Category Archives: World Baseball Classic

World Baseball Classic: Final Thoughts 

Caption: Shohei Ohtani celebrates striking out Mike Trout and winning the WBC

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.

March 26, 2023

The World Baseball Classic (WBC) has come to a close with Japan taking the crown after a 3-2 win over Team U.S.A. on March 21. If the final game were to be a movie, people would have a hard time believing it.  

With Japan up 3-2 in the top of the ninth inning, Shohei Ohtani emerged from the bullpen to put the final nail in the coffin for Team U.S.A. After getting the first two batters out, his Angels teammate, Mike Trout, stepped to the plate in one of the coolest baseball moments of all time.  

Mike Trout, who is considered to be one of the greatest baseball players of all time since his 2011 debut in MLB. Shohei Ohtani, who could arguably become THE best baseball player of all time faced off with the WBC championship on the line. It was the most poetic end to a baseball game (or other athletic competition) I have ever seen. 

Ohtani fanned Trout on just four pitches. Now that is impressive enough as is, but when you look into it further, it’s even crazier. 

Through Trout’s 6,174 plate appearances, he has only struck out on three swinging strikes 24 times. Yes, I said 24 times.  

And if that wasn’t enough for Ohtani, he also recorded the hardest hit ball (118.7 MPH), the farthest hit homer (448 ft.), and threw the hardest pitch in the entire tournament (102 MPH). 

We got to see Shohei pumped up, playing his hardest, and at the top of his game in one of the most important games of his career. And it was a thing of beauty.  

Pedro Martinez talked to Ohtani and gave him the praise that every baseball fan has thought, saying, “Shohei, I want to say…on behalf of baseball…we want to thank you for the effort, for the discipline, for everything that you have done for baseball and what you represent for baseball. I just want to personally thank him for all you do. All you do. We are really proud and thankful and grateful for what you do. You are a special human being. So we want to thank you and recognize it.” 

I am so happy that someone like Martinez was able to thank Ohtani for being as fun to watch as he is. Baseball is truly in a ‘golden age’ with fans getting to see stars like Trout and Aaron Judge, but Ohtani is the face of baseball and I think it will stay that way for a while.  

The game is now the most watched WBC game of all time in America with 5.2 million viewers. That was up 69% from the 2017 WBC final which was an all-timer itself.  

Ohtani has gained 3 million Instagram followers since the beginning of March, Lars Nootbarr gained almost a million himself after his performance and bromance with Ohtani. These games were huge for the sport of baseball.  

Mike Trout has already declared that he will play in the games again when they return in 2026 and I expect many others to follow suit. Ohtani will only be 31 at the time of the next WBC and could be performing even better than he did this year.  

I cannot wait until the next WBC as it is consistently the most fun professional baseball tournament in the world. It manages to bring the fun of the Little League World Series to the pros, and we get to see the athletes play the game like kids again.  

We will have to see if the popularity of the WBC translates to MLB regular season games as they begin on the 30th. I really am hopeful that MLB will be able to capitalize on some of the excitement and bring some more eyes to the league and start to turn around the game. 

World Baseball Classic: Better than Major League Baseball?

Caption: Trea Turner celebrates with Team USA after hitting go-ahead grand slam HR vs. Venezuela.

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.

March 21, 2023

With the World Baseball Classic (WBC) fully underway we have gotten to see some of the most exciting baseball available today. More people are watching the WBC games than any World Series game ever.

Team USA vs. Great Britain averaged 1.6 million viewers, South Korea vs. Japan averaged 2.7 million, Chinese Taipei’s viewership in the first round was up 151% from the last WBC in 2017.

As a comparison of popularity between the WBC and MLB moments, Shohei Ohtani’s WBC homer off the scoreboard already had 7.5 million views on Twitter (as of March 19). Aaron Judge’s record-breaking 62nd homer only has 4.5 million views and that is months older. Trea Turner’s crucial go ahead grand slam in the WBC amassed 7 million views on Twitter in just 15 hours.

In terms of TV viewership, the South Korea vs. Japan game was watched by nearly 70 million people. The 2022 MLB World Series got 12 million. 62% of homes in Puerto Rico watched their game against the Dominican Republic.

For years, baseball fans like myself have heard that baseball isn’t marketable or that the kids just don’t like baseball anymore. We have dealt with changes made to the game in attempts to make the game “faster and more marketable”.

The WBC has done a great job of proving all of that wrong. The WBC isn’t adhering to MLB rule changes. The teams can use a defensive shift, there is no pitch clock, and the bases are the usual size. Believe it or not, these games have been incredibly exciting to watch.

As I mentioned in a previous article, we are getting to see these players in rare form. They are all having fun with the game. This very well could be as close as we ever get to seeing Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani in playoff baseball and they are getting every bit of excitement out of it.

When watching the games, you might also notice that it isn’t just the players having a blast, but also everyone in the stadium. Fans behind the backstop are imitating the umpire anytime there is a strikeout. Trea Turner said that his grand slam was the biggest home run of his career and that it was the loudest crowd he has ever played before.  

This tournament has only proven that MLB has no clue what they need to do to make baseball a popular mainstream sport again.

Now, of course every regular season game isn’t going to command a million fans. But when the culmination of your entire season is getting blown out of the water regularly by a tournament that only happens every four years, you’re doing something wrong.

Going into this tournament, Shohei Ohtani was by far the most popular MLB player in the world. Since the start of the WBC, he has more than doubled his followers on Instagram, gaining over 1.36 million since the beginning of March.

I believe that MLB is going about improving their game the wrong way. Outside of Ohtani, I really doubt that there is any one player that a majority of the population knows.

The NFL has Partick Mahomes, the NBA has LeBron and Curry, even the NHL has Ovechkin. Who does MLB have that is not only marketable but HAS been marketed in a beneficial way for the league?

I feel that MLB is in a very weird period of time. Attendance for MLB is dropping rapidly and is down by around 15 million just since 2007. If the numbers don’t begin to improve in the next few years, I really have no clue how they can turn things around.

The WBC has proven that baseball is still fun, and also that MLB isn’t the only viable option for good professional baseball. I thoroughly enjoy watching Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) games because the crowds are super into it and the games are just fun. Major League Baseball has a problem with fun and the WBC has made that evident.