Willie Bloomquist and Heath Bell will represent Team USA in the World Baseball Classic - Benny Sieu-US PRESSWIRE
Diamondbacks special assistant Luis Gonzalez is working with MLB to promote the World Baseball Classic. Chase Field is the host of Pool D's first round games. I interviewed him this morning, discussing his thoughts on the WBC and the Diamondbacks.
You must be excited about having the WBC in Phoenix.
We are very excited to have it here in Phoenix, especially with the pool of teams that we have. There will be some exhibition games at Salt River Fields, and then the main games will move to Chase Field. It's an exciting opportunity for Phoenix to showcase the city and its hospitality, just like it did during the All-Star Game in 2011.
I noticed there were quite a few tickets left for the games. Why do you think it's not very popular yet? How can MLB get the fans more excited?
I think that'll change as soon as Spring Training starts. Once the momentum gets going, people will pick up on it and it will create a buzz, as it did a few years ago. It was new to everybody, and people soon realized they have opportunity to see Team USA, Team Mexico, and Italy and Canada.
Which team roster impresses you most? Can you call a winner now?
No, I can't do that! All the rosters are very unique, every team has different strengths and weaknesses. You never know with these types of tournaments, when dealing with pitch counts and so forth, how it will all play out!
You never played in the Olympics or WBC, right? Would you have liked to?
I would've loved to. Craig Counsell and I were on the preliminary roster the first time, but we didn't make it to the next round.
As a player, would you prefer this format, in spring training, or would you like to see baseball shut down, like basketball, for the Olympics?
I don't know about taking a break, but I would love to see baseball back in the Olympics. I don't know if there's a way to do that, but why not send the best players from your country? It's a great honor to represent your country.
The Diamondbacks will play an exhibition against Mexico on March 5th at SRF. Do you think the Dbacks will be ready to win?
Mexico is coming off of their Caribbean World Series win, an extreme high for them. They will have some different players this time, and we're excited to have them come here to Phoenix. They have a strong following here, and we're hoping it'll be a good showing from both teams.
The team made a lot of big moves this off-season, and Kevin Towers and Derrick Hall discussed the type of players they were and also team chemistry. Do you think these moves strengthened the chemistry of the Diamondbacks?
I think so. I think if you look at our roster and our coaching staff, we have All-Star caliber coaches who have played in the big games, playoffs and the World Series. The team picked up players with a lot of seasoning, veteran guys who have also been in post-season play. It adds depth to the ball club, and these guys are winners.
What prospect or rookie are you most looking forward to seeing this season? Who do you think will have a breakout year?
I'm excited about Didi Gregorius, and Tyler Skaggs and Patrick Corbin who pitched for us last year, very excited about these young players. We're proud that our teams in the minors won three championships last season, with five teams total in the playoffs. We all shoot to win at the Major League level, and we feel we have a strong family here.