WBC: Global Reach, but Still Grasping in U.S.

AT&T Park, World Baseball Classic

(from Sports Business Journal, March 25, 2013) The Dominican Republic was crowned champions of the World Baseball Classic this year at AT&T Park, wrapping up what was statistically the most successful WBC ever. Record event attendance was set at 885,212. TV ratings hit historical highs in many different countries, online views from WorldBaseballClassic.com were more than four times higher than the previous tournament in 2009, and corporate sponsorship greatly increased. On top of the business end improving, the on-field play improved from several countries involved. Even Tim Brosnan, MLB Executive Vice President of Business, called the event an “unqualified, over-the-top success.”

With all of that being said the event was a total success, right? Not quite; even though the event showed major global gains, the gap between global and U.S. returns has never been so large. While the tournament was watched by more countries than ever before, it did not seem that Americans were as interested. The championship round games at AT&T Park drew a crowd of 96,913, which was way down from the 141,854 from the 2009 games from Los Angeles, and even down from the first ever mark of 126,603 set at the 2006 games in San Diego. These low attendance numbers were even able to drive down the face-value of tickets to as low as $5 at box office and the minimum of $6 on StubHub. Searching for answers, much of the blame has been pointed to yet another disappointing performance from Team USA, losing in the second round in a tournament of “The Great American Pastime.” Many people are saying the American team doesn’t present anywhere near the amount of talent that our country actually has to offer, and they would be correct. The top American players along with MLB general managers are wary of the tournament because of injury concerns.

The World Baseball Classic is completing its mission set by the MLB which is to advance baseball outside of the U.S. With that being said, will the USA continue to accept meritocracy and watch the rest of the world pass them by in their own game, or will the superstars compete and bring the championship and pride back to the host country? That question won’t be answered until 2017.