The magic of the World Baseball Classic began with a catch.
In a winner-take-all game against the Dominican Republic, Adam Jones made an exceptional play for Team USA, robbing Manny Machado of a home run during the 2017 edition of the World Baseball Classic.
It cemented him in WBC history and began the energy of the tournament we see today.
But calling it a tournament seems like a mild way to describe how the WBC has exploded in significance and popularity both in America and abroad.
The WBC creates opportunities for more than just the Major League Baseball players we see day in and day out, but players from all around the globe. It brings the world together.
That sounds deep, and a little bit cheesy, but trust me.
Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Kyle Schwarber, who’s also representing Team USA, told the media that the WBC grows the game of baseball in ways we might not have thought.
“I think it’s important to continuously grow the game and we obviously have a big part in that and the way we talk and how we carry ourselves,” Schwarber said in February.
“It’s not just here that there’s great baseball. There’s great baseball in all other places” – Kyle Schwarber pic.twitter.com/9LbKcUiwbq
— Michael Clair (@michaelsclair) March 21, 2023
“I also think too, obviously we have the stars in our game right now that are going to be playing in this, but also the opportunity for a lot of people who aren’t playing in MLB or even in the minor leagues,” Schwarber continued. “Could be in their own countries and they’re going to be able to play some of the guys who are in the major leagues and going to be future Hall of Famers. I think that’s a cool moment for people’s families and where they’re at in their country and be able to tune in and watch this.”
Those around the world watched as The Czech Republic’s Ondřej Satoria, a full-time electrician, struck out Shohei Ohtani. It had us wanting to tell him to quit his day job.
Phillies infielder Trea Turner’s clutch home run against Cuba had us understanding why the team shelled out $300 million for him. His multi-home run game was just the second time that had occurred in Team USA history. The first? Ken Griffey Jr. who is the team’s hitting coach this year.
Trea Turner keeps crushing homers for Team USA! ⚾️? pic.twitter.com/1qB7Bqn5aR
— The Comeback (@thecomeback) March 19, 2023
A contract was given on the spot to a young pitcher who, during his outing for Team Nicaragua, struck out three superstars, including Julio Rodríguez. Duque Hebbert now plays for the Detroit Tigers after catching the eye of a scout in attendance.
We all watched in awe as 21-year-old Roki Sasaki threw 100 mph fastballs to Team Mexico with ease. Quickly after, we added to our calendar when we will see him come to the states and play for an MLB team.
Sasani, along with Ohtani, gave us one of the best games you could witness in a classic semifinal victory over Mexico on Monday night. Period.
On the other side of the field, Team Mexico’s manager, Benji Gil, has never received an MLB managerial offer. The Mexican team advanced to the WBC semifinals for the first time under his leadership.
“We are showing what Mexican players are capable of at the highest level,” Gil told Yahoo Sports.
Gil still wants to manage at the big-league level, and it was the perfect opportunity to beef up his resume to keep that dream alive.
Not all dreams went to plan, of course.
While reliever Edwin Diaz suffered a knee injury that will have him sidelined this season, fans stopped in their tracks for a moment. Injuries can happen at any moment, even in spring training, but many used Diaz’s surgery as an excuse to cancel the tournament in favor of preserving the MLB regular season.
Host Keith Olbermann said because of this injury, and one to Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman, Freddie Freeman, the WBC should be called off.
First Freddie Freeman, now Edwin Diaz.
The WBC is a meaningless exhibition series designed to: get YOU to buy another uniform, to hell with the real season, and split up teammates based on where their grandmothers got laid.
Call it off. Now. https://t.co/A5IT4rJWON
— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) March 16, 2023
Olbermann later apologized for the sexism-related part of the tweet, but doubled down on wanting the tournament to go away.
Outfieder Brandon Nimmo, who is teammates on the New York Mets with Diaz, said he would rather continue his spring training routine than participate again in the WBC.
“The most important thing for me right now, is being on the field and ready for Opening Day,” he said. “I want to win a World Series, and maybe that makes me, you know, a bad person — that I would rather win a World Series than the WBC right now, like that’s where I’m at in my career. Steve [Cohen] invested a lot into this team, and I just want to make sure that I’m on the field and doing everything that I can to try and keep his investments on the field and try to win that World Series that he wants.”
Brandon Nimmo said it best about not participating in the WBC pic.twitter.com/Wqc2b3q66Q
— ??????? (@FrankiesTwoLoud) March 16, 2023
But in spite of those critiques, many in the game of baseball believe in the concept of the World Baseball Classic, not just for its potential to continue growing the sport around the world, but for the importance of winning it. Ten-time All-Star Mike Trout was asked about Diaz’s injury and said it’s been a highlight of his baseball career.
“I talked to [Adam] Wainwright about this,” Trout told the media after hearing about the injury. “This is the funnest experience I’ve had on a baseball field. To represent your country, it’s been a blast. Obviously, there’s risk involved, you’re still playing baseball in spring training, so for me, it’s just being a part of this atmosphere, it’s special.”
Listen to Mike Trout and Mookie Betts last night discuss their thoughts on the Edwin Diaz injury and the WBC as a whole.
— Ben Verlander (@BenVerlander) March 16, 2023
Trout was able to finally participate in a true playoff experience as the USA overpowered each team that was put in its way. And it’s an atmosphere that’s intoxicating for all involved.
“It’s kind of like every game was like the wild-card game,” MLB Network Radio’s Mike Ferrin told Awful Announcing. “We have a one-game wild-card playoff, only it’s louder and more consistently loud. Music and dance, and drums and noisemakers, and horns — all of that for three hours. And it’s addictive — like you can’t get enough.”
Patrick Sandoval ?? vs. Roki Sasaki ??
— MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (@MLBNetworkRadio) March 20, 2023
The quick, knockout format of the tournament provides the extra energy that is only brought with the win-or-go-home stakes. That immediacy combined with the festival atmosphere of excited fans from around the world playing has made this a truly unique, magnetic, must-watch thing.
It was Ferrin’s first time doing play-by-play for the WBC. He said it didn’t quite come as advertised, however.
“No, I would say it didn’t,” Ferrin explained. “I think it’s better.”
“The closest I can come to [comparing it] to is the wild-card game, but it’s really hard to put words to it until you get a chance to experience it because it’s so different. A lot of credit, I think, goes to Latin American fans who are amazing. I mean, the word that has kept coming up a bunch of times with players and talking about the fans and crowd is, ‘joy.’ That’s how I feel now about it is that every game was a joyous experience.”
Gil said it best after Mexico’s loss to Team Japan on Monday night. It was one game, but what he had to say was the perfect definition of the tournament that occurs every three years.
“Japan advances, but the world of baseball won tonight,” he said.