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Manfred: Growth, appeal of Classic 'exciting'

MLB.com

The World Baseball Classic began on Monday, and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred was in attendance for the opening game, a 2-1 win in 10 innings by Israel over host Korea at the Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul.

During the game, Manfred -- who has said he would like the Classic to continue for as long as he is Commissioner -- joined the MLB Network broadcast team to share his thoughts on WBC 2017 and beyond.

View Full Game Coverage

The World Baseball Classic began on Monday, and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred was in attendance for the opening game, a 2-1 win in 10 innings by Israel over host Korea at the Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul.

During the game, Manfred -- who has said he would like the Classic to continue for as long as he is Commissioner -- joined the MLB Network broadcast team to share his thoughts on WBC 2017 and beyond.

View Full Game Coverage

:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::

"It's unbelievable. I think every time the event has gotten better," Manfred said. "It's gotten better in terms of quality of play, number of countries, revenue generated, and we're really committed to the event going forward. It's an important part of our international strategy."

This is the fourth iteration of the Classic, and Manfred will be traveling to each of the first-round host locations -- Seoul, Tokyo, Miami and Jalisco, Mexico -- as pool play gets underway. In past tournaments, the games played in Asia had taken place exclusively in Japan, and this year's pool in Seoul is the first of its kind in Korea.

"It is exciting to have baseball played -- particularly in venues where they don't normally see Major League players. And it's a great opportunity to internationalize the game," Manfred said. "We like the early pools to be outside the U.S. to the extent possible. We're very interested in having both Korea and Japan as pools this time around. Both countries have been great supporters of the event from the very beginning and both have always had very competitive teams. And there's a lot of interest in having the games both here and in Japan."

Manfred noted the quality of competition across this year's 16-team field, saying that it represents one of the best and most interesting parts of the Classic's growth since its inception in 2006.

"We also think [the World Baseball Classic is] important from a growth perspective because the funding that the federations in these countries receive from the WBC, they can use that funding for developing their countries and improving the quality of play in their countries," Manfred added.

Manfred said that to continue that growth in the future, he would like to see further expansion in the qualifying rounds for the tournament, with more countries becoming interested in playing in the Classic. There were four four-team qualifier pools for WBC '17, with Australia, Mexico, Colombia and Israel earning spots in the Classic's main draw via the qualifiers.

The World Baseball Classic runs through March 22. In the U.S., games will air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN will provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. will have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. The tournament will be distributed internationally across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games at Marlins Park, Tokyo Dome, Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Mexico, Petco Park, as well as the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.