Has the World Baseball Classic Revived Baseball Internationally?


Zealan Munsey, Photographer

Coming into March, there was anticipation and uncertainty about how much intensity and passion would be on display in the fifth edition of the World Baseball Classic (WBC) showcased here in the U.S.A. 

Not only did it not disappoint, but it exceeded almost all expectations.

Many athletes in all sports regularly watch their bodies’ workload by sitting out some games, but during the World Baseball Classic, many of baseball’s top stars from around the world prioritized their countries and the fans, never sitting out an inning. They took the chance of injury so they could win it for the flag, which definitely helped with international viewership.

The World Cup has reigned as the biggest sporting event in the world for quite some time, so to gain international attention, the baseball tournament needed to have some jazz and glamor.

Yes, the WBC has been around since 2006, but it was never as big of a hit as it has been in the 2023 edition. As March Madness (college basketball playoffs) rolled on, I sometimes turned it off to watch Mexico scrape by Puerto Rico or Trea Turner smash a grand slam to push the U.S.A. past Venezuela. And I love March Madness…

This year, the WBC featured 20 teams that qualified for the tournament, just like in the World Cup, with a group stage and three knockout rounds.

Baseball is said to be slow, boring and rarely entertaining, but this year’s WBC proved that the sport is anything but that.

What really helps the WBC is that Major League Baseball, the biggest pro league in the world (U.S.A.), features athletes from all over the world. Star players flock to the MLB from Japan and East Asia, all over the Caribbean and South America, and even some European players are thrown in the mix.

Of course, soccer has all the same, but almost every team in the WBC has some big-name players. Maybe the United States has an advantage in that they’re the best team even with so many players staying at home that are American (if Aaron Judge played, the U.S. would have won every game by 5 runs).

Baseball features players from all walks of life. Whether you are a kid from sunny Los Angeles, California, or if you play with a rolled-up sock in an alley in the Dominican Republic, you CAN succeed. Just look at David Ortiz and all the other Hall of Famers from the West Indies. Ichiro, one of the greatest hitters ever, hails from Japan, and he built his legacy in the Japanese and U.S. pro leagues, the Nippon Baseball League and the MLB.

Even as someone who no longer plays America’s pastime, there is no better feeling than seeing a walk-off home run. Electrifying isn’t typically used to describe baseball, but with the WBC’s exposure to the world, it’s about time it gets the attention it deserves.

It can get heated, but at the end of the day, it’s a gentleman’s game. You don’t see players in each other’s faces like in hockey or basketball or blatant fouls like in soccer or football. It’s a different intensity, just knowing the ball can soar out of the field proceeding any given pitch.

Baseball can also be pretty low-scoring, which just ups the ante; every run counts. But just like that, the other team can go on a streak, batting in four runs in an inning and coming from behind. The game is never secured.

Having never left the United States, I hoped the Red, White and Blue would secure the championship. Still, I’ll admit, it made me smile watching some of my favorite MLB players, like Freddie Freeman or Ronald Acuna Jr., lead their teams to try to win it all for their flag. 

With fans already looking for details on the 2026 iteration, it is clear that the World Baseball Classic is here to stay.

What looked like it would be boring and yet another tournament failure in the world of sports has been a hit all around.

And the 2023 WBC CHAMPS are…. Japan!

After striking out his Los Angeles Angels teammate Mike Trout (Team U.S.A.) with 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, Shohei Ohtani clinched Japan’s third WBC title in a surreal moment (2:40 to end). 

Baseball fans around the planet watched and anticipated a matchup that once was only dreamt of, and Ohtani got the last laugh. 

Now, the race to the 2026 classic begins.