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An interesting night at the nerve center for the WBC

Mar 6, 2013, 6:12 AM EDT

When I got here last week I wrote some complimentary things about Phoenix which were somehow spotted by the folks at the Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau. Those good folks asked me if I was interested in joining them for dinner, along with a larger media tour they were holding in connection with the World Baseball Classic. You don’t have to ask me out for dinner twice, so I as on board when it went down last night.

The location: The Hotel Palomar, a block or so away from Chase Field. The Palomar is home base for the WBC. Players for the WBC teams are staying there, as are all of the officials, media relations people and what not. And the whole hotel was festooned with WBC logos, like so:

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The Palomar is a nice joint. So nice, in fact, that it made me change my inner monologue about some of the WBC players I’ve seen around the Cactus League the past few days.  Before it went like this:

Look at those guys. They’re good baseball players, but they’re simply outclassed by the Major Leaguers. It must be so weird for them to find themselves on these fields, far from home, being humbled in this way. I feel like going up and hugging them.

Now it’s like this:

Man, a couple of hours of this game and then they get to go to that sweet hotel, sit in the cabana by the pool and chit chat with all of the beautiful women who, by pure coincidence, are walking around the hotel, looking hard at anyone who might be a baseball player.

Put differently: even the backup catcher for Team Italy has got it better than you this week.

Driving around from ballpark to ballpark in the Phoenix suburbs, the WBC feels far away. But downtown, in and around the Palomar, there is definitely a feeling of electricity. I spoke with a couple in the lobby who came to town specifically for the WBC. They were excited. As too were those women who, by pure coincidence, were walking around the hotel. There were signs for meeting rooms and administrative offices for the WBC, all suggesting a much bigger thing, for lack of a better term, than most of us take the WBC to be.

All of it makes me wonder if the WBC would consider making the event a one-site thing in the future, rather than scattering it around the world like it is this week. There are certainly enough fields here in Arizona to make it work. Make it a destination thing, condense the schedule a bit and have one mega-hella tournament and maybe some of that heat I felt downtown last night would grow, making it an even bigger event than it is right now. Super Bowl-esque, dare I say? True, that is normally a sacrilegious thought when it comes to baseball, but I think it’s quite appropriate for the WBC even if it isn’t for the MLB regular season or World Series. Just thinking out loud here.

After bopping around the hotel we went into the on-site restaurant, Blue Hound Kitchen and Cocktails. There I had a couple of Manhattans and some short ribs and talked about baseball for a long damn time with the head of the Phoenix CVB, who happened to be a big Braves fan back in the Rafael Ramirez/Pascual Perez days and a freelance wine and travel writer named Bob Ecker who once raced as the Hot Dog in the Miller Park Sausage Race. Joining us in conversation was another freelancer named Lisa Davis who, while having very little connection to baseball herself, is looking forward to the White Sox-Cubs game on Thursday because she’s convinced there will be fights in the stands.

Scenesters at a hotel pool. Travel writers. Italian baseball players. Civic boosters. For one evening I’m imagining and actually experiencing a world where everyone, in every walk of life, cares, in their own way, about baseball and has some connection to it, however tenuous. It’s a world I would very much love to live in, even if I know it only exists in these odd couple of weeks in the desert, appearing like a mirage and, necessarily, soon to disappear.

  1. historiophiliac - Mar 6, 2013 at 7:17 AM

    Wow, I can’t wait to go to work today.

    • wlschneider09 - Mar 6, 2013 at 7:21 AM

      Me too, can’t wait to wander out in the snow and slog my way to…. sigh.

    • heyblueyoustink - Mar 6, 2013 at 8:15 AM

      What’s that Historio? You mean you don’t have:

      “sit in the cabana by the pool and chit chat with all of the beautiful women”

      and

      “As too were those women who, by pure coincidence, were walking around the hotel.”

      and

      ” the backup catcher for Team Italy ”

      In your office or work setting?

      Man, I feel for you.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 6, 2013 at 9:22 AM

        Well, I *should* be beside the pool or walking around the hotel, but instead, I’m behind a desk. ;)

      • heyblueyoustink - Mar 6, 2013 at 10:07 AM

        Sad, truly, epically, sad, if that’s the case.

        I wanted to put a kiddie pool and a small sand box under my desk. Alas, such a thing is frowned upon here.

