MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

Watched the World Baseball Classic elimination game Wednesday night, which Puerto Rico won, 5-2, over the tournament favorite, the Dominican Republic, and, man, that’s baseball.

So many talented players on both teams and so much passion for the game, not only amongst the players, but throughout the stands, as it was a large and largely Caribbean crowd, given the game was played in Miami.

The Caribbean is where baseball lives and has lived for decades. It is the capital of baseball, as there have always been so many talented, hungry and hard-working baseball players there because it truly means everything to them. It’s their way off of their islands and out of poverty; it’s their ticket, and they certainly play like it.

They play fast-moving, hard-nosed baseball in the islands. They play defense, they pitch, they throw, they hit and they run. A game between two Caribbean teams is a flash and a rush. Watching these players play the game they have such passion and hunger for makes you feel pretty good to be a baseball lover.

Puerto Rico and the Dominican play the game the way it is meant to be played.

SPEAKING OF BASEBALL, finally saw the Baltimore Orioles play on Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The game was aired live on AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh, the Pirates’ broadcast network.

Had to catch it on the Pirates’ broadcast because they show baseball games all spring long. In fact, on Wednesday, the Pirates were in Dunedin, Fla. to play a road game against the Toronto Blue Jays. So how did we watch the game on Wednesday? The Pirates/AT&T SportsNet arranged for the Blue Jays’ broadcast of the game to be simulcast back to Pittsburgh so Pirates fans could watch it.

How cool is that? Seems like the Pirates organization wants their fans to be interested in their team.

About time.

Meanwhile, MASN Sports, owned by the Baltimore Orioles (and we won’t get into that today), is airing just three spring training games of the Orioles and the Washington Nationals, and when it finally got around to airing the first Orioles spring training game last week, there was no picture for most of the game because our cable provider Breezeline sent a message to the screen that said, “This video is unavailable.”

I love dropping all of that money every month for nothing, don’t you?

Anyway, as it was our first full look at some of the highly-rated prospects the Orioles have in camp this spring, which includes the top-rated prospect in baseball, infielder Gunnar Henderson (who did not play Wednesday), as well as pitcher Grayson Rodriguez (who did not pitch) and shortstop Jackson Holliday (19 years-old), and we could go on and on, I became very aware that General Manager Mike Elias seems to draft the same type of player.

These guys, such as Colton Cowser, Jordan Westburg and Heston Kjerstad, just to name a few, all seem to be tall and wide shouldered, who can hit the ball hard (I’m sure there’s a new analytics term for hitting the ball very hard), who can run a little bit and who likely grew up playing middle-infield positions as well as center field, because if you can run and can play those positions, you can play any position on the field when the need arises.

It was a good way to spend an afternoon, as it was really the first look many of us had at seeing many of the young players in the Orioles system that we’ve read so much about, but have yet to really see.

Kind of sad it would be the Pirates organization to let us see them, rather than Orioles-owned MASN, which is the only reason I still pay the Breezeline bill every month.

The Orioles, MASN and Breezeline have to do better. Otherwise, they have sports bars for this kind of thing.

TAYLOR HEINICKE has agreed to a two-year free-agent deal with the Atlanta Falcons.

Heinicke, of course, is the former backup quarterback of the Washington Commanders and, previously, the Washington Football Team (will always love that name; should have changed it to Washington Football Club instead of Commanders and stuck with it.)

Anyway, Heinicke’s rise in Landover was such a great story. He went from being an extra quarterback during the pandemic that nobody had heard of to being the starting quarterback in a playoff game in just a few weeks.

He gave the team a huge lift and helped them be very competitive (once Snyder is out they are going to be very good). Heinicke is a gamer and has a lot of moxie. The Commanders, though, kept trying to find somebody else better but kept getting in their own way (something different) and couldn’t. Taylor Heinicke’s teammates love him.

But you can’t blame him for finding a new opportunity elsewhere because the Commanders have made it clear Sam Howell is now their guy, which I get; unless they sign a free agent who might be on the market.

Actually, that is what Washington did on Wednesday when it signed free-agent Jacoby Brissett to be the new backup; and I think Brissett is better than Taylor Heinicke, based on the season he just gave the Cleveland Browns while they were waiting for Deshaun Watson to return from his very long disciplinary suspension.

Brissett takes care of the ball and will be the perfect backup for the Commanders. He is a very good acquisition.

AND A SIGN on the scorer’s table during the NCAA Tournament games reads, “Celebrates Student-Athletes.”

Funny.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT