I've always thought the skepticism around the World Baseball Classic was silly. Dating back to 2006 when a young me adorned a college dorm room with buddies, lauding the tournament concept, the World Baseball Classic was just as important.
It never grew. It never increased in awesomeness. It never "got better".
The truth has always been that we - the United States of America - didn't respect it. For whatever arrogant belief we had, maybe because baseball is the fabric of our culture and yes, we're pretty good at it, our country struggles with the international concept. Unlike the rest of the world, the club comes before the country representation, which is strange considering our belief in socially accepted feelings around exceptionalism and requisites for patriotism.
I'll digress here...
The World Baseball Classic is one of the most significant additions to the game and the sport. In this 2023 edition, we - as Americans - are beginning to not only see that clearly but also embrace the beauty of the tournament.
Save the "takes" that we do.
For now, we'll just enjoy the awesomeness that was this.
Here are five quick things I learned from the 2023 World Baseball Classic:
Culture of Baseball
American baseball, specifically the Major League Baseball product, needs to have more fun. Yes, there is the campaign letting the kids play, but there is just a joy in the World Baseball Classic that us unmatched in the MLB product.
The music, the singing, and the scenes of fans passing around caught baseballs so everyone can take a photo with them (still so awesome) are so unfamiliar here, that it feels almost like we don't enjoy the game. Despite every strict custom and unwritten rule that we hold as law and religion within the game, come WBC time, it all feels so trivial.
On the positive side, there were the stories of all the countries and how baseball ties into their culture and national thread. Non more than the Czech Republic for me who were just a bunch of common souls using sick days and vacation time away from their full-time jobs to play in the WBC.
I loved that. That's love for the game. That's special.
Best in March
I still don't get the crowd who wants this tournament in November. The WBC is even more awesome as it replaces mundane Spring Training viewing, is unopposed from the king that is Football (in this country), and would beg the question - who wants to extend the season after so many have gone through the gauntlet of their respective seasons?
Let's stop with the "takes" just for content. The WBC in March is just fine.
Ohtani (and other International Stars)
Ohtani is absolutely a global treasurer. Nothing else is needed to be said.
The strikeout of Trout was fantastic drama.
The WBC does give the sport a chance to introduce other star players, even creating that connection BEFORE they become nightly names for your favorite teams. It's a cool concept that the sport hasn't done well and is beginning to remedy.
Trout and the Big Stage
Mike Trout's performance in the WBC is just an example of why Mike Trout needs to be on baseball's biggest stage. We've already wasted so much time in his career not having experienced those opportunities. We need to get what is left immediately.
I think about Giancarlo Stanton and his experience in the WBC and how it immediately affected how he looked at playing meaningful games. Same for Nolan Arenado during his time in Colorado. There's nothing like meaningful baseball, and in my opinion, Trout got a sobering sample of that in this tournament.
Of course, they won the entire thing. But there was just something beautiful about the Japanese game. The focus is on contact, sound defense, and tactical pitching. The talent of course is still not on par with our league, but the WBC did leave one wondering if they're expressing the fundamentals better than we are.