Take me out to the ball game… or don’t. For years that was the attitude of many baseball fans when the World Baseball Classic rolled around — Team USA lacked a star studded lineup — but that could change in March.
The WBC is an international baseball tournament that features professional and non-professional players from leagues worldwide. When the Olympic committee cut baseball and softball from the 2012 Olympic Games, the tournament became a new way for these players to display their talent. This year’s WBC, which kicks off on March 11, will be the fifth installment.
Since its start in 2006, the WBC has been a hit among international countries like Japan, South Korea, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. However, in the United States, fans question whether or not it is worth watching if their favorite players aren’t participating.
“I would say I am more excited [this year] but I wasn’t bored watching it [the WBC] last time. It was fun rooting for the US, but this time around the WBC is shaping up to be more competitive and more meaningful, especially to those playing in it,” said Hank Przelenski, a senior marketing major at LMU.
In prior years, the World Baseball Classic hasn’t been on the front minds of many MLB players. In 2017, Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw, Bryce Harper, and many other high-level MLB players declined their invitations to join Team USA, using “personal reasons” as their excuse for not participating.
Many believed this would be the case for the 2023 WBC. However, in a turn of events, getting players to fill this year’s Team USA roster was not an issue. In July 2022, Trout announced his intent to play for Team USA and was named captain of the defending world champs. Many players including Trea Turner, Kershaw, Nolan Arenado and Harper followed suit and committed to the team.
“The whole reason I signed up: trying to win this thing. There is nothing else. Anything else is a failure,” Trout said in January in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “Watching the games, I kind of regretted not doing it. I should have been out there.”
Trout expressed his excitement about competing against other players from the MLB, and how he is looking forward to facing his fellow Angels teammate Shohei Ohtani in the tournament.
“I 100% support the WBC and Ohtani playing. Baseball is already declining in popularity, so having Ohtani in an international spotlight is objectively a good thing,” said Pieter van Wingerden, a pitcher for Claremont McKenna College.
Players from Cuba will also be allowed to compete after an agreement was reached between the United States and Cuba in December. Previously, due to strained US-Cuba geopolitical relations, Cuba would refuse any players that had left for the U.S. to return and play on their national team. This resulted in a declining performance in international baseball competitions.
It is no surprise that with MLB players returning to Cuba to play, and Ohtani playing on Team Japan, the competition promises to be fierce and intense.