Ohtani Strikes Out Trout to Win 2023 World Baseball Classic

The World Baseball Classic, the World Cup of baseball, often does not get the recognition it deserves outside of the baseball world. While its popularity does not have nearly the same global reach as the World Cup, it has just as many exciting plays and thrilling games. 

Before continuing into the stories coming from this year’s tournament, a brief history of the WBC is important to understand just how new the entire event is. As a response to the Olympic Committee’s decision to remove baseball from the 2012 Summer Olympics in 2005, the MLB proposed the WBC which is largely based on the format of the World Cup.  

Sixteen teams played in the first tournament, and since then that number has grown to 20. In its 17-year history, there have been five tournaments, including 2023. Japan has the most tournament wins with 3 - including this year - followed by the Dominican Republic and the United States, each tallying one. 

Map of Countries that participated in the 2023 World Baseball Classic. Created by Bo Stead via mapchart.net.

While some people claim this tournament is a waste of time for MLB players preparing for their season, many would find that not to be true. This year's classic was so important for the game’s international growth; the games were completely sold out in the later rounds and record amounts of viewers tuned in to watch games, mainly Japanese ones. This proves Japan’s deep-rooted love for baseball, as 94% of television viewers in Japan at the time were watching the final game between Japan and the USA.

Thankfully, this year has kept its promise and has had some very thrilling games. Coming into the tournament this year, there were a couple of clear favorites like the Dominican Republic, The United States, and Japan, all of whom are past winners and have completely stacked rosters top to bottom, filled with MVP winners and Cy Young winners. 

There were four pools, each with five teams. Through pool play, the only undefeated teams were Japan and Venezuela. The two other pool winners were Mexico and Cuba. Alongside each pool winner advancing to the second round was the runner-up of each pool: the United States, Puerto Rico, Australia, and Italy.

Before discussing the second round, there were some amazing games and moments in the first round. One team that held a soft spot in the hearts of viewers was the Czech Republic, with their entire team being men who play professional baseball in Europe as a side job. Some of them held jobs such as teachers, engineers, or sales managers. Ondřej Satoria, an electrician, struck out arguably the most talented baseball player in the world right now, the two-way pitching and hitting Shohei Ohtani of Japan. Ohtani later went on to win MVP. It was only the fact that baseball was this man’s day job, but because Satoria was throwing 79 MPH, the average speed of a high school varsity pitcher, and struck out the best player on the planet.

As pool play closed, there were some teams that had exceeded and others that had not at all met expectations. 

Tournament bracket of the World Baseball Classic. Image sourced by mlb.com.

From Pool A each team went 2-2 meaning that the deciding tiebreaker had to be factored in and thus Cuba (winner) and Italy (runner-up) came from the pool.

Pool B sent the 4-0 Japan and 3-1 Australian teams to the next round of play.

Pool C had Mexico, who won the pool going 3-1, pulling a win against the United States. The United States came second in the pool with a record of 3-1.

Finally, Pool D, the most competitive pool, had Venezuela led by Ronald Acuña Jr. and Jose Altuve leading their team to a 4-0 record with Puerto Rico coming second at 3-1. It was a surprise to many that the Dominican Republic did not advance, as they had a roster full of MLB stars.

One of the most notable moments of this World Baseball Classic was the star closer for the New York Mets, who was playing for Team Puerto Rico, who is arguably the best closer in baseball had a freak injury after advancing to the second round. While jumping around celebrating, Diaz managed to tear his patellar tendon and had to be wheeled off the field which soured Puerto Rico’s win against the Dominican Republic. The next day, Diaz was ruled out for the rest of the season, which is also a devastating blow to the Mets. Some of MLB teams’ worst fears are that their players will get hurt and alter their season. This was a nightmare scenario for the Mets.

Cuba beat Australia in round 2, Japan then beat Italy. There was a great game between Mexico and Puerto Rico in which Puerto Rico took an early lead hitting multiple home runs, but team Mexico shut the Puerto Ricans down for the rest of the game and won 5-4. 

Then came the United States vs Venezuela, which has now become an instant classic and arguably was the best game of the entire tournament. The two teams had high-producing offenses and were firing on all cylinders. The teams went punch for punch and kept scoring inning after inning. 

The United States brought in pitcher Daniel Bard, who practically blew up the game and threw four wild pitches, and later brought in David Bednar, who together turned a 5-2 lead into a 7-5 deficit for the US.

Then, in the top of the eighth inning, magic would happen for the American team. A no-out rally loaded the bases and brought up shortstop Trea Turner, the ninth batter. In an 0-2 count, Turner took a ball high and deep over the left field fence. He hit the ball 407 feet, but it completely swung the momentum of the game. A grand slam in the World Baseball Classic, Turner later claimed that was the loudest atmosphere he had ever experienced, and he became the hero of the game. Watching it in real time, it was like slow motion, with the moment before the pitch seeming like an eternity.

The next day, on Sunday the 19th, the US played Cuba and all-out dominated them winning 14-2 with Trea Turner hitting another two home runs; Turner was on absolute fire.

On the other side of the bracket came the semifinal featuring on-fire Mexico and the juggernaut that Japan has always been. Shockingly, the game remained scoreless until the top of the fourth inning when Luis Urias hit a 403-foot home run to center field, putting Mexico up 3-0. Then, Japan’s Masataka Yoshida hit a homer and tied the game 3-3. The teams traded punches once again, however, Japan was soon down 5-4. That was when superstar Shohei Ohtani hit a double to center field, followed by a Yoshida walk. 

Star player for Mexico, Randy Arozarena made the play of the tournament in this game when he made a leaping grab over the wall to rob Japan’s Munetaka Murakami of a home run.

Poster of the championship game matchup. Image taken from World Baseball Classic Instagram @wbcbaseball.

The finals were set. Japan was going to face off against the United States for the World Championship. The game started with high anticipation, the main concern for many US fans is that the United States’s pitching would not be able to keep up with the lively offense and pitching staff of Japan who had multiple people who threw 100+ MPH. Somehow in his first at-bat Trea Turner, the hottest hitter on the planet hit yet another home run and people went nuts.

Homers by Japan and another by the USA made the game 3-2, in the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs. This is where the game had perhaps the best ending one could ask for. Shohei Ohtani, the best player in the world, was itching against his teammate and the other best player in the world, Mike Trout. Unfortunately, Trout struck out, and Japan won. Shohei Ohtani was named MVP, and the game was the most-watched World Baseball Classic Game ever.

The next WBC is in 2026, and the world of baseball can hardly wait. Perhaps in the next one, we may see more countries entering, and more players committing to play for their countries. This year’s WBC has done so much for the sport internationally, as the games received record-high viewership and did not disappoint anyone who tuned in to watch.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

WP2Social Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com