Every four years, the nations of the world gather to compete on the baseball diamond. Much like the World Cup, the World Baseball Classic (WBC) is a global competition for glory. Players, including those from Major League Baseball, have a chance to represent their home countries. In addition to a world championship, this chance to represent one’s home raises the stakes and brings out the passion in the players.
After the initial rounds of the tournament, four countries advanced to the championship round: The Netherlands, Japan, Puerto Rico and the United States.
In the championship game, the United States blanked Puerto Rico 8-0 under the leadership of Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman. Stroman was ultimately named Most Valuable Player of the WBC. In three starts, he posted a 2.35 ERA. In the championship game, he allowed just one hit through six innings on the mound.
Their win in the WBC finals was a special moment for Team USA, as this is the United States’ first WBC title. Texas Rangers’ catcher Jonathan Lucroy described the moment, saying, “It was an amazing feeling. You’re not representing an individual team, but an entire country.”
The victory was especially sweet for the players who chose to represent the United States, as they felt let down by many of their peers. Star players like Madison Bumgarner, Clayton Kershaw, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper opted not to participate in the WBC. Many Team USA players feel that their victory may have reconciled this for future WBC games. Lucroy said, “I can’t see anyone turning this down again, not after seeing what we did. I think we’ve changed how everyone will look at the WBC.”
Manager Jim Leyland said, “I don’t mean this to sound wrong, but up until this point the other countries were probably into this event a little bit more than the United States. But we had players that wanted to be here, and that’s the players you want.”
After their first WBC title, the US hopes that they have made the WBC a bigger deal in the eyes of Americans.