World Baseball Classic

2017 World Baseball Classic: 16 countries brought their best national baseball team to compete for the large silver trophy in an international contest that includes current MLB players. They don’t reach this level without the fire of competition. But, playing for your country undoubtedly raises the stakes on this world stage. It’s priceless. The round robin tournament is played in 4-pools of 4-teams.

First rounds were held in facilities listed below.

Pool A: Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul (South Korea)

  • Israel
  • Netherlands
  • South Korea
  • Chinese Taipei

Pool B: Tokyo Dome in Tokyo (Japan)

  • Japan
  • Cuba
  • Australia
  • China

Pool C: Marlins Park Miami. Florida (USA)

  • Dominican Republic
  • United States
  • Colombia
  • Canada

Pool D: Estadio Charro in Zapopan, Jalisco (Mexico)

  • Puerto Rico
  • Venezuela
  • Italy
  • Mexico

Second round hosted advancing countries in 2-pools of 4-teams.

Pool E Tokyo Dome in Tokyo (Japan)

  • Japan
  • Netherlands
  • Israel
  • Cuba

Pool F Petco Park in San Diego, California (USA)

  • Puerto Rico
  • United States
  • Dominican Republic
  • Venezuela

And, the semi-final and final games were held at,

Championship Round Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles, California (USA)

  • Netherlands
  • Puerto Rico
  • United States
  • Japan

This was the fourth iteration of the WBC. Initially, it was to be held every 3-years when it first opened in 2006. The second one was held in 2009 but an adjustment is made to avoid from having the events on the same year as the Olympics. That was followed by 2013 and 2017. By this time, Japan wins in 2006 and 2009. Those trophies are found in the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame. Dominican Republic came into 2017 as the undefeated reigning Champions of 2013.

Modeled after the FIFA World Cup, the event was initially sanctioned by International Baseball Federation as a response to International Olympic Committee’s decision to remove baseball from the summer games. World Baseball Classic also helped to achieve the MLB goal of expanding global interest in the sport. The atmosphere brings the best of a play-off game and a national festival in one. Regardless of who’s playing where, its undeniable that the world is watching. Here are two visits from First Round Pool C and Second Round Pool F.

Team Colombia @ Team USA

MARLINS PARK (Miami, Florida). First Round in Pool C Team Colombia Plays in the World Baseball Classic for the first time and the fans make them feel at home. Colombia advanced from a qualification pool with Panama, Spain, & France in March of 2016. Team Israel also debuted in 2017, playing their first round in South Korea. Colombian native Jose Quintana (Chicago White Sox) started for Team Columbia and had a no-hitter against Team USA for 5 innings, until Brandon Crawford (San Francisco Giants) snapped it and started a 2-run rally to tie it up in the bottom of the sixth inning. Adam Jones (Baltimore Orioles) had an RBI double in that rally and the walk off hit in the 10th inning. 

Team Dominican Republic @ Team Puerto Rico

PETCO PARK (San Diego, California). Second round in pool F opens with Team Puerto Rico at home versus Dominican Republic, the defending WBC 2013 Champions. Both teams came into the game undefeated, a rematch from the Final game 4 years ago. Fans migrated from around the world to cheer for their country. And, this game was no different. Dominican Republic started the 1st inning threatening to score with men on base and no outs. It ended with a double play that started with a putout in right field by Edwin Rosario (Minnesota Twins) and a great throw to Yadier Molina (St. Louis Cardinals) to get the runner at home trying to score for the third out. Team Dominican Republic Manager Tony Pena was ejected late in the game for arguing balls and strikes. Needless to say, he did not go away easily. Both teams were grinding for runs the rest of the game. Yadier Molina hit a home run in the sixth to serve as an insurance run. He was also on the other end of another epic play in the 8th inning when he threw out Nelson Cruz trying to steal second base and in an apparent no-look tag by Javy Baez at second base. Puerto Rico held Dominican Republic for the win.

As it turned out, both home teams of my two visits (United States and Puerto Rico) met for the final championship game in Dodger Stadium. Puerto Rico entered the game with an undefeated record to no avail. MVP Marcus Stroman (Toronto Blue Jays) was starting pitcher for Team USA and held the offense to one hit in six innings. Meanwhile, the Team USA line-up who were all-exclusively MLB players combined for 13 hits and 8 unanswered runs. This loss was especially tough for Team Puerto Rico as they also lost the championship game to Team Dominican Republic in 2013. The large silver trophy went to the country where this game was born. Team USA Manager Jim Leyland was asked what this trophy meant to him. “I’ve had the honor of managing for our country. The coached had the honor of coaching for our country. The players had the honor of playing for our country. But this is for the men and women that serve our country. Thank you very much,” said Jim Leyland.

In a “Non-COVID-19 World,” we would’ve already enjoyed a 2020 Summer Olympic Games that included baseball and softball back into the games for the first time since 2004. We would have also been in the midst of championship week once again with the 2021 World Baseball Classic. The good news is the Summer Olympic Games are back on track for Summer of 2021. Qualifier games are expected to be played in June. The bad news is that the World Baseball Classic has folded with no clear path to rescheduling it. Among other factors, its fate hinges on the collective bargaining agreement between MLB and players union and, once again, the event finds itself overlapping with the timeline for the summer games. But, the storied relationship between the powers that be does not end nor start there.

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