Best moments from the 2023 World Baseball Classic
After a six-year hiatus, the 2023 edition of the World Baseball Classic more than lived up to the hype. For the third time, Japan emerged as the champion of an action-packed tournament filled with incredible games and highlights. Here, we examines some of the top moments from this year's Classic.
Ohtani vs. Trout
For the first time ever, the Los Angeles Angels superstars faced off in a game. The moment could not have been any bigger with Japan leading the United States 3-2 with two outs in the top of the ninth inning. Ohtani had come to earn the save and secure a third World Baseball Classic title for Japan. After inducing Mookie Betts into a double play, the stage was set for an epic showdown with Trout.
Ohtani went right at Trout, challenging him with fastballs, before finishing off the at-bat with a devastating breaking ball to strike his teammate out. In a tournament full of lasting moments and memories, this was a fitting exclamation point to an incredible World Baseball Classic.
Yu Chang's grand slam
Chinese Taipei infielder Yu Chang electrified the crowd in Taichung with a grand slam against the Netherlands. Chang was one of the breakout stars of the tournament, earning MVP honors for Group A after hitting a pair of home runs with eight RBIs over four games.
Although Chinese Taipei failed to advance beyond the group stage, Chang's performance will be remembered for years to come.
Captain America: Mike Trout
Mike Trout hasn't appeared in the MLB playoffs since 2014, depriving baseball fans of a chance to see the greatest star of this generation make his mark on the postseason. His commitment to Team USA for the WBC thus represented a golden opportunity for him to play in meaningful games for the first time in a long time.
Trout took full advantage of the spotlight, setting the tone as one of the United States' most consistent players in a star-studded lineup. The American captain made no secret of how much he enjoyed representing his country on one of baseball's biggest stages.
"This is the (most fun) experience I've had in baseball," Trout said, according to ESPN's Jesse Rogers.
Ohtani shows off for home crowd
Shohei Ohtani has emerged as one of the most incredible athletes in baseball history over the past few years. Since joining the Los Angeles Angels in 2018, Ohtani has performed at a level that spectators have never seen before.
The Japanese sensation treated his home fans to several incredible highlights as he competed in the country for the first time in six years. Playing in front of the crowd at the Tokyo Dome appeared to unlock another level for Ohtani, who threw the fastest recorded pitch of his career at 102 mph.
The World Baseball Classic is all about the game's brightest stars representing their respective nations. Ohtani's participation and dominance should help solidify the tournament as an important date on the baseball calendar.
Muzik makes his mark
The Czech Republic rostered one of the most interesting teams at the tournament; manager Pavel Chadim is a neurologist by trade, and starting pitcher Lukas Ercoli served as the club's media coordinator during the tournament.
Though the team mustered just one win in four games, Czech Republic first baseman Martin Muzik delivered a signature moment, clobbering a go-ahead three-run homer in the ninth inning against China.
The Czech Republic's tournament run is the type of story any fan can get behind and could inspire baseball fans in the country to help grow the sport moving forward.
Turner electrifies crowd in Miami
Trea Turner won the World Series with the Washington Nationals in 2019, but he said the atmosphere for Team USA's quarterfinal matchup with Venezuela was the loudest he's ever played in.
With the United States trailing 7-5 in the eighth inning, Turner stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and turned the game on its head with one swing of his bat.
"Individually, I think this is probably the biggest hit that I've had," he said of his home run.
Turner picked up right where he left off in his first at-bat in the semifinals against Cuba, depositing the second pitch he saw from left-hander Roenis Elias for another home run. Turner wasn't done there as he went deep a second time, crushing a three-run homer in Team USA's blowout victory.
Turner joined Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. as the second American player in WBC history to hit a pair of home runs in the same game.
Arozarena does it all
Randy Arozarena has quickly earned a big-game reputation in his first few major-league seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays, setting the record for most hits and home runs in a postseason in 2020. That penchant for clutch performances on the biggest stage clearly carried over to the World Baseball Classic. Arozarena made arguably the play of the tournament in Mexico's semifinal loss to Japan, leaping at the wall in left field to rob Kazuma Okamoto of a home run.
The Mexican star earned MVP honors in his nation's pool after making highlight plays with both his glove and his bat. He even made sure to sign a few autographs during a game against Canada.
Arozarena made no secret of the importance he placed on representing Mexico at this tournament. After successfully campaigning for citizenship, he made the most of the opportunity and emerged as a magnetic star for Mexican baseball fans.
Murakami to the rescue
Munetaka Murakami is one of the best hitters outside of MLB. The Japanese slugger led the Nippon Professional Baseball League with 56 home runs and became the first player to win a triple crown in Japan since 2004.
It hadn't been a banner World Baseball Classic for Murakami before the semifinals against Mexico. But he changed everything with one swing, knocking a game-winning two-run double to punch Japan's ticket to the championship game.
The call from Japanese television is one of the most exhilarating soundbites in recent memory.
Quijada gets hyped
Venezuela left-hander Jose Quijada put on a show against the Dominican Republic. After taking the mound with his jersey almost completely unbuttoned, he delivered one of the best celebrations of the tournament after a crucial strikeout in an eventual win.
Lindor's Little League HR
Francisco Lindor has emerged as one of baseball's most exciting players, and he added yet another clip to his impressive highlight reel with a home run in Puerto Rico's elimination game against the Dominican Republic.
The star shortstop turned on the jets in a big way, going home-to-home in 15.7 seconds. His teammates subsequently mobbed him at home plate like a group of kids celebrating a Little League round-tripper.
Sir Harry Ford
Great Britain picked up one of the most surprising wins of the tournament against Colombia in pool play. Seattle Mariners prospect Harry Ford became one of the team's breakout stars, hitting a pair of home runs with a 1.246 OPS over four games.
The team found a creative way to celebrate one of Ford's home runs, honoring him with a crown and a cape at home plate in a celebration fit for a knight.
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