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Why has the 2023 World Baseball Classic gained so much attention?



The World Baseball Classic was founded in 2006 with the goals of expanding baseball across the globe. The next World Baseball Classic is scheduled for 2026.

Sydney Chan, Story Editor

Twenty teams. Stacked rosters. One goal: win the World Baseball Classic (WBC) and earn the title of national team world champions.

A fairly new international baseball tournament, the World Baseball Classic was founded in 2006. According to MLB, Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Baseball Players Association collaborated to create the first time that Major League players competed for their home countries, with the hopes of increasing baseball’s popularity and presence internationally. This year, “The hype is a little bit higher this time around,” said Nolan Arenado, the St Louis Cardinals’ third baseman — but why?

Because of the WBC’s short life, it was unable to really capitalize and gain mass attention before this year. In its first five years, the WBC danced in the shadows of the much older Baseball World Cup (founded in 1938 and created by the International Baseball Federation), 

according to The Guardian. But this year is different, and the change can be attributed to new rules, technologies, and talented rosters; existing excitement from the World Cup; and earnest stories and future plans that will likely stem from the Classic.

To begin, this is the first year the WBC is featuring 20 teams, four more than the previous 16 in the last four tournaments. (The increase in team amount coincidentally parallels the extended bracket size during the MLB World Series this year.) Because of this expansion, a new regulation system pushes the last place team in each pool following Pool Play into a qualifier tournament to ensure their spot in the next WBC. 

But it’s not just the new rules that add hype to this year’s Classic. Not only is the WBC being shown on network television for the first time since 2009 (in comparison to just being available on MLB Network), the talented rosters add more viewership. 

Because Tony Reagins, the US team’s general manager, was able to lock Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout on the US roster early on, “there was a trickle-down effect with [Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder] Mookie Betts,” head coach Mark DeRosa shared with The Guardian. More and more players wanted to represent the US at the WBC, and as a result, more and more fans were eager to cheer on their respective teams’ players.

But what about the existing energy that was already in the air? Did that contribute to the newly found excitement surrounding the WBC? Absolutely. American viewership of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar was up 30% in comparison to the 2018 tournament, according to Fox Sports. Arenado added that it was “awesome” to watch and support our country in such a large sporting event. And although the WBC may not get to that caliber, it can get “close at least.”

A final catalyst includes the earnest stories and future plans that stem from the Classic. One of the more well-known stories from this year’s tournament was when Czech pitcher Ondrej Satoria (a professional electrician), struck out Japan’s Shohei Ohtani, arguably one of the best baseball players of all time, on March 11. The WBC is able to bring together baseball fans and players of all backgrounds for a good time.

What’s more? “The WBC is a good way for MLB to invest in communities with baseball programs to further develop nations like Columbia and Puerto Rico,” Varsity Baseball player Shane Underwood (‘24) said. The World Baseball Classic funds programs encouraging children around the world to play baseball. These donations have impacted countries that historically have not played baseball, like China, the Czech Republic, and Pakistan, according to ESPN.

Although the World Baseball Classic has already come to a close this year, the impacts of the Classic and baseball will always link players and fans together. “Baseball has always been a way I connect with my family,” Varsity Softball player Mia Bravo (‘24) reflected. 2026 and the next WBC can’t come any quicker!