  2. Chris Fiorentino - Mar 6, 2013 at 7:28 AM

    “Super Bowl-esque”

    Even if the “Field of Dreams” ghosts were real, and those guys came back to play a game, and they televised that game, it STILL wouldn’t get the worldwide ratings of the Super Bowl.

    • cktai - Mar 6, 2013 at 7:34 AM

      The worldwide ratings of the Super Bowl are essentially the american ratings, because it is hardly viewed in the rest of the world. The WBC, however, could be a huge draw in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Netherlands, Italy, United States, Mexico, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Canada, and Cuba. These countries have a combined population of about 800 million people, so the estimated figure of 100 million viewers of the superbowl could be within reach.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Mar 6, 2013 at 7:40 AM

        From what I have read, only the UEFA Champions League final is watched by more people worldwide than the Super Bowl. If your idea that those countries would watch the WBC were true, then, considering that soccer is a bigger sport in many of them, why isn’t the World Cup a bigger TV draw than it is?

        ps The Superbowl gets around 250 million viewers worldwide.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 6, 2013 at 7:57 AM

        why isn’t the World Cup a bigger TV draw than it is?

        An estimated 1B* people watched the 2010 WC Final between Spain and the Netherlands, and that’s with two relatively small populated countries. I can’t imagine what it would be if it were say, Brazil and China, in the finals.

        *http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/archive/southafrica2010/organisation/media/newsid=1473143/index.html

      • Chris Fiorentino - Mar 6, 2013 at 8:39 AM

        Well, if we are going to believe “FIFA” and “Eurodata” then I guess we should believe the NFL when they say that the Super Bowl has close to a billion viewers yearly too.

      • paperlions - Mar 6, 2013 at 8:59 AM

        Chris has a point. The NFL also claims that over a billion people world-wide watch the superbowl, even though data cannot corroborate anything close to that figure….not sure how it is possible to tell, considering all of the unauthorized free internet feeds there are for sporting events.

        The thing is that people around the world watch the world cup finals….for the WBC, at least so far, only people from countries whose teams are in the finals watch. I’m not even sure if people in the US would watch if the US team made it…after all, only 2.8 million people in the US tuned in to watch the US in the semi-finals in 2009 (approximately the same number of people that watched the Redwings play the Blackhawks this past Sunday afternoon).

      • kopy - Mar 6, 2013 at 9:52 AM

        If 1 out of every 3 Americans watch the Super Bowl, it wouldn’t surprise me if 1 out of 6 people on the planet watch the World Cup final.

    • orelmiraculous - Mar 6, 2013 at 8:28 AM

      For the 82nd million time, the 09 final had 82 million global viewers and was the 6th most watched sporting even in the world.  And this is for a young, unestablished tournament that hasn’t even caught on in America yet.  Super Bowl ratings are a very real possibility in the near future.

      I’m glad to see Craig resisted his internal urge to snark up this post (I imagine that must have been difficult for him).  Maybe he’s finally realizing how awesome this tournament can be/already is.

      • paperlions - Mar 6, 2013 at 9:06 AM

        How many of those 82 million were from Korea and Japan? That is pretty much an ideal matchup for WBC viewership because fans from those countries care far more about the WBC than do people from most other countries that are participating.

        This is not a global viewing event, indeed 90% of the world doesn’t know it is going on because they don’t care about baseball and a tournament that doesn’t include their country isn’t going to affect that.

        For roughly the 3rd time, people in the US obviously do not care about the WBC, 2.8 million people watched the US in the semi-finals in 2009 (that is about the same number of people as watched the Detroit-Chicago hockey game on NBC last sunday), and barely more than 1/2 as many people in the US watched the Korea-Japan final. In other words, US baseball fans don’t really care about this tournament yet….and viewership is always going to be determined by who is in the game….just like attendance does.

    • historiophiliac - Mar 6, 2013 at 9:56 AM

      Look, you guys’ objections to the WBC are duly noted. Can we be done with that now? You can just not comment on these posts and leave them to the people who care. You’re being a bunch of Dick Downers here.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Mar 6, 2013 at 10:15 AM

        Dick Downer? Didn’t he hit the game winning home run in the 1897 World Series?

