Passion for Classic on display at Marlins Park

Passion for Classic on display at Marlins Park

MIAMI -- Passion and enthusiasm for the World Baseball Classic was taken to another level this week at Marlins Park.

From the performance on the field, to the passion in the stands, the five-day event turned into a celebration of the game.

On Wednesday, 34,366 fans were in Miami, the fourth-largest crowd in Marlins Park history. Overall, 154,624 fans attended the six games this week, a record for the Classic pool in the city, and 35 percent more than the previous record in 2009 at Sun Life Stadium (114,397).

"When you're planning a tournament like this, this is the kind of passion you hope gets exhibited by players and fans," said Tim Brosnan, MLB's executive vice president of business. "Everybody leaves the ballpark drained, but has this indelible memory."

Saturday concluded Round 2 at Marlins Park, with the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico advancing to the semifinals, which begins on Sunday at AT&T Park.

The games were well played, emotional and the South Florida flavor fit the international fanfare perfectly.

"As a fan event, that's intended to grow the game around the world, we think we're hitting every goal that we've set out for ourselves," Brosnan said.

Saturday may have wrapped up the tournament's tenure in Miami, but the defining moment of the week came on Wednesday night. In front of 34,366 fans, the Dominican Republic edged Team USA, 3-1.

"There are going to be people talking to their kids about the U.S.-Dominican game back in 2013," Brosnan said. "Anyone who was lucky enough to have been at the USA-Dominican game [Wednesday] witnessed a baseball game for the ages, on a beautiful night, in a beautiful ballpark. With just a level of intensity and raucousness in the stands. That's the way you dream about this tournament ending."

Brosnan singled out the efforts made by the stadium host, the Miami Marlins, team owner Jeffrey Loria, team president David Samson and Claude Delorme, the club's executive vice president of operations and events.

"These guys did an amazing job," Brosnan said. "Their customer hospitality, how the ballpark has been handled and presented. We really couldn't have asked for a better host. The beneficiary of this are the clubs and the fans."

A storyline all week was the excessive celebration by the Caribbean players, and their fans, many of them draped in their country's flags. The ballpark was energized with music, horns blowing and drums beating.

"What other baseball game do you see players essentially on their feet, and out of the dugout for runs scored?" Brosnan said. "This isn't the end of the game when the dogpile happens. This is when a guy gets a single and knocks in a run, the dugout empties. These are guys on base. I think of [Dominican Republic's] Jose Reyes on base, doing a touchdown dance.

"The level of passion that the players were exhibiting, it's infectious. The fans see that. It becomes a baseball celebration from the beginning of the game."

Marlins Park, with its retractable-roof, is regarded as an ideal location to host future World Baseball Classic rounds.

"We just couldn't be more pleased with the [Marlins'] franchise, and the host city and the stadium," Brosnan said.

Miami has hosted Round 2 in the past two Classics, including 2009 at Sun Life Stadium.

"If you had the opportunity to pick the right host for this mix of clubs, you couldn't imagine a better ballpark in a better city," Brosnan said. "Miami, it's just got a real international flavor. That flavor loans itself to the tone and tenor of this being an international/global event.

"Sure, the city of Miami, the ballpark, the presentation of the ballpark loans itself really well to a World Baseball Classic, if you will. We just couldn't be more pleased with the franchise, and the host city and the stadium. Could they be the host for the finals? The answer is absolutely."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.