Wednesday, February 8, 2017
The global pastime
As you might already know, the 2017 World Baseball Classic is right around the corner.
I have some problems with the tournament: most notably, the scheduling. Not only does the WBC have to compete with other sports like basketball and hockey, but with Spring Training kicking off in a couple weeks, it basically pits baseball against baseball.
That aside, I do enjoy the WBC, but not for the reasons everyone is talking about. Sure, I'm excited to watch the big guns -- Team USA, Dominican Republic, Japan, etc. -- but what I love most about the tournament is getting to see all the countries where baseball is far from the premier sport.
A few PWEs I received from my buddy Brian of the "Highly Subjective and Completely Arbitrary" blog reminded me of this, notably this rookie card of the One At-Bat man himself, Adam Greenberg.
Greenberg is famous for other reasons now, but one lesser-known fact about him is that he suited up for Team Israel in the 2013 WBC (and Israel will once again be competing in this year's tournament).
Due to Spring Training, many current stars understandably passed on the opportunity to represent Team USA in the WBC, but Adam Jones will be manning the outfield for the Americans this year.
Anthony Rizzo won't be participating in the 2017 WBC, but -- as if I needed any more reasons to be a fan of the guy -- he won a major place in my heart by joining Team Italia in the 2013 WBC and propelling them to a surprising run in the tourney.
The vast majority of my family hails from Italy, so you know I'll be rooting for Team Italy in a few weeks, Rizzo or no Rizzo.
I needed both of these '85 Canadian Leaf variations of ol' Sarge -- the focus of one of Brian's player collections -- though one is obviously a lot flashier than the other.
That reminds me: keep an eye on Team Canada in this year's WBC, because when else are you going to see guys like Ryan Dempster and Eric Gagne come out of retirement again? Or watch Russell Martin play shortstop?
A long-awaited former Dime Box Dozen need of the best pitcher in the universe demonstrating why he is the best pitcher in the universe.
Brian's second PWE included some Chromies for a couple of my favorite player collections.
I do admit that the 2016 smoke works better with Chrome, but unless Topps wants to stop charging $3 for a four-card pack of the stuff, I won't be buying them with any consistency.
Here's a couple from Panini's version of Topps Chrome: Donruss Optic.
Still not a fan of these, though the purple borders on the Hosmer insert works well with the Royals' colors.
Brian's PWE barrage took down a second Dime Box Dozen need with Mr. Zobrist here.
This is, as far as I know, the only card to depict Zobrist as a member of the 2015 World Champion Royals, which made it a prime target for my new player collection of his.
A third PWE from Brian saw a flurry of new Zobrists fly my way...
...as well as yet another autograph card I was excited to receive.
Despite what my scanner is trying to tell you, this is actually a shiny refractor auto of Alex Liddi, a one-time prospect in the Mariners' chain who was in the Mexican League last year. So why collect a failed young star who hasn't played in the bigs since 2013?
Because, as I've mentioned in the past, Liddi was the first (and, to date, only) major leaguer born and raised in Italy. He suited up for Team Italia in the 2013 WBC and will once again be part of the team's roster this year.
It's sad that Liddi never panned out in the bigs -- he put up some monster seasons in the minors -- but collecting his cards is a great reminder that this game is truly a global pastime, and that good baseball can come from anywhere around the world.