  3. cktai - Mar 6, 2013 at 7:29 AM

    The problem with holding the WBC on a single location is that the main audience is spread out on two main timezones which are extremely unfavourable toward eachother. If it is held on the American continent, than the East Asians won’t be able to view, and vice-versa. A compromise such as holding it in Europe would mean that the times are unfavourable for both audiences, which is actually worse.

    Then again the World Cup football manages to get people to wake at night to view the games, so why not th WBC once it grows in reputation?

    • kopy - Mar 6, 2013 at 9:55 AM

      It works for the Olympics. The company that owns this site got some flak for running most things in London on a tape delay, but it worked out.

      Also, most Americans who watched the Miracle on Ice swear they saw it live when, even though it was in New York, it was on a tape delay as well. It was shown hours earlier in Canada and the rest of the world.

      • cktai - Mar 6, 2013 at 10:35 AM

        Oh tape delay is an interesting solution indeed. I didn’t realize that US broadcast during last years olympics was on tape delay.

      • jwbiii - Mar 6, 2013 at 10:44 AM

        That was the worst. Where I was, there was a general news update during the second intermission. The newsroom had a live feed and they were celebrating the win. Kind of made the third period less exciting.

        I stayed up until 3 am to watch the Czech/Russian final at Nagano. Great hockey game. Got up at 9, taped replay on TV.

  4. ryanrockzzz - Mar 6, 2013 at 8:09 AM

    For myself, I still try and figure out how I can get into the WBC. It just comes off to me as a glorified exhibition contest, that is great for people in other countries, however knowing I can see all of these players play harder and longer during the MLB season just make the things seem like a novelty to me. Hopefully I can get into it this time around.

    • orelmiraculous - Mar 6, 2013 at 8:30 AM

      But you can’t see these guys in MLB.  That’s what makes it great.  As Jonah Keri pointed out, Jose Abreu may very well be the best hitter in the world, and you’ve never seen him.  Darvish dominated the last one and you had never seen him.

  5. samsonleague - Mar 6, 2013 at 8:09 AM

    A “one site” tournament would rock. I currently couldn’t care less about the WBC, but if it was just 1 week in Arizona I’d gladly pack-up the kids for a March Break holiday there.

    However, I think ‘cktal’ has a good point. Perhaps MLB needs to do a separate ‘Americas Baseball Classic’ where the timezone issue isn’t so extreme.

    • flosox - Mar 6, 2013 at 8:33 AM

      “Perhaps MLB needs to do a separate ‘Americas Baseball Classic’ where the timezone issue isn’t so extreme”

      Dude, you’re on to something…

      I picture a format something like, starting in October, all the best regular season teams from each league have a playoff where the winner from each league plays a 7 game series during the last week of October.

      Could you imagine!!! ;)

    • cktai - Mar 6, 2013 at 10:41 AM

      An americas baseball classic was definitely not what I had in mind :/

  6. jm91rs - Mar 6, 2013 at 8:28 AM

    Where does Cuba play its games? I have to think they’d be pretty paranoid about players defecting if they’re playing any here in the U.S.

    • jwbiii - Mar 6, 2013 at 9:03 AM

      Their subregional in is San Juan and their regional is in Miami, if I may borrow NCAA basketball terminology.

      • jwbiii - Mar 6, 2013 at 9:06 AM

        My bad. Fukuoka and Tokyo. Didi you ever notice the Cuba’s flag and Puerto Rico’s are alike with the colors reversed?

    • cktai - Mar 6, 2013 at 10:40 AM

      Contreras when he was playing for Cuba in Mexico, Baez in Canada, and Chapman and Conception when they were in the Netherlands. Defecting to the USA might actually be less favourable as they would have to participate in the draft, while if they defect elsewhere and establish residency outside the US, then they can become international free agents right away.

  7. 4d3fect - Mar 6, 2013 at 8:35 AM

    I envision a Groucho moment for Craig at the end of dinner.

    *Calcaterra surreptitiously glances at the dinner tab*

    “This is outrageous! I wouldn’t pay it if I were you!”

    • historiophiliac - Mar 6, 2013 at 4:30 PM

      I don’t know how this didn’t get more appreciation. Position on the page, I guess. Too bad. Funny.

  8. bigmacmantle - Mar 6, 2013 at 1:22 PM

    Short ribs? Lean meat? Day off for your paleo diet?

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