OPINION: World Baseball Classic is the feel-good tournament that deserves more attention


OPINION: World Baseball Classic is the feel-good tournament that deserves more attention

Unforgettable: USA's Trea Turner celebrates his game-changing grand slam against Venezuela
Unforgettable: USA's Trea Turner celebrates his game-changing grand slam against Venezuela Profimedia
On Tuesday night in Europe, the USA will take on Japan to be crowned the World Baseball Classic champion and despite it being America's past-time, this game will be felt all around the world.

Unlike the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, which was held in a compact space, this tournament has been truly global. Held in three different countries on two separate continents, 20 teams from every corner of the world have shown just how much growth the sport is having.

From two debutants - Great Britain and the Czech Republic - both picking up massive victories in pool play, to record-breaking viewing numbers on TV, this tournament feels like a sea change for baseball. Moving from the US to all of us. 

However, one team remains constant in the final. The 2017 and reigning champions, USA, have been expectedly dominant - Trea Turner's (29) grand slam in the quarter-final against Venezuela already feels iconic, whilst their 14-2 demolition of Cuba in the final four showed their plethora of world-class talent of batters and pitchers.

Their run to the final has not been as smooth as it could be. After seeing off Great Britain in their opener, they were soundly beaten by Mexico 11-5, a team also full of Major League Baseball (MLB) stars. This defeat was a blip for the Group C hosts. However, for the world of baseball, despite the sport's biggest league lying on American shores, that result had influence and gravitas elsewhere.

In Tokyo, where Japan soared through their group, their home stadium was sold out for each game, whilst networks reported tens of millions of viewers tuning in to watch the likes of Shohei Ohtani (28), Lars Nootbaar (25) and Yu Darvish (36) among others. 

The relevance of the sport is apparent across the globe and although some detractors have questioned its importance given the absences of the likes of Edwin Diaz (28) and Jose Altuve (32), the audiences both in and out of stadia prove that this tournament - now in its fifth edition - is truly one of the biggest tournaments in the world of sports.

A club vs country argument isn't new in sport. Fans of MLB franchises will be worried about the health of their biggest players. LA Dodgers' fans will be keeping a keen eye on the health of star outfielder Mookie Betts (30) with the new MLB season just days away but ask the players how they feel about playing for their nation - a rarity in baseball - and they will give you an emphatic response. This matters.

The MLB are the owners of the World Baseball Classic, and that professional feel in Tokyo, Taicheng, Miami and Pheonix has been obvious throughout. Each game is relatively easy to watch for international viewers and it has even garnered more viewers in the US. Rather than being hidden by blackouts and restrictions like some MLB games, the WBC has been shown on the more widely-accessible Fox Sports network.

It does not take much thought to work out that if you can get eyes on a sport, people will watch it. Build it and they will come.

With just one game to go in the WBC between two huge teams, the tournament - a three-week stretch that has had its own daily highlight reel of huge plays - is getting its perfect ending.

After six years away, it shows just what an international sport baseball can and should be. From the Netherlands to Nicaragua, from Cuba to China, the Classic has been just that and it deserves your attention.

 Follow the final of the World Baseball Classic with Flashscore.


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