Why the World Baseball Classic Is Awesome

Mar 9 2017
Nolan Arenado
Colorado Rockies
Mar 9 2017

Last September, right near the end of the season, we traveled to the Bay Area to play the Giants. It was our final road series of the year. The season hadn’t gone as we had hoped, but we wanted to finish strong, and I was super pumped for those games. I always look forward to playing at AT&T Park, because the Giants are usually good, and those guys have won multiple World Series titles. So when we’re in San Francisco, I want to do everything I can to show that we can go toe-to-toe with that team.

Heading into that series, honestly, I was hoping to get a sweep. The Giants are one of our biggest rivals, and they were making a frantic run toward the playoffs. So I was looking to spoil their plans.

We were all determined to go out and send those guys home for the off-season. I had it all planned out in my head. It was gonna be great.

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Little did I know that two guys in the other dugout would be having none of it.

In the first game of the series, we were tied 1–1 early on and things seemed to be going O.K. But then Posey drove in a run to break the tie. Two innings later, he hits a bomb … and after that things just snowballed. In the eighth, Brandon Crawford tripled in two runs. It was his second triple of the night. Dude had four hits that game.

We lost 12–3.

So much for that sweep.

Posey and Crawford just flat-out killed us. And we were on the road, so of course everything you heard about when you turned on the TV or the radio that night and the next day was, four hits, Posey home run, two triples for Crawford. It was the worst. I was sick of hearing about those guys. It was like, Enough already. Give it a rest!

I didn’t want to hear their names ever again. But, you know, sometimes things change over time.

It’s now six months later, and guess what?

For the next few weeks, I’m the biggest fan of Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford on the planet.

They’re still on the Giants. And, as a Colorado Rockie through and through, I still don’t like the Giants at all. But now those dudes are my brothers.

Welcome to the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

In my family, the World Baseball Classic is a big deal.

So, yeah, I can’t lie, I’m really excited about the chance to take the field with Buster Posey at the WBC. It’s going to be awesome to be his teammate. And the same goes for Crawford. That guy’s one of the best shortstops in the game. It’s gonna be cool to share the left side of the infield with him.

But now that I think about it, you know what? It’s not just Giants players. I’m pumped to be able to play alongside tons of guys from lots of other MLB teams that I totally hate, too. Giancarlo Stanton is someone I talked to a lot about the WBC before I decided to play. He has me super hyped for it. So it’ll be cool to take the field with that guy. And Andrew Miller, Christian Yelich, Paul Goldschmidt, Daniel Murphy. The list goes on and on.

To be around guys like that — some of the best players in the game — for an extended period will be an incredible experience. And I’m going to soak it all in. As soon as we all got together as a team and pulled on those Team USA jerseys, we became brothers. And I’m going to give them everything I have.

In a few weeks … that brotherhood will be over, of course. Done! I go right back to the grind, and doing all I can to find ways to beat those guys all over again. So, yeah, there’s no need to worry, Rockies fans. Make no mistake about it: As soon as this thing’s over, all those guys will go back to being my competition again.

Until then, though, this is going to be a blast. And I plan to enjoy every minute of it. This tournament is going to be special for me.

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In my family, the World Baseball Classic is a big deal.

My dad was born in Cuba and my mother’s family is Puerto Rican. But my parents are both extremely proud to be American citizens, and they raised me to take pride in being from this country. I grew up in Southern California, not too far from Dodger Stadium. And my entire family loves baseball.

We’ve been huge fans of this tournament from Day One.

When I was 14, Cuba made it to the championship against Japan. Now, mind you, I grew up hearing stories from family members about how awful it was to live under communist rule. That’s something that my parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles have always talked to me about. They made it clear that I should be proud to live in this country because so many of the freedoms we have here do not exist in Cuba. But despite the negative views of the Cuban government, my family members still root like crazy for the Cuban national baseball team. And that was definitely the case in 2006 during that inaugural World Baseball Classic final.

It was pretty crazy. We had a big old party for the championship game at my aunt’s house in Orange County. It was my aunts and uncles, cousins, my parents, family friends. And everyone was reppin’ their Cuban colors. There were Cuban cigars being smoked out in the backyard, and lots of homemade Cuban food. It was basically like a gigantic Super Bowl party, but we had it for the final of the World Baseball Classic.

