Man­fred: WBC a suc­cess

More than 1 mil­lion at­tended tour­ney’s fourth edi­tion.

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS -

Even be­fore the United States took the field to face Puerto Rico for the World Base­ball Clas­sic cham­pi­onship Wed­nes­day night, Rob Man­fred was con­fi­dent in declar­ing this some­times troubled tour­na­ment to be a smash­ing suc­cess.

The Ma­jor League Base­ball Com­mis­sioner’s con­fi­dence seemed well-founded when the Amer­i­cans claimed their first WBC ti­tle in grand style with an 8-0 vic­tory at rau­cous Dodger Sta­dium.

The fourth edi­tion of the WBC was the best-at­tended, most-viewed world­wide and likely the most en­ter­tain­ing.

And this tour­na­ment’s long-term health is un­de­ni­ably im­proved by the fact that the home team won it all for the first time.

“We’ve had crowds that not only were record-num­ber crowds, but had pas­sion that it’s hard to think where you saw some­thing that good the last time,” Man­fred said shortly be­fore the first pitch. “Just re­ally amazing. And best of all, the games on the field have been ab­so­lutely un­be­liev­able, com­pelling. Our play­ers at their best, com­bined with a lit­tle na­tion­al­ism, has re­ally been a great thing.”

Man­fred and play­ers’ union head Tony Clark ap­pear to be in com­plete agree­ment on the suc­cess of the 2017 WBC, which at­tracted more than 1 mil­lion fans for the first time and ex­panded its tele­vi­sion reach as a unique world­wide plat­form for the game. Even be­fore the en­thu­si­as­tic world­wide re­cep­tion and the U.S. team’s win­ning surge at home, the WBC was ex­pected to top $100 mil­lion in rev­enue this year for the first time, ac­cord­ing to or­ga­niz­ers.

No deal is in place, but Man­fred and Clark are con­fi­dent there will be a fifth WBC, most likely in 2021 af­ter base­ball re­turns to the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020.

“I think when you have a tour­na­ment that gets the kind of trac­tion that the 2017 edi­tion did, it will make it eas­ier to get play­ers the next time around,” Man­fred said. “Not only for the U.S., but for all the coun­tries.”

The ro­bust rat­ings for MLB Net­work’s game broad­casts and the rau­cous crowds of cos­tumed, singing fans in Los An­ge­les and Mi­ami be­lied the WBC’s biggest prob­lem, one that still pre­vents a dwin­dling num­ber of Amer­i­can fans and play­ers from tak­ing it se­ri­ously.

“I don’t mean this to sound wrong, but for the most part, up un­til this point, the other coun­tries were prob­a­bly into this event a lit­tle bit more than the United States,” U.S. man­ager Jim Ley­land said. “But

in talk­ing to our play­ers, I know they’re go­ing to spread the word. I’ve had some play­ers al­ready tell me this is the great­est ex­pe­ri­ence of their life.”

Mariners: Op­tioned 1B Daniel Vo­gel­bach to Triple-A Ta­coma, mak­ing Danny Va­len­cia the ev­ery­day first base­man when the reg­u­lar sea­son be­gins. Vo­gel­bach strug­gled in spring train­ing, hit­ting .228. Tay­lor Mot­ter will be the backup at first base.

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