LOS ANGELES -- You heard the emotion in the words as they said it. You saw their faces and knew they meant it. To the players in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, the tournament was an enormous hit, a stunning success story that is only getting better every four years.In
LOS ANGELES -- You heard the emotion in the words as they said it. You saw their faces and knew they meant it. To the players in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, the tournament was an enormous hit, a stunning success story that is only getting better every four years.
In the wake of the United States' 8-0 win over Puerto Rico in the championship game of the 2017 World Baseball Classic on Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium, it was clear that while there were many amazing plays and indelible moments that will be remembered for a long time, nothing seemed to resonate more with the players who had just finished off this exhilarating global two-week journey more than the experience itself. Every bit of it.
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Take the first thing uttered by Christian Yelich on TV while basking in the confetti and standing near the champion's trophy on a podium by first base: "It's the most fun I've ever had playing baseball."
Take the first thing uttered by Carlos Correa, the Astros' shortstop who played third base for his native Puerto Rico and still glowed in the hallway near his team's clubhouse despite being shut out in the final for the second consecutive Classic: "It was the most fun I've ever had playing baseball. Period. Nothing has come close to it. It's something I will never forget."
The fans won't forget it, either, and for good reason: There were more of them attending World Baseball Classic games than before. Wednesday night's game drew 51,565 fans to Dodger Stadium and padded the 2017 Classic's all-time event attendance record to 1,086,720. The previous record was 885,212 in 2013, further proof that this event is gaining momentum with each cycle.
"You're talking about in front of 50,000 people in huge situations, you can't beat this atmosphere," U.S. catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "You can't beat it. And in terms of getting ready for the season, there's nothing like it."
Passion was flowing on virtually every pitch throughout the tournament on the field and in the stands for most teams, but perhaps none more than Puerto Rico, which won its first seven games of the Classic before bowing out to Team USA in the final.
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That team's manager, Edwin Rodriguez, described the tournament as an invaluable learning experience for his young Major League stars -- Correa, Francisco Lindor and Javier Baez among them -- who proved once again that they are ready for the biggest of stages.
That's another thing players continue to say about the Classic: the team building, the camaraderie, the responsibility one feels when slapping on a uniform that has the name of his country on the front … these are factors that elevate this event above others.
"This was my best experience in my professional career, and there's no doubt that this tournament just keeps growing up and growing up and getting better and better," Rodriguez said. "This tournament is here, it's great and it's going to stay here for a long time."
One topic that had been addressed before and during the Classic was that of certain big stars of the Major Leagues declining to play for the American team for various reasons. Now that Team USA has won the event for the first time, players were saying they expect the roster to be even stronger in the next Classic.
And hearing them talk about how much they enjoyed this one, you get the feeling they'll be active salesmen when it comes time to make the pitch.
"I think what's so special about this is that it's all fan bases, especially throughout the United States, that come together, no matter what [Major League] team you like or represent," Team USA first baseman Eric Hosmer said. "You come together for the United States. We had All-Stars, superstars all across our roster, and they're doing roles they're not really used to doing, but that's what it was.
"Every single day everybody comes to the field, staying ready and doing whatever they can to help the team win."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB.