The 2017 World Baseball Classic is over. To say it was punctuated by moments of purity would be unjust. It was made of them. There was Jose Quintana’s six no-hit innings. Javy Baez’s no-look tag. Nelson Cruz’s dinger he celebrated like both his first and last ever. Adam Jones robbing Orioles teammate Manny Machado of a home run.
Many would say the Jones catch defines the tournament more than any other play, especially because the US won. But it wasn’t that or anything else that happened on the field. Instead, it’s a comment Jones made that characterizes it:
This statement epitomizes the whole WBC experience. Some of the game’s best players opting to sit out the tournament made for a reasonable story line, and maybe even more of a story than the actual tournament before it started. Guys like Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw deciding to stay in their Major League team camps was a sigh of relief to those in front offices, and a sign of indifference to fans.
But what Jones said was true. Everyone who wanted to be at the tournament was. And in that sense one of the most honest guys in the game kept it going by essentially saying, “Why don’t we worry about who’s here?” It’s reminiscent of Herb Brooks saying, “I’m not looking for the best players, Craig, I’m looking for the right ones” in 2004’s Miracle. Such sentiment from Jones and the Disney version of Brooks defines everyone’s participation.
When an event like the WBC rolls around it might be intuitive to put together the “best” team. That isn’t the point, though. The point is to put together a team where everyone shows up with conviction. While it won’t be celebrated accordingly, team USA’s win is a big deal because it’s an opportunity to see the game differently. Instead of baseball being a six month affair so casually grueling that it makes people tune out, we could — and should — view it as what happens when you decide to be hawkishly present.