The ‘World Cup’ of Baseball

Caption: Team USA Hoists the WBC trophy after winning in 2017

By Ryan Harless

Ryan Harless is a third-year undergraduate at BGSU from Hillsboro, Ohio. He is majoring in Sport Management with a Journalism Minor. Baseball and golf at all levels are his primary interests but he is also interested in combat sports, hockey, basketball, and football.

February 7, 2023

With Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Opening Day coming up at the end of March, baseball fans have a lot to anticipate. But, even before that, on March 8, the World Baseball Classic (WBC) begins.

The WBC is essentially the World Cup but just for baseball. Twenty teams from around the world compete in a tournament to determine who is best in baseball. There are four pools of five teams each that play a round-robin to determine seeding. The top two teams from each pool advance to the semifinals. Then begins the single-elimination tournament that culminates on March 21 when a champion is crowned.

Pool A consists of Chinese Taipei, the Netherlands, Cuba, Italy, and Panama.

Pool B is Japan, Korea, Australia, China, and the Czech Republic.

Pool C has the USA, Mexico, Colombia, Canada, and Great Britain.

And Pool D rounds out the field with Puerto Rico, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Israel, and Nicaragua.

There are talented stars from the majors on almost every team. Shohei Ohtani (the Angels) is making his WBC debut and will play for Japan while his Angels’ teammate Mike Trout is going to be the captain for Team USA. Yu Darvish (Padres) will be joining Ohtani on Team Japan as well.

Team USA boasts many all-stars including Mookie Betts (Dodgers), Paul Goldschmidt (Cardinals), and Pete Alonso (the Mets). The most interesting team, in my opinion, is the Dominican Republic as almost their whole team is full of bona fide stars: Julio Rodriguez (the Mariners), Jose Ramirez (the Guardians), Juan Soto (the Padres), Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. (Blue Jays), and Sandy Alcantara (Marlins) just to name a few.  

Of the first round matchups, I’m most excited for Team USA vs. Team Great Britain. After Team USA struggled to be competitive in the 2022 FIFA World Cup, I would like to see the USA get payback.

Of the round-robin play, there are a few games that I would consider must-see-TV. I think that Cuba vs. Italy will be a great game. Cuba has Luis Robert and Yoan Moncada (both of the Chicago White Sox) while Italy, which is managed by Mike Piazza, has MLB stars Trey Mancini (Cubs) and Brandon Nimmo (the Mets).

In Pool D, Puerto Rico vs. the Dominican Republic should be an amazing game with heaps of MLB talent on both sides. Puerto Rico has Marcus Stroman (Cubs), Edwin Diaz and Francisco Lindor (both of the Mets).

My prediction for the championship game is the Dominican Republic vs. Team Japan. I would love to see Ohtani on the mound against the stacked roster of Dominican sluggers.

Many games of the 2023 WBC are going to look like All-Star games featuring MLB players as well as stars of the past and future. The WBC really encompasses everything that makes baseball fun to watch. It is a serious competition, but has the nostalgic feel that helped players fall in love with baseball in the first place. Take Adam Jones’ dramatic catch (for Team USA) of what appeared to be a home run off the bat of Orioles’ teammate Manny Machado in the semifinal of the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

We only get to see these stars in rare form like this every four years and we haven’t gotten to see it since 2017 due to COVID. I’m very excited to see all the players having a blast and playing the game they have loved since they were kids.

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