Why the true winner of the World Baseball Classic was the game itself

Late inning heroics, iconic moments, and walk-off memories. No, I'm not talking about the Major League Baseball postseason, I'm talking about this year's World Baseball Classic.

The WBC this year has been nothing short of incredible; with game after game full of excitement and in just a few short weeks it reminded us all just how great our National Pastime really is — and for that, baseball won.

Baseball: World Baseball Classic-USA at Dominican Republic
Mar 18, 2017; San Diego, CA, USA; United States infielder Brandon Crawford (26) and outfielder Adam Jones (10) celebrate following the game against the Dominican Republic during the 2017 World Baseball Classic at Petco Park. The United States won 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

As the game itself has seen a bit of decline when it comes to younger fans and as it still recovers from the unspeakable disaster of the Steroid Era, the World Baseball Classic has proved again why baseball is a game for everyone; every race, every generation, any creed, or nationality. Quite simply, the World Baseball Classic showed the game in its purest form and was nothing short of beautiful. Sure, football may have more excitement and basketball is less predictable, but truly there is no game like baseball — and for that, baseball won.

Now admittedly, there are haters that are going to crawl into their holes and hate, but anyone who has watched these games understands what was at stake. These players, though some signed in some sort of professional way, were not playing for contracts, division titles, or World Series rings, they were playing because they wanted to, because they wanted to wear the colors of their country, and because they wanted to compete. And fans around the world responded. The 2017 World Baseball Classic set an attendance record, after the second round. Games were attended at a rate of about 6,000 people more on average than in years past — and for that, baseball won.

Baseball: World Baseball Classic-Final-USA at Puerto Rico
Mar 22, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Puerto Rico catcher Yadier Molina (4) reacts following the first inning against USA during the 2017 World Baseball Classic at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The level of competition was raised beyond that of a Cactus or Grapefruit League game. It is early spring, and normally when you see star players hitting the golf course after their three innings and one at-bat, these games mattered. They mattered because it wasn't about the money for once, it was about something entirely different: pride, love of country, and love of the game.

It's that same pride and love for country and baseball that drove a 34-year-old Yadier Molina to play in every game of the Tournament for Team Puerto Rico, knowing he has a 162-game regular season (and possibly postseason) right around the corner. It's that pride as well that sends Team U.S.A.'s Adam Jones soaring through the air with no regard for the outfield wall to make a game-saving catch, a catch he made on Orioles teammate Manny Machado, who he'll be back in camp with later this week — and for that, baseball won.

The entirety of the Classic was night after night of All-Star caliber entertainment. Each July baseball fans are treated to the Mid-Summer Classic, which allows them to see for one game the best of the best play against each other. However, that game is more of an R-and-R-type weekend with usually little entertainment value. Not so with the Classic. These [tps_footer][/tps_footer]games meant something — and for that, baseball won.

There is no doubt that, to some, baseball has needed some form of rejuvenation, as fans from younger generations have turned to more (mostly electronic) forms of entertainment. Yet, if you tuned in for the World Baseball Classic the last couple of weeks, you could have easily been entertained. The best players from around the world competed for nothing more than love of country and love for the game itself. It was intense, it was refreshing, and it was needed desperately by the game itself. The Classic delivered on all three accounts.

And for that, baseball won.