As usual, we had trouble sleeping the night before the NCAA tournament started, so we revved up our MLB.tv last night and watched both World Baseball Classic games. They were, both, amazing. The second game was the one most important to Americans, with Korea winning an extremely tense 2-1 game, leaving the USA needing only a win tonight over Mexico to advance to the semifinals.
But that wasn’t even close to the best game of the night. Cuba beat Puerto Rico 4-2 in a game with so much intensity — from players, from managers, from fans, from the hot dog guys — that we were seriously concerned the stadium was going to rip itself apart. And we’d like to say: Team Cuba is crazed. Where do we start with this team? They do things we’ve never, ever seen on a diamond. After a close — but correct — call at first base went against them, the first baseman started jumping up and down for a good 15 seconds; he was getting some serious hang time. One batter fouled a pitch straight back and then glared out at the pitcher and jawed, saying the Cuban equivalent of “I’m right on you!” (He grounded to the third baseman next pitch.) During one tense play late, two coaches started running out to the mound while the pitcher was in his windup. Perhaps distracted, perhaps not, Carlos Beltran swung and missed at the pitch.
But the best has to be Cuban manager Higinio Velez. He was thrown out of the game last night, which was incredible to watch, considering he was talking through his interpreter (a heavy-set, obviously beleaguered woman). Velez said something to the umpire that caused him to toss him, but we couldn’t figure out; did the interpreter say it? Did the ump know what it was? How bizarre is it for a manager to come out to yell at the ump, bring his stout translator with him and then get run up? It was awesome. We’d never seen that before. We love the WBC.