The World Baseball Classic offers countries a chance to show the entire globe how they do baseball. As someone who is watching each and every game with people who actually belong to the nations involved, I know more than anyone that there is a unique set of customs and culture that belong to each.
Let’s take a look at one unique aspect of each team left in the competition.
Japan: The “Inaba Shake”
Atsunori Inaba is perhaps the most famous baseball player in all of Japan, the two-time WBC champions. In the regular season, he plays for the Nippon Ham Fighters, and the usually stoic crowd sure knows how to show their appreciation.
Doing what has been dubbed, the “Inaba Shake,” they all stand and jump up and down, essentially rocking the entire stadium.
It’s a pretty cool phenomenon to watch and has earned them a lot of recognition.
The Netherlands: #HONKBAL
Chances are, if you’ve followed the WBC at all this year, you know the phrase, “Honk if you love honkbal!”
The Dutch are turning heads as they both prove that they’re the real deal and provide catchy phrases for all to adopt. “Honkbal,” I’ve learned, is the Dutch word for “baseball,” as “honk” means “base.”
But no matter the meaning, you can’t help but smile at the mention of the word and it has been a great rallying cry for Team Netherlands!
Cuba: Mesa Being Mesa
The Cubans may be putting on a spectacle with their longball, but the Cuban manager is quite a spectacle all his own.
The extremely animated Victor Mesa has been a topic of conversation this WBC with his pre-inning meetings on the field and his rather unorthodox managing methods. Not to mention the faces he makes in the dugout.
Every team has a manager, but not every team has Victor Mesa.
Puerto Rico: Bueno Nicknames
Nicknames are pretty common in baseball. But it’s possible that the Puerto Rican team has more than any other.
From a young age, if you’re at all good at playing the sport, it’s almost a right of passage to be nicknamed by your peers. For instance, Angel Pagan is known as “Caballo Loco” (“Crazy Horse”) and Yadier Molina is “El Marciano” (“Martian”) for his “out-of-this-world” defense.
Imagine the first team meeting when every single player would need two “Hello! My name is” badges!
Dominican Republic: The Tejada Factor
Thirty-eight-year-old Miguel Tejada is a fixture in Dominican baseball, and that’s because he’s played in every single major Dominican competition. He just won’t turn down an opportunity to represent his team.
He’s beloved in his country for being a major leaguer who will drop everything to for them. And this year, that meant leaving Royals spring training camp, to which he has a minor league invite.
Venezuela: Reunited And It Feels So Good
There are a couple Major League duos on Team Venezuela who are particularly excited about playing together because they’ve done so before. In Venezuela, there are teams for each state in the country. Prior to their move to the Majors, Miguel Cabrera and Martin Prado were on the same team at Aragua State. Likewise, Carlos Gonzalez and Gerardo Parra played together at Zulia State.
Maybe the rekindling of this teammate chemistry will help them mount a comeback after falling behind 0 and 1.
Spain: Or Should I Say, Venezuela?
They may wear the name “España” on their chests, but due to the eligibility requirements of WBC Baseball, it turns out that a large number of Spain’s players are actually Venezuelan-born.
Some have parents born in Spain; some have other ties to the country. But no matter what the reason, they’ve jumped at the chance to represent the European nation.
So that Spain/Venezuela match on Sunday might get interesting…
Italy: The Fingertips Kiss
Italy has been the feel good story in the WBC as of late, and you can’t help but fall in love when you watch them play.
Accepting stereotypes, the Italians have chosen to celebrate big hits by kissing their fingertips in famous fashion. There’s nothing more enjoyable than a team who can poke fun at themselves.
Next, I can only assume they will be eating spaghetti in the bullpen and telling batters, “I’m gonna give you a pitch you can’t refuse.”
U.S.A.: Baseball’s Birth Nation
t’s difficult to find an unknown fun fact about baseball in the United States, and maybe that’s because baseball was born there.
The baseball craze hit the New York metropolitan area in the mid-1850s and was soon dubbed the “national pastime.”
No matter the future of the WBC, Team U.S.A. will always have that.
Mexico: Gibberish Cheers
“Chiquitibum a la bim bom ba Chiquitibum a la bim bom ba, A la bio a la bao a la bim bomb a MEXICO, MEXICO ra ra raaaa!!!!”
What does that mean? Absolutely nothing except for the fact that Team Mexico fans are so passionate about cheering on their team that they had to make up their own gibberish cheer to express their indescribable feelings.
I’m sure the players still understand their sentiments, but fellow fans cheering for the opposing team may find themselves a bit confused.
Canada: Lefties Galore
Being left-handed sometimes means being called “odd.” If that’s the case, the Canadians are embracing their inner-odd because seven of the nine starters in their lineup are lefties.
With the absences of Brett Lawrie and Russell Martin, Chris Robinson and Cale Iorg alone step up to the plate as righties.
I’m sure there’s no shortage of left-handed scissors in that club’s office!