Friday, March 03, 2006

Baseball! Or a Close Facsimile Thereof

"You see that Korean team?"

Two major events happened yesterday, and with MLB TV I was able to watch them both from wet and snowy Brooklyn. The Red Sox spring training games have started and the World Baseball Classic kicked off. Woo Hoo! After months of making up garbage to fill space, a tangible event occurred! Let me hit them one at a time:

Spring Training Game 1: Boston Red Sox 3, Minnesota Twins 6

It is ALWAYS great to see the Sox play a game. That being said… who were these guys? Luke Allen, Trent Durrington, Ron Calloway, and Craig Breslow? It was like the whos-who of “WHO?!?!” I know, I know… SPRING TRAINING, but I at least want to have HEARD your name one time before you face Johan Santana.

Papelbon got the start for Boston and it was a scary start. Shannon Stewart led off the game by pegging Paps off the foot. Looked bad, but wasn’t. Paps stayed in for 2 innings, giving up 2 runs in process. His fastball was awesome, location… not so much. Coco Crisp had a fantastic debut (fan favorite already) by going 3-3 and just a HR from the cycle. The man is about contact and speed. Hot rookie pitchers Delcarmen and Hansen each pitched a scoreless inning and had a strikeout. 2 solo homeruns say Rudy Seanez still sucks.

Down 0-1 in the Mayor's Cup. We’ll get ‘em.

WBC Round 1: Korea 2, China Taipei 0

Wow. This was a ton of fun. No really! I enjoyed it to the point where it didn’t bother me that the video feed off MLB TV had no announcers. No Korean, no Chinese, no English… nothing. Still, this game had everything.

Big Stars: I didn’t recognize any of the China Taipei players (maybe I’m ignorant) but Korea had some big guns. Hee-Seop Choi, Chan Ho Park and the immortal Byung Hyun Kim (didn’t cry). A real star studded evening.

Great Fans: The huge Tokyo Dome had about 3000 people in it. Not kidding. However, from the sound of things you might have thought it was full. That’s because every fan had a thunderstick, cowbell, horn or disco whistle. These people went nuts over every fly ball, called strike or ground out. It really took away from the good plays (there were a few) when they actually happened.

The Tokyo Dome: A weird place that looks like the cross between a football stadium and an aquarium. Most of the ads that covered the walls were in Japanese, except for a few including the vague Super “Dry” (their quotation marks, not mine). Any clue what that is? Anyone? The between inning music was also rather odd. Some random techno, U2, John Fogerty, Van Helan, The Clash and more often than not, awkward silence. How many more games are played here?

Funny Names: Warning… this may get childish (but they are all real). Some of my favorites: Dong Joo Kim, Chang Ming Chang, Jin Man Park, Jong Kook Kim, Sung Heon Hong, Po Keng. The obvious favorite is Po Keng… but Jin Man Park is great too! Isn’t the “Man Park” where people leave their car in Provincetown?

The Game Play: Not bad actually. Lots of small ball, not much power, some great fielding and pitching that was measured in kilometers per hour (took some getting used to). The strangest play of the night was when Korean 3B Dong Joo Kim slid HEAD FIRST into first base to beat out a throw. Fans loved it and gave him a standing ovation when he was removed for a pinch runner (looked like he separated his shoulder). Let's not put that on the highlight reel.

All in all it was lots of fun and I will continue watching these games. The pitch count got bothersome (lots of early pulls) and the threat of a looming tie sucked, but it looked, felt and sounded like baseball. What else do you need? I can’t wait till the next round.

Japan vs China at 4:30 am? Ok, maybe I can wait.