There was an eerie silence in the cubicle of 51s president Don Logan on the eve of sold-out Big League Weekend Eve.
For about five minutes Thursday, his phone had not been rung by procrastinators seeking Cubs vs. Reds tickets at Cashman Field.
I was able to sneak in a question about the possibility of the World Baseball Classic coming to Las Vegas someday.
I might have asked the same question in 2006, after the first WBC, which attracted an average of 18,900 spectators for 39 games. I might have been laughed at, because except for the Japanese and a few Dominicans, nobody cared very much for the WBC then.
On Wednesday night, a throng of 51,565 pushed into Dodger Stadium to watch the U.S. defeat Puerto Rico 8-0 in the 2017 championship game. There also were sellout crowds during the second week at Petco Park in San Diego, as this year’s WBC drew 1,035,155 paying customers.
It was the first time the World Cup-styled tournament topped a million in attendance, and a 23-percent increase from 2013. TV ratings and merchandise sales also were way up.
"This is what baseball is about." https://t.co/dotlUMFksp
— ESPN (@espn) March 23, 2017
And so when you ask a question about Las Vegas throwing its batting helmet in the WBC ring someday, baseball people don’t laugh anymore.
“This would be a great city for a preliminary round of the World Baseball Classic,” Logan said. “I think after this year, the popularity has exploded. But I still think this is something we are going to pursue, especially if we can get some of the Asian teams in here for preliminary games.
“You’ve got so much (airlines) access from Korea and Japan, and the connection Las Vegas has with the Asian market. I think it would be a home run.”
But until the 51s get a new ballpark, the idea of hosting World Baseball Classic games is probably no more than a Texas Leaguer that drops for a single.
This is why if you are from Japan and play in a brass band in the left-field bleachers, you, too, should be pulling for the 51s to get a new ballpark.
VIVA, LAS VEGAS AT WBC
The WBC title game had a healthy dose of Las Vegas, anyway. Seth Lugo was the starting (and losing) pitcher for Puerto Rico, and T.J. Rivera played first base. Both played for the 51s last season.
Lugo had great stuff, striking out seven in four innings. But he walked four and couldn’t make a two-strike pitch to save his life. Rivera, who hit a home run in Puerto Rico’s 4-3 victory over the Netherlands in the semifinals, went hitless against Marcus Stroman, but so did a lot of other guys.
Lugo was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, and Rivera is from the Bronx. But WBC rules allow for players such as Lugo and Rivera to compete for countries from whence family members came, and for Italy and Israel to put decent teams on the field.
BOWLING FOR CHEATERS
The United States Bowling Championships, which are running in perpetuity, it seems, at the South Point bowling stadium officially became like other sports this week as two amateur bowlers were busted for cheating.
The names of the bogus Lebowskis were not released. But because of the disqualifications, there is a new Standard All-Events leader to shoot for in the massive tournament that began in February and will end in July.
The bogus Lebowskis apparently told alternate facts about their scoring averages.
NASCAR HAULER CRASH
The NASCAR hauler transporting rookie driver Erik Jones’ racecars to California for this weekend’s races at Auto Club Speedway was involved in a crash on Interstate 15 about 15 miles north of Las Vegas Motor Speedway just after midnight on Thursday.
Truck drivers Travis Watts and David Shano weren’t injured, and Jones’ cars did not sustain damage. But a replacement tractor-trailer had to be rented from Rush Truck Centers of North Las Vegas.
“There was substantial damage to the tractor, but everything in the trailer was checked out thoroughly and is OK,” Furniture Row Racing President Joe Garone said.
The incident occurred when a car pulled off the shoulder and onto the highway in front of the racing hauler. The occupants of the hit-and-run vehicle were later apprehended and arrested by the Nevada Highway Patrol.
— Furniture Row Racing (@FRRacingTeam) March 23, 2017
Do you know that Jason Varitek is the only person walking the planet to have played in the Little League World Series, the College World Series, the actual World Series, the Olympics and the World Baseball Classic? The only people that possibly could have known that are Peter Gammons and Catherine Varitek, Jason’s wife, who posted the Tweet.
Jason Varitek is the only player to ever play in the Little League World Series, College WS, MLB WS, Olympics, and World Baseball Classic. pic.twitter.com/3XR3tsOGVY
— Catherine Varitek (@CatherinVaritek) March 22, 2017
Contact Ron Kantowski at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.
Attendance at the 2017 World Baseball Classic was up 23 percent and surpassed 1 million for the first time.
2006: 737,112, avg. 18,900
2009: 801,408, avg. 20,549
2013: 781,438, avg. 20,037
2017: 1,035,155, avg. 26,542