Get to Know Calvin
Hey Top Fans!
My name is Calvin and I’m originally from Aliso Viejo, California. Ever since I was little, I have always loved sports - particularly baseball. You can ask my dad, Ned (who has made some appearances on the Top Fan podcast), about how my brother Jackson (another Top Fan regular) and I would use baby powder to “chalk” baselines in our living room carpet for our indoor ball games. We grew up watching the Braves and the Angels, as well as countless hours of Baseball Tonight. I also have many cherished baseball memories from playing for 14 years, which include a Southern California Little League State Championship and high school ball at Aliso Niguel.
Now that you know me a little bit better, let’s get to what I want to talk about today - the World Baseball Classic.
International Baseball - Not Just America’s Pastime
Known by many as America's pastime, baseball has had an international reach since its beginnings. While most might point to baseball’s growth in popularity in the United States in the 1800s and into the 20th century, the game was also played in other countries around the world during the same time period - including neighboring Canada and Mexico, Cuba, the Netherlands, Japan, Mexico and Puerto Rico. Baseball continued to grow in popularity across the globe after World War II, especially in spheres of American influence such as the Caribbean, Latin America and East Asia. Of course, baseball has changed dramatically over the years and each country has developed a rich baseball culture in their own right.
In many ways, the growth of baseball mirrored that of football (soccer for us Americans), but lacked a centralized international competition at the highest level. Starting in 1904, baseball was unofficially and sporadically included in the Olympics until it was included on a more regular basis in 1984 as an exhibition sport, and later as a fully recognized Olympic sport in 1992.
Its inclusion in the Summer Games was short lived, however, as in 2005 the IOC voted to leave out the sport in 2012. It cited MLB’s repeated reluctance to release players to participate in the Games (understandably so since the Olympics occur mid-season), which resulted in the selection of American collegiate and minor league players to compete against the best of other countries, as well as a lack of universality and other administrative issues. A similar decision was made later to leave it out again in 2016.
Similarly, the Baseball World Cup (held 38 times between 1938 and 2011) was another incarnation of international baseball. However, like the Olympics, it did not provide a competition at the highest level as it was amateurs only until 1998, after which minor leaguers competed until it was discontinued.
In the wake of the 2005 Olympic decision, MLB, the MLBPA, and other leagues around the world proposed a new tournament known as the World Baseball Classic.
A New Era
This new competition made its debut in Spring 2006 and was inspired by the FIFA World Cup format: round-robin groups followed by knockout rounds. Games were played in Japan, Puerto Rico, and the United States, with the championship game in the US. Later editions followed similar formats with slight tweaks regarding tiebreakers and double elimination. After its second edition in 2009, the tournament was moved from every three years to every four years.
Compelling narratives emerged from and rising stars stepped up in each edition of the WBC. Each edition be the topic of a whole different article on their own, so instead I’ll just summarize the winners from the first four:
2006: Japan win the inaugural tournament against Cuba
2009: Japan repeat as champion, beating South Korea in extra innings
2013: The Dominican Republic complete their undefeated run against Puerto Rico
2017: The United States shut out a dynamic Puerto Rico in the final
After a particularly entertaining tournament in 2017, the stage was set for baseball to continue its growth at the international level. In early 2020, it was announced that the WBC would be expanded to 20 teams with the addition of a qualifying round before the main tournament.
This Year’s Classic
Originally slated for 2021, the current World Baseball Classic was rescheduled because of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on international travel and logistics, as well as the 2021-2022 MLB lockout (which resolution set forth the agreement for this edition of the WBC). Qualifying rounds took place in September and October of 2022, which resulted in the four teams that were added to the 16 that automatically qualified because of their participation in the 2017 WBC.
The teams are divided into 4 pools across four venues, which are:
Pool A: Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium, Taichung, Taiwan
Pool B: Tokyo Dome, Tokyo, Japan
Pool C: Chase Field, Phoenix, Arizona
Pool D: LoanDepot Park, Miami, Florida
In addition to the expanded format, this year’s tournament will see both established and newcomer talent step out under the lights. We are sure to witness some incredible moments and unforgettable games. Which match ups are you looking forward to watching?
Keep your eyes open for my WBC story lines and power rankings later this week!
Submitted by Calvin Westfall, Instagram: @_calw Twitter: @calvinjwestfall