- I'm not entirely sure what I was expecting in terms of atmosphere, but let me tell you where there wasn't any atmosphere: the park in the park behind the right-center power alley.
Behind me was a grass lawn featuring one couple making out and three kids playing catch. I'm not sure why either of those activities required paying $15 for admission. You can play catch or feel people up pretty much wherever you want. Or at least you can feel people up pretty much wherever you want if you're good-looking. Don't want any uggos having too much of a good time in public view.
- Fortunately, there was plenty of atmosphere around the seats to which we moved.
That's like a $60 or $80 upgrade, and we did it in the third inning with the permission of one lovely usher whose name was something like Angela or Lizzie or Steve. A crowd of less than 10,000 people can be depressing, but it doesn't feel that small once you're able to get right in the thick of it. I feel horrible for people who actually paid for field level tickets out of pocket. Although I guess that's what you get for overestimating this particular event's popularity.
- The Cuban fans were mostly huddled behind the Cuban dugout, while the Japanese fans were mostly huddled behind the Japanese dugout. Japan, as you can probably imagine, drew quite a bit more support, although what Cuba lacked in numbers it made up for in noise and enthusiasm. Despite an awful, awful baseball game that entertained precisely no one, their core group of flag-waving crazies stood the whole game and blew so many whistles and horns that I thought I was watching the Expos.
- While there were few opportunities for either fan base to celebrate, they took advantage of their chances, and at times it actually got quite loud. Here's a sample from when Atsunori Inaba doubled to right in the fourth. When I bought the tickets, I was looking forward more to the crowd than to the game, so I was thrilled to see a little excitement. Once we moved so close to the field you had to look up and around to remember that there weren't that many people there. This was louder than most Padres games I've gone to, and I've seen a lot of Padre walkoffs.
- The loudest ovation, of course, came when Michihiro Ogasawara hit a two-out fly ball to this man.
This man dropped the fly ball and allowed two runs to score, giving Japan a lead it would never surrender. This picture was taken immediately following that play. You might notice that the player - Yoennis Cespedes - is standing alone, despite there being a delay due to a pitching change. This is presumably because his fellow outfielders didn't want to stand too close in fear of being caught in the crossfire from any potential assassination attempts. Cuba doesn't take too kindly to losing. Treasure this image - it may be the last ever taken of Cespedes standing up.
- Customized scoreboard distractions!
It was good to see Blue beat out Red and Green. Blue has suffered through a lot of political turmoil of late following last January's controversial election, and the victory in last night's hotly-contested race should only mean good things for a struggling nation's morale.
- One thing I noticed: Some Japanese fans booed pickoff attempts, but the Cubans did not. Perhaps this is because pickoff attempts seem to be the primary weapon in every Cuban pitcher's repertoire. Seriously, Cuba has to be one of the most obnoxious baseball teams ever assembled. Last night team Cuba attempted 29 pickoffs. Japan attempted two. And when Cuba wasn't throwing over to first, they were taking their God damn time picking a pitch and proceeding to throw it. It doesn't help that the catcher is constantly taking visits to the mound, none of their pitchers throw strikes, and the manager goes to the bullpen every twenty minutes to keep his legs from falling asleep. Last night's game finished 5-0 in nine innings and it still took three and a half hours. I've never seen such an inefficient pitching staff, and the only reason I stayed past the seventh was the glimmer of hope that maybe Cuba's bats would somehow be able to rally and reward their fans for their loyalty under the most inconceivably aggravating of conditions. Baseball may be a global game, but Cuba's version is more like cricket for retards.
- Writing in bullet-point format always seems faster and easier to me even though I tend to write more than I would otherwise. I guess the implication, then, is that the most time-consuming aspect of writing is coming up with transitions.
- Seriously though, if you ever have the opportunity to see team Cuba live, don't. I'd recommend instead going to the zoo and observing an elephant's life cycle. It'll end faster.
- They were handing out Thunderstix at the start of the game and pretty much everyone wound up getting a pair.
I hate Thunderstix and everything they stand for, but I will give them credit for being louder than you'd expect and visually appealing en masse. Even I had to grab a few as souvenirs.
Look closely at that picture, though. More specifically, look at what's written on the Thunderstix. On one side they read "World Baseball Classic". On the other side they read "GoToPuertoRico.com". Welcome to the theme of the evening. During pretty much every single break, be it between innings or between pitchers, the scoreboard and PA system would run an advertisement for Puerto Rico. Nobody ever explained this to me. Why Puerto Rico? What did Puerto Rico have to do with anything? I get why they didn't run ads for Cuba. And I get why, in turn, they didn't run ads for Japan, since they didn't want to seem biased. But Puerto Rico? Could Petco and the WBC find so little sponsor demand that they were left having to run the Puerto Rico spot 20 times? One ad might help convince you to consider Puerto Rico for your next vacation, but after a dozen of them you feel like you've already been there so many times that you never want to go back. I sat through so many Puerto Rico promos that I think I got tanner.
- The scoreboard put together a special segment on Ichiro, and he was unquestionably the most popular player in the game, but Inaba also received a lot of attention and several organized chants, which was pretty cool. Also Rolando Merino looks like the evil black guy from The Rock.
- I can't believe the next WBC is four years away. That sucks.