(AP)GOODYEAR, Ariz. — While Americans continue to either ignore or downplay the World Baseball Classic, Brandon Phillips, one of the stars of the eliminated Team USA, couldn't praise the tournament enough.
"Right now, the highlight of my career is playing in the WBC, wearing that red, white and blue on my chest," Phillips said Tuesday morning, speaking to the media in Arizona for the first time since returning to the Cincinnati Reds. "It's the best thing to ever happen to me."
Phillips was back in Reds camp Monday, but didn't play. He started Tuesday against the Chicago White Sox, batting second and singling in his first at-bat. Meanwhile, Reds teammate Alfredo Simon, a member of the Dominican Republic team was in San Francisco, hours away from first pitch against Puerto Rico in the finals.
While the lack of top stars on Team USA is pointed to as one of the reasons the Americans didn't even make it to the semifinals, Phillips said he'd encourage his peers to play.
"If they have a chance to do it," Phillips said. "They should do it."
He certainly wants to play in the tournament again.
"I want to go back and win a WBC," Phillips said. "That's the itch I really got."
While he'll have to wait another four years for a chance at a WBC title, Phillips can win sooner if the Reds can get over the first-round-playoff hump and win that World Series that's eluded them the past few years.
"My hunger during the season is always going to be winning the World Series," Phillips said. "There's nothing better than that."
Yeah, a World Series ring would probably go a long way (all the way?) to erasing his memories about Team USA's World Baseball Classic shortcomings.