I wanted to get a post in for Monday because I don't know when I'll have the chance. Saturday night I attended the World Baseball Classic semifinal between Korea and Venezuela at Dodger Stadium. Sort of nutty as I started my day at my parent's house near Philadelphia and ended it in my friend Jason's apartment in Los Angeles. Cross-country trips are a newfangled part of my life.
The game was an incredible experience and I don't know that it could have been such an experience anywhere other than LA. We made the traffic-packed drive to ballpark and as we waited in line to park (reminiscent of a disorderly Disneyworld) I looked around at the cars surrounding us and commented on how we might be the only Caucasians at the game. It wasn't too far from the truth. Both Korea and Venezuela had large contingents attend the game.
Dodger Stadium in itself is quite an experience. I haven't been to many major league games in the last many years and I didn't realize until Jason pointed out that Dodger Stadium is now the third oldest major league ballpark behind Fenway and Wrigley. It looks like it. The causeways are dungeonlike in their appearance with hardly any lighting and the restrooms use the trough-style urinal. The ballfield itself is nice. We were seated in the fifth row of loge boxes just behind third base which was a great place to view the game. We were surrounded by enthusiastic Koreans who cheered, chanted, screamed and thundersticked the entire game.
Rightfully so as the Koreans took an early lead from the sloppy Venezuelans. The leadoff batter walked and then the #2 hitter lofted a an easy fly out to rightfield which Bobby Abreu dropped for an error. A bloop single followed then a ball up the middle which Carlos Silva had trouble handling. He made an out at first but a run scored. A three-run homer ensued. The Koreans batted around and took a 5-0 lead in the first. They added a pair in the second and the game was, for all intent and purposes, over.
Jason had planned on rooting for Venezuela since a victory would mean we would get to see Felix Hernandez pitch in the final. I didn't care much either way but was bummed because I didn't think to wear my Korean Martial Arts Institute t-shirt (which I had packed) in support. Because we didn't have a solid rooting interest, we got caught up in our neighbors glee and were soon cheering for the Korean team.
Of course, an international game wouldn't be complete without an Ugly American incident. In the third inning, with the Koreans up 7-0, a pair of guys in their early 20's show up with their girlfriends. Some Koreans are sitting in their seats which leads to the one kid saying "These are our seats so you have to GO HOME". The same asshat then starts cheering for the Venezuelan team when he isn't getting up for beer or kissing his girlfriend, standing and high-fiving his buddies like he's Venezuelan. Thankfully they left in the fifth inning which to me begged the question of "Why bother"? Especially given the hassle of traffic and the cost of parking and the beers he was swilling. What was the purpose? Oh well.
We stayed to the end and watched the Koreans move on to the finals by a score of 10-2. Tonight we go to see Team USA play Japan and then the final is Monday night.
UPDATE: Saw Japan beat the US last night 9-4. Watching the U.S. team led to so many questions, the first being "Why is Derek Jeter even in the lineup?" He literally threw away the last chance the US had to comeback, turning a two run deficit into a five, he looked awful in the field and at the plate and worst of all, Jimmy Rollins, a far superior defensive shortstop, is the designated hitter meaning that if they were to sub him in defensively, they would lose the DH spot and the pitcher would have to bat. That's like tying your hands together before you start the game.
My guy, Adam Dunn, looks pretty horrific as well, and probably should be DHing. His strikeout to end the game didn't earn him any fansbut that's what you get with Dunn. His fielding is as bad as Jeter's and it was exposed with him in rightfield against a lefty-loaded Japanese team.
Japan baffled me a bit as well, throwing young superstar Yu Darvish in the 9th inning with a five run lead. I had expected him to get the start for today's game. My main WBC objective of watching him pitch was fulfilled, though, and he is spectacular. Barring injury, he should probably join the game's greats even if American fans will never hear of him.
The crowd was much quieter leading me to predict a Korean win tonight as they take over the stadium once again and turn it into their own home field. Having an American team compete led to scoreboard-induced chants which I certainly did not miss in the opener.
The most fun player to watch, for me, was Curtis Granderson. Being bookended by Dunn and Ryan Braun out there in the outfield, they really need him to cover as much ground as possible which he most certainly does. He actually made one play standing in front of Braun in leftfield. Not left-center, left. Just amazing. Plus he wears his socks high. Only guy of the U.S. starting nine to do that. It's a good look.