“I feel like the hype is a little bit higher this time around than it was in 2017.”
St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Nolan Arenado hopped on to a Zoom availability Tuesday afternoon where he detailed representing Team USA in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, baseball’s version of the World Cup, a tournament that occurs every few years with 20 international teams facing off.
That hype Arenado referred to is a big shoe to fill, and in order to keep the momentum going, they’re making sure MLB stars are put on display.
— World Baseball Classic (@WBCBaseball) January 26, 2023
Arenado’s Cardinals teammates first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and pitcher Adam Wainwright (both of whom will also represent Team USA) joined the conversation. They said these games are huge for the sport.
This time around, the international teams are pulling out all the stops.
Two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani will represent Team Japan and his Los Angeles Angels teammate, 10-time All-Star and three-time AL MVP Mike Trout recently announced he would represent Team USA. Team Dominican Republic will have Seattle Mariners star Julio Rodríguez manning the outfield while Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of the Toronto Blue Jays will play at first base.
Trout vs. Ohtani in the World Baseball Classic would be must-see. ? pic.twitter.com/45mzEVKFKn
— World Baseball Classic (@WBCBaseball) January 20, 2023
“It’s great for the game of baseball,” Goldschmidt said when asked about the big names participating. “That’s what it came down to is in 2017 it was great. I mean, the games were amazing. They were tight games, there were extra-inning games, there was a lot of energy from the fans and excitement and you know, the best players on the biggest stage and that’s what we want and part of this is to grow the game and you want the best players participating so it’s exciting.”
All 20 rosters for the 2023 WBC will be exclusively revealed on MLB Network Thursday, February 9th at 6 p.m., ET, in an effort to begin the build towards the tournament. This year’s tournament begins on March 8th and ends with the Championship Game in Miami, Florida on March 21st. It’s the first World Baseball Classic in six years as the planned tournament for 2021 was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is the fifth installment of the tournament and the first time the field has expanded to 20 teams with the defending champion Team USA facing Great Britain in Phoenix, Arizona at Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Prior to that, Team USA will play in a pair of exhibition games against the San Francisco Giants and the Angels.
Seventeen-year veteran Wainwright said representing the USA in the WBC was a bucket list item for him. He said he had never been asked before, so his exposure to the tournament was exactly how fans consumed it as well.
“I’m really looking forward to playing with those guys and representing our country,” Wainwright said. “I think it’s great for our game of baseball, It’s exciting for fans. I remember watching them win the gold medal a few years ago, man, I was watching every pitch. I couldn’t wait to watch those games. It was really fun. I’m glad to be a part of it.”
Fans certainly showed up the last time the tournament took place. It surpassed one million fans for the first time in history and more than 50,000 people purchased tickets when Team USA defeated Puerto Rico 8-0 in the Championship Game.
“It’s different than just your regular season game,” Goldschmidt said. “That’s a playoff-type atmosphere, maybe even more just because there’s no build-up and it’s kind of a one-game elimination.”
MLB Network will have a marathon of WBC games beginning Sat. Feb., 11 for those who want to relive Team USA’s march to victory six years ago.