The World Baseball Classic and all its international pride and pageantry is fast approaching, with the opening game between Australia and Chinese Taipei set for 11:30 p.m. ET on March 1. You can get into the spirit at MLB.com by bidding on more than 500 game-used items from the 2006 and '09 tournaments and by shopping from about 300 new items in this year's official merchandise collection.
Daisuke Matsuzaka had a combined 6-0 record on the mound for the two-time champion Japanese in the first two events, and you can bid on a baseball that he threw to Derek Jeter (a hit) and Jimmy Rollins (a walk) in 2009. Want to wear the same Brazil authentic road jersey that Hall of Famer Barry Larkin will wear in the dugout as he manages that country in his opener against Japan in Tokyo? It's time to get ready.
"This is important," Commissioner Bud Selig said of the event. "This is going to be the biggest World Baseball Classic we've had. I feel the greatest growth in this sport is international. The World Baseball Classic is our forum to do that. The clubs have been wonderfully cooperative. I'm excited. I think you're going to see a huge Classic. Everyone is really looking forward to it."
More artifacts from the 2006 World Baseball Classic will be gradually added to the auction listings this week. To get it started, take a look at some of the highlights we found in scanning MLB.com/WBCAuction:
Gregor Blanco Venezuela jersey
The Giants' outfielder is much better known now after saving Matt Cain's perfect game last summer and then helping his team to the World Series title, so there is definitely going to be a market for that Venezuela jersey he wore against Italy in his country's 2009 World Baseball Classic opening victory over Italy. Blanco pinch-ran and then played center field in that jersey, and by the way he proceeded to go 3-for-5 as Venezuela's leadoff man in the ensuing two games against the U.S., helping the team into the semifinal round, where it lost to Korea.
First base used in U.S. walk-off win over Puerto Rico
"The celebration was pretty wild," David Wright said after his ninth-inning single beat Puerto Rico and clinched a semifinal berth for the U.S. in 2009 at Miami. "I never thought that we'd be dogpiling in March, but it was pretty special and something I'll always remember." You can remember that night by bidding on the first base used during that game.
Chipper Jones No. 10 locker name plate
After playing in the 2006 tournament, Jones was back at third base for the U.S.A. in '09. This was the plate on his Rogers Centre locker when he suited up for the March 7 game against host Canada, when he batted cleanup and was 0-for-4 in a victory. Or maybe you're a Yankees fan who would like a Robinson Cano locker name plate that no one else can have.
Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain jerseys
Perfect for the White Sox fan. Both of that club's current relievers wore these jerseys in the U.S.-Canada opener on March 7, 2009, at Rogers Centre in Toronto. Thornton wore his for the U.S. and was credited with a hold after pitching one scoreless inning in a 6-5 U.S. victory. Crain wore this No. 28 for Canada.
Sixteen nations are represented in the World Baseball Classic, and the MLB.com Shop lets you browse by country, from Australia to Venezuela. Many fans will be looking for that same navy 59FIFTY cap from New Era that Joe Torre's U.S. team will be wearing on the field. In addition to caps, look for collectibles, jackets, jerseys, items just for kids and women, sweatshirts, tees and polos, and get your items in plenty of time before that first pitch is thrown at the Tokyo Dome.