The World Baseball Classic
By. Angel Rodriguez
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In Sports, a few things matter the most for players; money is the most important thing or the most important thing could be winning, depending on which athlete you ask. Then after those two significant essential factors, the things that matter the most for players could be their health, stardom, or the pride they bring to their hometown. If there's one thing that most humans share in common is the pride for where they come from or the term used for that feeling which is Nationalism.
Many sports have various ways for people to compete for their country of birth through international contests. For soccer (Or Futbol) fans, there is the FIFA World Cup; for Basketball fans, there are the Olympics basketball competitions. In baseball, there is the World Baseball Classic which was inaugurated in 2006 by the MLB. This baseball tournament was made for MLB Players to represent their birthplaces in baseball tournaments to win gold medals and a trophy for their countries.
In the original World Baseball Classic, 16 teams participated, with four pools of 4 teams playing worldwide. Game pools occurred in Tokyo, Arizona, Anaheim, Lake Buena Vista, San Diego, and Puerto Rico. This WBC (World Baseball Classic), was ended with a championship game between Japan and Cuba, with team Japan taking the championship, a team led by MLB hall of famer Ichiro Suzuki and WBC MVP Daisuke Matsuzaka, who was at the time a star for the Japanese Baseball league which is the NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball).
The World Baseball Classic was scheduled to take place during the Spring of 2021, but due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the event was canceled by MLB and had yet to be mentioned since the 2020 announcement. Then after the 2022 MLB players' lockout during an argument between the Players Association and the MLB team owners, the new CBA agreement laid out plans for a new baseball classic along with many other international baseball plans to come.
After the CBA agreement of 2022, the MLB and MLBPA agreed to bring back the World Baseball Classic Event for a 5th time; the event would be hosted in the year 2023, with Miami being host to a majority of all of the event with the sharing of games with Taiwan, Japan, and Arizona. The event would happen from March 11th to the 21st here in the states. The USA played in Arizona against Colombia, Mexico, Canada & Great Britain. And Miami hosted the abominable Pool D, where teams like Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua & Israel would play.
The event has recently started, and so far, it has not disappointed; with the tournament breaking baseball watching records and attendance records, it has proved that in many ways, baseball is not dead, but more importantly, when done right, baseball is thriving. The Pool D qualifier between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico had 61% of all TV in the island of Puerto Rico watching and had a sold-out attendance of 36,025 fans in the stands at Loan-Depot park in Miami, with their normal regular season average being eleven thousand a game.
The event has been very popular with fans and has created a very enthusiastic atmosphere around baseball in March's boring Spring Training times. But other than the fan's love for this event, something that needs to be highlighted is the passion and joy players have to play for their countries and go off with pride for their flags and people. Players have been playing at elite levels, and the emotions can be seen in how they're playing with how electric pitchers have been leaving the mound and the batter's reaction when getting hits multiplied by a million in these games; the game has been said to be more important for a bunch of Hispanic players saying that winning for their countries means more than ever winning a World Series.
One last thing that makes this tournament so exciting is the opportunities created for players not in the MLB, who get to play in the tournament for lower-ranked countries. For example, teams like the Czech Republic, where teachers and firefighters are coming to play against Japan's finest and befriend Shohei Ohtani, and guys like Duque Hebbert, who struck out the side against Juan Soto and then was signed by the Detroit Tigers to play professional baseball for the first time in his life.
These things all represent beautiful things that baseball has been doing in the last week, and that's without some of the game's biggest stars playing in the Classic. The World Baseball Classic showcases the game's stars, the pride for the player's country, and the most exciting baseball on earth. It's doing something most thought impossible, making people interested in baseball, and that's what the MLB needs. So keep the World Baseball Classic, and they will come, let the players play the game for their countries, and the magic will be there and prove to people that baseball is fun.