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Two Extremely Tall Guys Made Baseball History In The World Baseball Classic

At the end of an insignificant game, in the middle of the night, Dutch pitcher Loek Van Mil and Team Israel first baseman Nate Freiman made history. Probably.

by David Roth
Mar 10 2017, 4:09pm

Look at the moment of goofball history that was made late Wednesday night at the end of the last game of the first round in Pool A, in Seoul's Gocheok Sky Dome, when Dutch pitcher Loek Van Mil and Team Israel first baseman Nate Freiman faced off, and your attention naturally is drawn to the large number of good seats that are still available. The seats are gray, which makes the empty ones very easy to identify below. Very, very easy.

You are not wrong to notice this, or to notice the other ways in which the WBC has not become A Big Deal in the way that everyone involved presumably hoped it would. It's not the World Cup, not remotely, and the big moments that it has generated are more charming and unexpected—think of The Fernando Rodney Renaissance from the last go-round, for instance—than brand-able or big. It's early in the event's life-cycle, and these things do take time to catch on; the World Cup, again, is an example of that. But when the people in charge of the WBC started it, the history-making moments that they had in mind were not of the sort that Van Mil and Freiman provided when they became, over the course of an extremely quotidian two-out walk, the tallest batter-pitcher pairing in the sport's history.

It was history, or it almost certainly was; there may have been taller pitchers and hitters somewhere in baseball's weird prehistory, and they may well have faced each other, but no one knows well enough to say for sure. It was also an at-bat in which a relief pitcher with one powerful pitch that he can't command very well—Van Mil is the tallest pitcher in baseball's history, but he has also only thrown a handful of innings above Double-A, and pitched in the Netherlands' pro league last year—faced a patient, professional hitter who hasn't played in the Majors since 2014 and finished last year in Double-A, and walked him. Both teams had already secured spots in the next round; the game was nearly over. The crowd sort of acknowledged that something was happening, and then sort of acknowledged that something had happened. And that was all.

If you are so inclined, you can look at the smallness of all this and see an indictment of baseball's world tournament—no one cares, it doesn't matter, everyone involved only barely bothering. If you love baseball, you might see something else: insignificance, undeniably, but also maybe a harbinger of what's coming once spring finally arrives. More insignificance, more rustling crowds, more moments that are only marginally meaningful, if that, which will all add up and end up somewhere very different and very much more exciting; this will likely happen in this WBC, too, and in however many other ones we get, if only because that's how the game works. It is on its own timetable, and that timetable is not negotiable. Everything about baseball takes time. The moments come and go, they add up but not necessarily in a way you notice. You either remember to enjoy them or you don't.