Selig thrilled with success, popularity of WBC
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Bud Selig is convinced the World Baseball Classic eventually will be a big hit, even if it takes another tournament or two to get more fans, general managers and players on board.
The commissioner, attending the South Africa-U.S. game Friday, raved about the television ratings for the inaugural 16-team event.
"I'm serious, maybe not even the next cycle, four years from now, but two cycles from now, this will be huge," Selig said. "There's no doubt in my mind, the more I watch it. There are so many good subplots here, so much going on. So far it's maybe been better than I thought. I admit I went in believing it would be good, but this has really, really been good."
Selig plans to attend both the second round next week in Anaheim, Calif., as well as the semifinals and championship in San Diego on March 18 and 20. In a recent trip through the U.S. clubhouse, Selig said he individually thanked the players for taking part -- and many thanked him right back.
"They're thrilled to be here," said Selig, who believes as the word spreads more major leaguers will hurry to sign up. "Any time you try to do something different, there is just an inbred resistance."
As much as the timing of the tournament has forced major league teams to be flexible through spring training -- not only giving up their players, but also for some their spring training stadiums -- Selig at this point doesn't see this tournament happening in the middle of a season because teams are so accustomed to their 162-game schedules.
"It's been a blast," San Francisco outfielder Randy Winn said. "The most fun is getting to know guys off the field who I haven't been teammates with."
It was a packed house Friday -- a stadium record 11,975 fans attended the game -- with fans covering the grassy slopes beyond the outfield walls.
Roger Clemens received warm standing ovation when he walked off the mound and gave way to Mike Timlin in the bottom of the fifth with a 17-0 lead. The Rocket, who tipped his cap and waved his glove, allowed one hit and struck out six on 58 pitches.
Meanwhile, Selig said there is some progress to find new owners for the Washington Nationals and that some paperwork has started to get done -- though it isn't yet complete and signed.
"Soon," he said.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press