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Why I care about Team USA

The World Baseball Classic is underway, and many are wondering if Team USA has what it takes to repeat as champions.

2023 World Baseball Classic Pool C: Game 2 Team Great Britain v. Team USA
Team USA stands for the National Anthem prior to their win over Great Britain
Photo by Daniel Shirey/WBCI/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is an interesting place to grow up. The things that stick out the most to natives and visitors alike are usually the goofy accents we speak with, the hills we climb to get to school and work and the french fries and coleslaw that we put on our sandwiches.

All of these things are naturally exaggerated by people not from the city, but the one thing that cannot be exaggerated is our love of our local sports teams.

Whether it be Steelers, Penguins or Pirates there’s a die hard fan in almost every household. On the national stage, we root for Pittsburgh. I’m proud of those traditions that make us Yinzers. Now Yinzers we may be, but at the end of the day we are all Americans; and I must say that I take incredible pride when our nation goes to competition at the world stage in hopes of bringing back the gold.

The World Baseball Classic is underway, and there is nothing I’d love to see more than to watch Team USA repeat as champions in the tournament in the game that I’ve been a part of since I could barely walk.

Ever since I was a kid, I have always taken pride in Pittsburgh, and one of the earliest ways of doing that was through baseball. Though never a huge watcher of baseball in our household, my mom and dad regularly had a bat in my hand in the backyard, and as soon as kindergarten rolled around, I was signed up to play for my neighborhood team. Those experiences and going to Pirates games just felt natural, like I was sure everyone was raised that way.

Washington Nationals v Pittsburgh Pirates
There was no bigger star for Pittsburgh in the last 20 years than Andrew McCutchen.
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

I can remember when Andrew McCutchen first burst onto the scene in Pittsburgh and he was instantly every kid’s favorite Pirate. He was incredibly talented, humble and he made us winners. Cutch and guys like Starling Marte, Neil Walker, Francisco Cervelli and numerous other players are who I watched when I first started becoming interested in sports, and they made me love playing baseball in the city of Pittsburgh.

As a viewer, this is the most interested I have been in the WBC since it’s inception in 2006. Back then, the thought of having guys like Ken Griffey Jr. and Derek Jeter on one team probably gave fans some false hope in how the squad would stack up on the world stage. Team USA has had mixed results in the tournament, not finishing above fourth place until 2017 where they would eventually win the tournament for the first time.

Following a six year hiatus, the USA has their equivalent of basketball’s 1992 Dream Team, as a star studded cast will take the field in hopes of back to back WBC Championship wins. Coach Chuck Daly started with Michael Jordan in ‘92, and GM Tony Reagins first reached out to Mike Trout as one of baseball’s biggest American stars.

“There was no hesitation from Mike, even though we didn’t have a manager yet and we didn’t have any commitments from any other players,” said Reagins.

From the announcement at All-Star Weekend, drew a buzz around the league as Trout and Reagins were recruiting and receiving calls from the leagues top American born players. Mookie Betts, Pete Alonso, Tim Anderson, the list goes on and on with the incredible talent on this team. Twenty All-Stars and three MVP Award winners round out the best team assembled for the U.S in WBC history, and they are looking to make their mark on the world stage.

The team opened up this year’s tournament with a dominant win over Great Britain, which sparked plenty of memes online as we once again reign supreme over the monarchy. The team however did take a step back against Mexico, now sitting at 1-1.

My favorite part about this year’s team is the fact that all of these players showed genuine interest in participating and representing the United States, as in years past it was often questioned how much players cared about the games.

I love the pride that this group of guys is playing with and exemplifying for their country. As stated previously, I am a Pittsburgher through and through, but I’m an American first, and I have always taken great pride in representing the country I call home.

I talk about it with anyone who will listen to me, but one of my earliest memories is my grandfather, Sgt. George Alvin Haney, coming home to Pittsburgh after a tour of duty in Iraq in 2004. There were so many happy people, to see him and his men come home. I was born with a patriotic bone in my body, with military men on both sides of my family.

When it came time to get on with my life’s work after high school, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I came to a decision and enlisted in the United States Air Force in June of 2021. Through eight weeks of basic training, you are pushed to your physical and mental limits, but the drill instructors always remind you to keep the reason you joined at the forefront when you feel like giving up.

Then after the worst vacation of your life, you get to graduate and receive the honor of joining the ranks of the World’s Greatest Air Force. They preach keeping your military bearing, but as God Bless the USA played during our ceremony, I teared up as I thought about my grandfather, and what I had just accomplished.

Now stationed in Las Vegas, I am a crew chief on the A-10 Warthog and play a small part in keeping our pilots in the sky and ensuring that America remains free; a role that I am very happy and blessed to play.

Many Americans in 2023 dismiss the idea of Nationalism. That is a concept I have never understood. I know America is not perfect, but neither is the world and the people that live in it. That is an unrealistic standard. But I’ve witnessed around the world in my travels the Nationalism that people in other countries carry.

On a school trip to Japan that I earned through a scholarship, I was welcomed with open arms, but I was reminded that Japan is number one in their eyes. I admire that. I admire that in the WBC Ichiro Suzuki took it very seriously when team Japan lost to Korea in the qualifying rounds of 2006. I also admire that he was dead set on beating them later in the tournament, which they did enroute to winning the WBC inaugural championship.

That is why I care. That is why I care about seeing team USA hoist that trophy at the end of the games. I always want to see the United States put its best foot forward, and I love that America’s past time is being rejuvenated on the world stage in the WBC.