Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, Carlos Correa, Ryan Lavarnway, Alfredo Despaigne, Jurickson Profar, Danny Duffy, Nelson Cruz and Jose Cabrera have been eight huge reasons for success in this World Baseball Classic so far, and here's another: the fans.With the second rounds underway on Tuesday and the field cut in half to eight
Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, Carlos Correa, Ryan Lavarnway, Alfredo Despaigne, Jurickson Profar, Danny Duffy, Nelson Cruz and Jose Cabrera have been eight huge reasons for success in this World Baseball Classic so far, and here's another: the fans.
With the second rounds underway on Tuesday and the field cut in half to eight contenders, officials for the Classic announced that the fourth edition of baseball's marquee world event has already set numerous tournament attendance records -- including a 34 percent increase over the previous first-round record set in 2013.
:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::
From Seoul to Tokyo to Jalisco to Miami, the 2017 World Baseball Classic drew 621,851 fans -- well above the 463,017 for the first round four years earlier. The colorful crowds and cool customs have been almost as much fun to watch as the action on the field.
Pool B, held at the Tokyo Dome, registered the largest attendance of any pool in the history of the tournament, with a total of 206,534. The average attendance for Japan's three first-round games was 42,123. Japan's 11-6 victory over Cuba on March 7 -- witnessed by a raucous (and almost constantly singing) crowd of 44,908 -- was the largest attendance of the first round and the third-largest crowd in the tournament's history. Both of those teams advanced.
Pool C, held at Marlins Park in Miami, drew a total of 163,878, which was the highest first-round total attendance for a U.S. pool in the tournament's history. A sellout crowd of 37,446 in the city known as the gateway to Latin America saw the Mariners' Cruz complete a monumental comeback for the Dominican Republic over Team USA. It marked the largest crowd in that ballpark's history, and both of those teams ultimately moved on.
Pools A (Seoul) and D (Jalisco) were played at venues where neither home team was able to advance, an especially shocking development at the former site and perhaps a mild surprise at the latter.
In Pool A at Gocheok Sky Dome, Korea was upset in the first game in front of a packed and boisterous crowd, and Israel emerged as the tournament darlings while advancing with the Netherlands. Meanwhile, Mexico brought a memorable scene of local pageantry as Guadalajara was given a Classic venue for the first time in the state of Jalisco, but it was Puerto Rico and Venezuela that made it out.
Considering that half of the four hosts were eliminated and not part of final drama at their venues (Venezuela beat Italy in a tiebreaker), the attendance record is even more remarkable.
"It's unbelievable. I think every time the event has gotten better," MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said of the World Baseball Classic while attending the Israel-Korea opener on March 6. "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."
Rosters for the 2017 World Baseball Classic feature tournament record totals of 63 MLB All-Stars and 259 players under contract with MLB organizations. The tournament is being distributed via media platforms in 182 countries and territories worldwide with a global reach of more than 415 million households.
The World Baseball Classic runs through March 22. In the U.S., games air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. The tournament is being 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 Tokyo Dome and 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.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com and a baseball writer since 1990. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog.