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World Baseball Classic continues to grow despite injury risks


MIAMI — Shohei Ohtani’s strike out Mike TroutTrea Turner’s eighth-inning grand slam against Venezuela, Japan’s victory in the semifinal and Mexico’s comeback from a four-run deficit against Puerto Rico will be repeated over and over again.

Edwin Diaz’s season-ending knee injury and Jose Altuve’s broken thumb will also be discussed throughout the year.

This year’s World Baseball Classic left lasting memories, 47 games over two weeks that restored Japan’s supremacy and bolstered Ohtani’s unrivaled skill while expanding the sport’s global footprint.

While not an international fixture like the soccer World Cup, the event has grown through its five editions since its launch in 2006.

“This is kind of our Olympics. We don’t have that opportunity to really play wherever the Olympics are,” Kyle Schwarber said before the Americans lost to Japan 3-2 in the final on Tuesday night, when Ohtani fanned Trout to seal the first Olympics title. Japan since 2009 and third overall. Baseball is no longer a permanent Olympic sport, and Samurai Japan beat an American team packed with minor leaguers for gold when baseball was temporarily reinstated at the previous Games.

Played in Miami, Phoenix, Tokyo and Taiwan, the star-studded WBC will finish with revenue of $90 million to $100 million, Major League Baseball said. The attendance of 1,306,414 was the highest in the tournament, up 20% from 1,086,720 for 40 games in 2017.

The championship game on the FS1, Fox Deportes and Fox Sports streaming services was the most-watched WBC game in the United States, up 69% from the 2017 final with a combined audience of 5.2 million viewers. A peak combined average audience of 6.5 million viewers tuned in for the dramatic finale.

This year’s semifinals on FS1 and Fox Deportes averaged 2.4 million viewers, 96% more than the 2017 semifinals, when the tournament was televised on MLB Network and ESPN Deportes.

“One of the things that was really important this time was that Fox stepped up to broadcast the games,” baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said. “No one is a bigger fan of MLB Network than I am, but when one of the major broadcasters steps up and wants the event, that’s a big deal.”

Concerns about player health have followed the tournament since its inception. Many MLB teams blocked pitchers from participating, wanting them to focus on preparing for the start of the season. Injuries to Diaz and Altuve reinforced those concerns.

But with MLB generating worldwide revenue and interest for the tournament, and players eager to represent their home countries, injury risks seem unlikely to slow the growth of the WBC.

“We all care about each other and nobody wants to get hurt,” Francisco Lindor, Diaz’s teammate on Team Puerto Rico and the New York Mets, told reporters Tuesday. “But we all love our countries and we want to represent our countries. … We have the opportunity to represent our countries and learn from our peers. It’s amazing.”

Japan tied three of the four most-watched WBC games at home before the championship game, earning a rating of 48.7 for the quarterfinal against Italy, 44.4 for the first-round game against South Korea, and 42.5 for the semifinal against Mexico. . The figures represent the percentage of television households tuned in to a transmission.

The team’s victory sparked a nationwide celebration back home The country’s largest-circulation newspaper, Yomiuri, launched a special Wednesday afternoon edition for travelers, usually reserved for serious matters of state, breaking election news or, as happened last year, the assassination of Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. “Japan World No. 1,” read the headline in Japanese.

Mexico anticipated that their run to the quarterfinals will increase attention to the sport in a nation where soccer dominates.

“These two weeks are going to attract so many young players in Mexico and also Mexicans living abroad,” manager Benji Gil said.

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Following an expansion from 16 nations to 20, Great Britain, the Czech Republic and Nicaragua made it to the tournament for the first time. All failed to advance beyond the group stage.

China and Israel had games interrupted twice by the mercy rule, and Great Britain and Canada one each.

Pool A was so competitive that the five nations finished 2-2, resulting in Cuba and Italy advancing over the Netherlands, Taiwan and Panama via a mathematical tiebreaker: runs allowed divided by putouts.

“Obviously, a lot of countries are getting better at baseball,” US manager Mark DeRosa said. “I thought Colombia, man, the arms that were running there, they weren’t name dudes, but they were all sitting at 92 to 95 (mph) and had pretty decent stuff.”

Nicaraguan pitcher Duque Hebbert even managed to convert a memorable inning in a professional contract, signed a minor league contract with the Detroit Tigers after striking out All-Stars Juan Soto, Julio Rodríguez and Rafael Devers.

MLB and the players association have committed to the next WBC in March 2026. Manfred said it’s too early to tell if there will be any changes to the format.

“I think the combination of nationalism and sport is very, very powerful,” he said, “and if you have the opportunity to participate in an event that combines the two, you have to take it.”

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