World Baseball Classic: Back and better than ever
By: Ben Pawlak
March 27, 2023
Photo Credit: The Japan News
Since the conclusion of the 2022 MLB season, baseball fans around the world have been chomping at the bit to see their favorite players and teams take the field again. The 2023 season may not have started yet (Opening Day is March 30), but there is plenty of live action to enjoy in the meantime. For the first time since 2017, the star-studded, internationally televised 2023 World Baseball Classic has overtaken MLB Spring Training to become the main event of preseason baseball.
For those who are unfamiliar with the competition, the World Baseball Classic (WBC) is an international baseball tournament which has occurred every four years since it was founded in 2006 (excluding the 2021 WBC, which was canceled and moved to 2023 due to the COVID-19 pandemic). It is essentially the baseball equivalent of the FIFA World Cup, and since its inception, has been a major success by every measure imaginable.
Ideologically, the WBC serves as a wonderful way to bring different cultures and communities around the world together to celebrate their national pride through baseball. In fact, the MLB and MLBPA officially approved the creation of the WBC because they saw the tournament as an effective means of expanding the influence and popularity of the MLB product across the globe. As a result of this increase in baseball’s global popularity, this year's iteration of the competition features 20 total teams rather than the usual 16 total teams for the first time in WBC history. Most encouragingly, an unprecedented amount of notable stars across the MLB have flocked in droves to represent their national team at the WBC.
Photo Credit: MLB.com
Additionally, the WBC has greatly impressed when it comes to raw economic and attendance figures. As part of FOX Sports' $5.1 billion contract with the MLB (inked in Nov. 2018), the 47-game WBC slate will be exclusively broadcasted live across FOX, FS1, FS2, FOX Deportes and Tubi, and FOX Sports paid. So far, the 2023 WBC has reported very strong viewership ratings. Overall, the 2023 WBC has seen a 98% increase in viewership and a 24% increase in attendance compared to 2017 tournament.
The 2023 WBC was hosted by the defending champion United States along with Japan and Taiwan. The tournament began on March 8 and ended on March 21 with the WBC championship game at a sold out (36,742 people) LoanDepot Park, the home of the Miami Marlins. The other venues for the tournament included the Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium in Taiwan, the Tokyo Dome in Japan, and Chase Field in Phoenix. The capacities of these stadiums are 20,000, 45,600, and 48,686, respectively.
After a six-year hiatus, the WBC has reached new heights in terms of earning undivided attention and investment on a global scale. With the staggering attendance and viewership figures to boot, it’s obvious why common fans and deep-pocketed corporations alike are very invested in this fascinating competition.
By the end of the 2023 WBC, Shohei Ohtani had cemented his place as a once-in-a-lifetime talent in the world of baseball by helping Japan win it all for the first time since 2009.