The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)
Classic has more stars after 6-year absence
Nolan Arenado wants the World Baseball Classic to grow into a global event with stature approaching soccer’s World Cup.
“I feel like the hype is a little bit higher this time around than it was in 2017. There’s more guys that want to do it,” the St. Louis third baseman said ahead of this year’s tournament. “I know it’s not the World Cup, but just watching the World Cup and how awesome that was just to represent your country ... I don’t know if it will get quite there, but get it close at least.”
Baseball’s top international championship opens Wednesday at Taichung, Taiwan, when the Netherlands plays Cuba and Panama faces Taiwan in a Group A that also includes Italy.
Group B of the expanded 20nation field starts the following day in Tokyo, with Australia, China, the Czech Republic, Japan and South Korea competing for two quarterfinal berths. Group C begins Saturday in Phoenix, featuring the defending champion U.S., Canada, Colombia and Mexico, Group D starts the same day in Miami, where the Dominican Republic, Israel, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico and Venezuela compete.
“Last WBC, I was kind of on the fence of doing it and not doing it, and when I decided not to do it, watching the games, I kind of regretted I didn’t do it,” said Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout, a three-time MVP who leads the U.S. roster. “It looked like they were having so much fun.”
Mookie Betts, Shohei Ohtani of Japan, and Miguel Cabrera and Jose Altuve, both from Venezuela, are among seven Major League Baseball MVPs on 30man rosters. There are 63 AllStars, after Nestor Cortes, Nathan Eovaldi, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Clayton Kershaw, Alejandro Kirk and German Márquez dropped out and Alex Colomé and Gregory Soto were added.
First- and second-place teams in each group advance to the knockout stage, with quarterfinals to be played in Tokyo on March 15 and 16, and in Miami and March 17 and 18. The semifinals will be in Miami on March 19 and 20, and the championship is at Marlins Park on March 21 — nine days before opening day of the MLB season. Nations play up to seven games.
Japan won the first two WBCs in 2006 and 2009, followed by the Dominican Republic in 2013. The United States’ 8-0 win over Puerto Rico in the 2017 championship game was seen by 2.3 million on MLB Network plus an additional 800,000 on ESPN Deportes and a Spanish-language simulcast on ESPN2.
Fox and its related networks have U.S. television rights this year, a tournament delayed two years because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Dominicans are considered the favorite with a roster that includes Julio Rodríguez, Juan Soto, Manny Machado, Rafael Devers, Wander Franco, Willy Adames and Jeremy Peña, along with pitchers Sandy Alcantara, Cristian Javier, Luis Garcia and Johnny Cueto.
Trout is joined on the U.S. roster by Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt, Mookie Betts, Pete Alonso, J.T. Realmuto, Trea Turner and Tim Anderson, along with pitchers Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, Daniel Bard and Ryan Pressly.