World Baseball Classic Returns After Hiatus


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This month, the most valuable players from all over the world are coming together to compete in the most prominent baseball tournament: The World Baseball Classic (WBC). Countries including the United States, the Dominican Republic, and Japan are looking to add another WBC title for their country while other nations compete for a title as well. Three countries will host the games, but only one country will claim the title of baseball supremacy.

The reigning champions of the WBC in 2017, the United States, reloaded with a star-filled 2023 roster including outliers like team captain Mike Trout and Mookie Betts. The U.S. also added back returning players from the 2017 team like teammates Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt from the St. Louis Cardinals. Trout rejected the opportunity to play in 2017, but had regret by not participating after watching the team go all the way. “The whole reason I signed up: trying to win this thing,” Trout said. “There is nothing else. Anything else is a failure”. The U.S. first game comes against the Great Britain national baseball team, a first-time representative, in Arizona on March 11.

The favorites to win this year’s installment of the WBC, the Dominican Republic, have what some fans believe to be the greatest baseball team ever assembled. Led by players from the 2017 WBC team, all-stars Manny Machado and Robinson Canó are hopeful to win another title for the Dominican. “The players play different,” Machado said. “You’re playing for your country. It’s like the World Series, but you’re playing for your country.” It is evident that players participating are eager to represent their home nation. However, it’s a different feeling for players on the Czech Republic WBC team.

The Czech’s star player catcher, Martin Červenka, has only reached the AAA level of professional baseball with the New York Mets and Baltimore Orioles organizations. Including Červenka, nearly every player on the Czech roster has a day job, making day-to-day activities like family and training even harder. Designated hitter Petr Zýma is a financial analyst, center fielder Arnošt Dubový teaches high school geography and shortstop Martin Schneider is a firefighter.
The Czech came close to qualifying for the 2017 WBC, but fell short, losing to Nicaragua in the semi-finals of the qualifying round. Spain, who is a bitter rival to the Czech WBC team, had already beaten the Czech 21-7 in the first game of the qualifying round of the tournament in September. When Spain and the Czech Republic faced each other in the final of the qualifier, tensions were high. In the end, the Czech Republic came out on top to clinch their first WBC appearance ever.

Fans of their home countries are traveling far and wide to see their country compete, just like other countries did for the World Cup. These are countries to keep an eye out for as pool play has begun with the quarterfinal, semifinal, and championship rounds all coming within two weeks apart from one another. Winners and the runner-ups of all four pools will continue their journey to try and achieve baseball royalty as elimination games will be played in Miami, Fla., and Tokyo, Japan. The championship will be held in Miami, Fla. on March 21, at 7:00 EST.