|There are far too few photos of Javier Lopez, don’t you think? This one was taken by J. Meric/Getty Images|
Javier Lopez will soon be on his way back to Ft Myers. I’m sad for him. And I’m sad for Puerto Rico. That team dominated the majority of their time in the tournament and it must have been soul-crushing to lose the way they did. So for Javy and the rest of the team, and their insanely loyal fans, I’m sorry.
But for team USA and those of us rooting for them, I’m wildly happy. I had convinced myself that it was all right if they lost. That the Red Sox wanted to get Youk back to Ft Myers, so getting him back a few days early was an acceptable alternative to the USA team winning. I was lying to myself. I’m a liar.
Seeing Kevin Youkilis on the field last night with what appeared to be tears in his eyes sealed it for me. I cried happy tears. I want this team to win this stupid tournament fueled by the greed of Bud Selig. On the one hand, I’m pissed at myself for falling into this trap. On the other, I’m extremely proud of the way Team USA has bounced back. So I’m going to roll with it and just enjoy it without thinking too much about the Commissioner.
I went looking for a photo of Youk from after the game and instead I found this column by Jeff Passan. We’re so used to reading stories about how selfish baseball players are; how this tournament doesn’t mean as much to the Americans as it does everyone else. Well, Jeff found a story that can make everyone feel proud – the fans and the players:
The flag traveled around the world and through the deserts of Afghanistan and Iraq. Sgt. Felix Perez brought it from home as a reminder and an amulet. The flag never left his Army backpack.
It accompanied Perez to Dolphin Stadium on Tuesday night. He needed some luck for his team, the United States, in its must-win World Baseball Classic game against Puerto Rico. Perez wore a Team USA hat and a Team USA hoodie, and his little sister, Jessica, draped his flag across her shoulders. The United Statesâ€™ 6-5 come-from-behind victory in the ninth inning sent them into a frenzy. She danced around. He sat in his motorized wheelchair and roared.
On the way out, the 27-year-old Perez placed the flag in his lap and leaned over to a security guard manning Gate G. He was hoping some players from Team USA might sign it. The security guard led Perez and his sister to the U.S. clubhouse, and the flag went inside.
â€œThe next thing I know,â€ Perez said, â€œIâ€™m getting called to come back in there.â€
And so began the coolest 30 minutes of Felix Perezâ€™s life.
You will be doing yourself a service to click on the link and read the rest of Passan’s story. During it all, Felix Perez said something that Kevin Youkilis longed to hear (yes, I’m going on a mini-Youk rant in a moment):
â€œThat was the greatest game Iâ€™ve ever been a part of,â€ catcher Brian McCann said. â€œEver.â€
Same went for Perez. He said he would rather Team USA win the WBC than the Mets win a World Series.
â€œWeâ€™re the U.S.,â€ Perez said. â€œThis is our game. â€¦ This is the world. Youâ€™re representing your country. What is more honorable than representing your country?â€
It has been reported that Youk was disappointed with the lack of turnout from American fans. Youk seemed to miss the point that many fans go to Florida to see their teams because they can’t see them somewhere else. Sure a lot are just crazy fans who go anywhere their team is, but for a lot of people Spring Training is an affordable way to see a team they might not see for the entire regular season. There are also a lot of fans who would normally make a Spring Training trip but this year simply couldn’t afford it. That doesn’t mean they aren’t supporting Team USA, it means they can’t afford to be traipsing all around Florida to watch random baseball games. He touched on that, but seemed to not grasp the meaning of his own words:
Itâ€™s kind of a sad day – and I know itâ€™s a tough time (economically) to buy tickets – when you see that. I donâ€™t think thereâ€™s as much pride in the USA as there is for these other countries.
It’s not a lack of pride, Kevin, it’s a lack of money. US fans are very proud of you. But given the choice between spending my money on seeing the Red Sox play in Boston and spending it on seeing team USA play in Florida (taking away my ability to see the Sox play anywhere else) I chose Boston. I canceled two road trips this year thanks to the economy. Does that mean I don’t have pride in or support the Red Sox because I won’t be seeing them on the road? No. It means I can’t afford it, plain and simple. Don’t mistake there being no money for there being no pride. You’re sorely mistaken there, Youk.
I haven’t mentioned here yet that I once belonged to a message board that Youk was also a part of and we actually got into an email argument over his perceptions (and generalizations) of the fans? (This was early in his career. And HE initiated the email exchange. Imagine my surprise the first time I saw his email address attached to a message sitting in my in-box!) I’m actually quite a big fan of Youk’s, but his occasional calling out of the fans exasperates me.
So here’s what I want: I want Team USA to win the WBC. I want Youk to understand that just because fans don’t act the way HE wants them to it doesn’t make them bad fans. I want Kyle Snyder to pitch today because I’m home and the Mets game is not only on MLB.tv but MLBN as well and I’ll be able to watch him if he does. I want Javier Lopez to continue to pitch the way he did in the WBC once he gets back to his team.
And I want a cookie. (Hey, since I’m asking for stuff, why not?)