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.