Looking into Classic's future, MLB sees growth
Success of 2013 event opens possibility of expanded qualifiers for 2017 tournament
SAN FRANCISCO -- The third edition of the World Baseball Classic was "a home run," Tim Brosnan, Major League Baseball's executive vice president of business operations, said on Tuesday night as the Dominican Republic players were celebrating their tournament victory on the soggy AT&T Park field.
"This has been a great success -- over the top, unqualified," said Brosnan. "It's a worldwide event, and it's about growing the game."
The tournament drew a record 781,429 fans since it began in Asia on March 2, played to huge international television audiences, and Brosnan said it will certainly be back for its fourth running in 2017.
"The Commissioner is 1,000-percent committed," Brosnan said.
Brosnan stood in front of the Dominican dugout, watching the celebration as players jumped on each other and fans reveled in the stands. During the impromptu interview for a handful of reporters, Brosnan took on the negatives and the positives of the tournament, which had its inaugural run in 2006 and was won by Japan in both 2006 and 2009.
Brosnan was asked to address the fact that Team USA has exited early in all three tournaments, having lost this year in the double-elimination second round at Miami to the two finalists, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.
About those critics, Brosnan said: "Those are the people who aren't here. Those are the people who aren't watching. It's easy to talk about the negatives of this event, but I would trust that I could name a hundred positives for any negative that anyone offered up. We can start with Brazil, we can go to Chinese Taipei, we can move over to the Netherlands and on and on and on.
"This is a tournament that's actually been going on since November. We've offered 28 countries the opportunity of competing with each other, and when you put the best athletes in uniforms that have their country's names on it, you get a level of passion and competition that generates this kind of excitement."
Brazil and Spain qualified for the Sweet 16 for the first time by winning in a new offseason qualifying round. Chinese Taipei and Italy made it to Round 2 for the first time. The Kingdom of the Netherlands and Puerto Rico exceeded expectations by advancing to the semifinals and final game, respectively.
Mainstream baseball countries Mexico, Canada, Venezuela and Korea were all knocked out in the first round, but only Mexico will have to qualify for the tournament in 2017.
In that matter, Brosnan promised more teams and more qualifiers.
"There's a thousand possibilities," Brosnan said. "There are going to be competitions in the intervening years because it's going to grow larger. The intention is to play the championship every four years, but we might see more qualifiers two years from now. This tournament is just going to continue to grow."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow@boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.