Tommy Lasorda on World Baseball Classic

Tommy Lasorda (right) greets Joe Torre, the manager of the U.S. team in the World Baseball Classic. AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

With the United States playing its first game tonight in the World Baseball Classic, Playbook reached out to talk to baseball legend Tommy Lasorda about the event.

In the 2000 Summer Olympics, Lasorda came out of retirement to manage the U.S. team and led the Americans to the gold medal, beating heavily favored Cuba. The United States opens up WBC play tonight against Mexico.

Lasorda was in New York on Thursday visiting the MLB Fan Cave, and Playbook had a few minutes.

What makes the World Baseball Classic so special to you?

As you recall, the Olympics voted out baseball and softball for the 2012 Olympics. That was a big mistake. The baseball commissioner thought to have something that resembles the Olympics every four years. That's the way it began. I think it's special because it's so competitive. I always pull for the United States. I like to represent baseball, my country and the team I love, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

One thing about the games is that many of the best players in Major League Baseball, including Prince Fielder and Bryce Harper, aren't playing. Do you think they should be forced to?

The commissioner can't really force the players. I just think that everyone in baseball should be willing to do something for their country. I took the job to go to the Olympics at the age of 67. I was away from my family for a month. Why did I do it? I wanted to do something for my country. They said we couldn't beat the Cubans. We beat them. I had 24 players, and 23 of them I had never seen before. I think everyone should participate.

Maybe the players are afraid of getting hurt? The Yankees lost first baseman Mark Teixeira to a wrist injury earlier in the week during a WBC workout.

He could have hurt himself in spring training, too. What's the big difference? I don't know if the good players are making excuses for not playing. I just feel they all should be playing.

You have been a great ambassador for this tournament and the game of baseball.

That's because baseball is the greatest sport in the country. People might say it's football. Why? Because it's tough and rough? Next time, watch a football game with a stopwatch. Start when the ball is snapped and the play ends. How many minutes of action is that? Ten? The rest of the time they are just walking back to the huddle! How can that be a great sport? Baseball is where defense controls the ball. You don't win or lose by the clock, either.

You're 85. How much longer will you continue to promote the sport? How about taking it easy?

I'm taking it to the grave. In 15 years, I'll be 100 years old. Nothing can stop baseball. All that talk about steroids and other things won't hurt it. Baseball will survive. It's bigger than anything.