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When Cuba lost that game, it was a tough one for my family. I remember the team got down early but then kind of clawed back into it as the game went on. So everyone at my aunt’s place was sure things were setting up for this super dramatic happy ending. They could feel it. We were all ready to go nuts.

Then Japan scored a bunch of runs in the ninth to put it away, and that was that. The party vibe died down in a hurry, and I just remember a couple of my family members being really sad. It was like their team had lost the World Series. This meant something to them. It was important. They took it hard.

Three years later, in 2009, I went to see South Korea play against Venezuela in a WBC semifinal at Dodger Stadium. I was a senior in high school at the time. Me and a couple of my buddies got tickets right down by the field, on the first base line, and it was so cool to be that close to Miguel Cabrera. I remember I watched him really closely to see if I could learn anything. What I recall most from that game, though, was being blown away by the entire atmosphere. The energy in that stadium was just unreal. The fans were crazy intense, and they were almost evenly split — half were pulling for Venezuela and half were rooting for South Korea.

The colors in the stands were unlike anything I’d ever seen at a baseball game. Huge sections of the stadium were baby blue for South Korea. Then there were other parts of the stadium with lots of yellow, red and blue. It was so cool to see two very different cultures go at it both on the baseball field and in the stands.

Paul Spinelli/WBCI/MLB Photos/Getty Images

I still think about that game often, and I can’t wait to experience that energy as a player. I know there will be a point during that first game when I’ll be like, Wow, I can’t believe that I’m wearing the Team USA colors right now and hearing the national anthem play. I’m sure I’ll have the goose bumps going.

And the really cool thing for me is that if we play well and advance to the championship, that last game will be back home in SoCal.

I’m telling you, there’d be so many members of my family at Dodger Stadium for that one. It’d be crazy.

We’d roll deep. No doubt.

And I’m sure that this time around, even if Cuba makes it to the final, everyone in my crew will be screaming their heads off for Team USA.

Baseball is our national pastime, and the U.S. has never won this tournament. That’s gotta change.

Nolan Arenado

Pretty much everything about this tournament is going to be awesome.

But it’s one thing to do something because it’s fun, and a completely different thing to take part in something because you’re looking to win.

I’m playing in this tournament because I love baseball, and I love my country. I want this team to do something that hasn’t been done before.

Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos/Getty Images

I’m taking this super seriously. And I know for a fact that my teammates are, too. Baseball is our national pastime, and the U.S. has never won this tournament. That’s gotta change, and we’re going to do all we can to make it happen.

It’s not going to be easy. We’ve got the Dominican team, Venezuela, Japan and the list goes on and on. The field is stacked.

Plus, it’s going to be a unique challenge to play against people from all over the world. It’s not like in the majors, where you kind of have a book on everyone. In preparing to play certain teams, it seems like we’ll almost have to wing it a bit. But it will be good practice for those times during the major league season when a young pitcher comes up from the minors, or when I’m facing someone for the very first time in my career and I just need to learn on the fly.

And that actually brings me to an issue you often hear people talk about when the WBC comes up — that it may negatively impact how players are able to prepare for the major league season.

I have to be honest … at first I had my concerns about that, too, because you hear all this stuff about how you might have to ramp up a little quicker once the WBC ends. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was sort of a nonissue for me. When I look back on last year’s spring training, and really every spring training I’ve been to, I can’t think of one where I didn’t go all out. So I always ramp up fast.

During the spring, the coaches and instructors will sometimes tell you to take it easy, and to not really push yourself too much. But I don’t really know how to take it easy. It’s just not my thing. The only way I feel I get better is to go hard and play intense every game I’m in. So my view is that playing in some really intense games early on will help me get ready for the season faster.

And aside from the on-field preparations, there’s no doubt in my mind that my body will be ready when the major league season starts. I worked out harder than ever this off-season. I made sure to eat well, and I pushed myself in training so that whatever this tournament asks of me, my body will respond.

I’m ready to go out and play as hard as I can during the next few weeks. I want to make my family, Denver and our country proud.

So I’m hoping to see tons of Team USA fans out at these WBC games rooting me on and showing us some love. It would mean the world to me. But, hey, apologies in advance if our team makes it to L.A. for that final and tickets are tough to come by because the Arenado crew already bought them all up.

Nolan Arenado
Colorado Rockies