High quality, fan support make World Baseball Classic a success

Houston, Mar 21 (EFE).- The third edition of the World Baseball Classic, which featured an all-Caribbean final and a deserving champion in the Dominican Republic, shattered all expectations in terms of attendance, enthusiasm and quality of play.

The Dominican squad left no doubt about its superiority, becoming the first team to go undefeated throughout this international competition.

It capped off its championship run with a 3-0 victory in Tuesday night's final over Puerto Rico, which had eliminated two-time defending champion Japan in the first semifinal.

As expected, the tournament's All-Star team mainly comprised pitchers and players on the finalists' rosters, with journalists and fans choosing five Dominicans and three Puerto Ricans for that honor.

Second baseman Robinson Cano, who hit .469 over eight games and was the event's MVP, was the leading vote-getter among the All Stars.

The New York Yankees second baseman was joined by four other Dominicans, all members of MLB squads: Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Edwin Encarnacion, who hit .250 with six RBIs; Blue Jays shortstop Jose Reyes, who had a .314 batting average; Texas Rangers right fielder Nelson Cruz, who hit .303 and drove in six runs; and Tampa Bay Rays closer Fernando Rodney, who recorded seven saves and had a 0.00 ERA for the tournament.

Puerto Rico was represented on the All-Star team by St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, who hit .259 and guided a pitching staff that had a 2.88 ERA for the tournament; San Francisco Giants outfielder Angel Pagan, who hit .364; and Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Nelson Figueroa, who posted a 2-0 record with a 1.80 ERA.

American David Wright, a third baseman for the New York Mets; Michael Saunders, a Canadian center fielder for the Seattle Mariners; and two Japanese league players, designated hitter Hirokazu Ibata and starting pitcher Kenta Maeda, rounded out the All-Star selections.

But although those players were the most outstanding, the overall level of play by all participants was very high and served to consolidate the World Baseball Classic - whose first edition was held in 2006 - as a fixture on the international baseball calendar.

U.S. media reported that interest among baseball fans in San Francisco - where the semifinals and finals were played - was lukewarm without the American squad on the field and noted that organizers had to lower ticket prices for the final games.

Even so, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig pointed to enthusiastic interest abroad in hailing the tournament as a major success.

"This is our great vehicle to internationalize the sport," Selig said.

"Look, I know a lot of people were pulling for the United States. But the objective is to take this sport internationally. If we do our work properly, in five or 10 years, you won't recognize baseball and how popular it is."

Attendance at other venues such as Marlins Park in Miami - where some of the tournament's Round 2 was held - topped all expectations and Miami Marlins President of Baseball Operations David Samson confirmed that his club would seek to host more World Baseball Classic games in 2017.

A total of 96,913 spectators came out to watch the semifinals and final earlier this week at San Francisco's AT&T Park despite rainy and cold conditions and the elimination of U.S. team from the competition in the second round.

Official attendance across eight venues in the mainland United States, the U.S. commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Japan and Taiwan came in at a record 885,212 people.