screen-shot-2017-03-08-at-10-18-45-pmBy Maria Santora 3/8/2017

You have to beat some very long odds to make it to the Big Leagues. It’s the dream of a lifetime for the players who make it. Now imagine combining that feeling with getting the rare opportunity to play the game of baseball while also representing your home country.

There was a time when baseball and softball were part of the Olympics, but both sports were removed from the Games in 2005. The International Olympics Committee cut baseball and softball after the sports failed to receive enough votes to continue.

In response, Major League Baseball and the Player’s Association developed the World Baseball Classic an international professional baseball competition with an Olympic feel. The WBC played its first game in 2006, just one year after baseball struck out with the Olympics.

The 2017 WBC has gained a whirlwind of traction from MLB players. There are 101 players opting to miss spring training in order to play for their respective native countries.

Mets rookie Peter Alonso is aspiring to make it to the Big Leagues, that is his immediate goal. But the 22-year-old Tampa native would one day love to play for the United States in the WBC.

“It means the world. Everybody obviously dreams of making it to the Big Leagues one day, but also along with that dream, about representing their country. For me it would be representing the red, white, and blue hopefully one day.”

Alonso has high regard for those who play in the Classic.

“Representing one’s country there’s a lot of pride and a very, very competitive atmosphere. So people who are doing that I got a lot of respect for them.”

Mets Coach Dick Scott appreciates what the WBC is about, but he admits there are some drawbacks.

“They took baseball out of the Olympics so guys didn’t have the opportunity, but now they have the WBC which allows guys to go play for their country. It’s a little disruptive to your team as you’re getting ready to prepare for a season, but I think the exchange is good,” Scott says. “Guys get to play in these games that are super competitive and it’s all good, but we’ll be happy when we get those guys back so we can get ready for our 162.”

The second round of this year’s World Baseball Classic will be played from March 12-16.