarity and desperation of it are what makes it so fun. The players care more because they don’t know how many more shots they’ll get at this, whether it’s the semi-pros (if that) of the Czechia or the stars or Japan or the US. Three years can be a long time in baseball. Even for them, the stars have to align.
I’m no less guilty than most others who spend baseball seasons lamenting what’s wrong with baseball. It has been so much fun to remember what’s so right, especially with the bonus of the baseball season beginning right after this. There is good in the sport, Mr. Frodo. It’s worth fighting for.