Ode to the World Baseball Classic

While most of you were spending your spring break in exotic locations all over the globe, I spent mine in Miami, where for one week the rest of the world came here. It’s not strange to see Latino Americans in South Florida, but I have never experienced anything like the World Baseball Classic.

I was lucky enough to go to the double-header last weekend which featured Venezuela vs. Netherlands and United States vs. Puerto Rico.

As I walked around the parking lot before the first game started, I couldn’t help but marvel at the cultural diversity that was on display. Smoke billowing off the multitude of grills clouded the flags that flew over cars as people blasted their local music.

A group of Cuban men, draped in red, white and blue, sat around a wooden table playing dominoes and smoking cigars while an American flag flew over their tailgate.

As we made our way into the stadium, drums and horn music filled the air. Only a few rows behind us sat an entire group of musicians who cheered and played Latin music for their fans to dance to. At the risk of looking extremely out of place, I fought the urge to join the impromptu dance party and remained in my seat.

Then something happened that I didn’t fully understand. Magglio Ordonez, a member of the Venezuelan team, stepped up to the plate and, although the crowd was nearly 75% Venezuelan, he was greeted by some of the worst booing I have ever witnessed (and I’m from the city that booed and threw snowballs at Santa Claus).

“Fuera! Fuera! Fuera!” the fans yelled as Ordenez waited on the first pitch.

I wasn’t sure what that meant, so I asked the lady sitting in front of me, “Why are they booing him?”

“Es Chavista,” she replied.

My small Spanish vocabulary allowed me to infer that she meant he was a supporter of Hugo Chavez, the unpopular leader of Venezuela. I have never seen so much political passion displayed at a sporting event, and I was actually moved.

The amount these people cared for their team and more importantly the country it represented spoke volumes about how unenthusiastic Americans were for the event.

The mostly Puerto Rican crowd at the night game danced its way to victory as the quiet Americans seemed rattled by the unfamiliar celebrations. The Americans seemed disinterested. The Puerto Ricans, however, were jubilant and passionate.

This same passion was shown by foreign fans all over the country, who proudly supported their fellow countrymen while waving their flags and playing their music. Americans need to embrace the World Baseball Classic. In doing so, they will experience a different culture, which is the ultimate goal of events like this.