Obviously, Michael Corleone’s a baseball fan.
Yes, I was ready to dismiss the rest of the World Baseball Classic, especially after Edwin Diaz’s overcelebration of his Puerto Rico team’s win that likely cost the Mets their transformative closer for the 2023 season. But last night, with a UCLA second round victory secured, I switched over to FOX for the conclusion of a quarterfinal elimination game that, despite being for all intents and purposes a glorified March exhibition, was nothing short of classic.
As Alanis Thames of the Associated Press reported:
Trea Turner hit a go-ahead grand slam in the eighth inning that lifted the United States over Venezuela 9-7 Saturday night and into the World Baseball Classic semifinals.
The defending champion U.S. will face Cuba on Sunday night for a spot in the WBC final against Japan or Mexico. St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright will start for the U.S. against Cuba.
Trailing 7-5, the United States loaded the bases in the eighth on a walk, single and hit by pitch against losing pitcher Jose Quijada. Silvino Bracho relieved and Turner, the No. 9 batter in the U.S. lineup, sent his 0-2 changeup 407 feet to deep left field for the third grand slam in American WBC history.
“Individually, I think this is probably the biggest hit that I’ve had … probably right up there with any hit I’ve ever had,” Turner said.
And with that, the kind of passion that the Latino players and countries showed–the kind that had Diaz as excited as he was earlier this week–was infused into the U.S. team, and its manager, Mark DeRosa, has the perspective of having played in such an environment to know exactly how and why this emotional lift occurred:
DeRosa said Saturday’s win was one of the three greatest games he’s ever been a part of — including winning the World Series with the San Francisco Giants in 2010.
“I told the guys before the game, I wanted to match their passion,” said DeRosa, who once played for the Venezuelan professional team Leones del Caracas. “I had played over there. I had been a part of that, coming out of the dugout and jumping around … When Trea clipped that ball, honestly, I saw about 35 guys, including the coaches, kind of black out and lose their minds for a minute. So it was just an awesome moment.”
For Venezuela, the Turner hit undid the heroic performance of Luis Arraez, the defending American League batting champion now a Miami Marlin, who is playing in his soon-to-be home ballpark for the first time and had the first multihomer game of his professional career, lin front of a larger and louder crowd than any he is likely to experience in an actual game later this year. And it makes all the more bitter the injury suffered by Jose Altuve to his right hand that may jeopardize the start to his season.
I suspect Astros fans feel no better about the WBC this morning than I was feeling earlier this week.
But as more balanced and dispassionate reactions were setting in, and the Mets potentially lost equally valuable leadoff hitter Brandon Nimmo to leg injuries suffered in an actual exhibition game this week, Diaz’s injury perhaps needed to be seen in a different light. These things happen in March.
Ask any Dodger fan, who saw starting shortstop Gavin Lux–Turner’s intended replacement in Los Angeles–lost for the year during the first week of spring training. Ask any Yankee fan, who were forced to compete for the last five months of the 2012 season without their all-time great closer, Mariano Rivera, after a freak injury shagging balls in pre-game warmups in Toronto resulted in an injury that cost him that season. The Yankees sucked it up, handed the ball to Rafael Soriano, and won 95 games and their division title despite the loss.
And, darn it, if you consider the reactions of DeRosa and Turner, not to mention the decibel level of otherwise blase Miami baseball fans last night, you can’t not pulled back in. With a semifinal battle with Cuba looming tonight, it is likely Loan Depot Park will see a record crowd and noise levels seldom experienced even at Dolphin games or South Beach dance clubs.
So, yes, I’m in a more forgiving mood than I was. And yes, I’ll be watching tonight. Because baseball is to me what the family is like to Michael Corleone. Dammit, Trea Turner, Just when I thought I was out, you pulled me back in.