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Japan impresses at 2023 World Baseball Classic

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MARCH 24, 2023

The 2023 World Baseball Classic was nothing short of exceptional — the tournament had phenomenal storylines on all ends of the spectrum. Headlines included the Czech Republic, mostly a team of players with day jobs, and Mexico who nearly defeated Japan in an all-time semifinal thriller. Despite historic performances by USA’s Trea Turner and Mexico’s Randy Arozarena, this tournament was dominated by Samurai Japan and its undefeated championship run.

In the final, Japan defeated Team USA in a thrilling 3-2 victory that came down to the very final pitch and displayed the Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani attempting to close the game out against the former MVP Mike (hold your fish) Trout. The final out was an all-time duel between former MVP and MLB teammate, two of the very best in the game going at it for their respective nations.

Ohtani demonstrated his filthy repertoire of pitches against Trout. The Japanese ace tossed four pitches in a row at 100 mph or higher before offsetting the velocity with a nasty slider that retired Team USA and Trout.

One couldn’t have curated a Hollywood script to match the narrative and flow of the championship game. The game started off with Team USA taking an early lead with an absolute bomb hit by Turner in the top of the second inning to which Japan answered right back with a game-tying homer in the bottom of the second inning by Munetaka Murakami. Japan would then hold the lead for the remainder of the game and hold off the powerhouse American roster of Team USA.

Despite the competitive championship game, Japan demonstrated its excellence with masterful pitching and resilient at-bats that often resulted in base hits. The stellar pitching and world-class hitting ultimately paved the way for Japan’s third World Baseball Classic gold medal.

The Japanese now hold three out of the five World Baseball Classic championships — the passion and talent of Japanese baseball is undeniable.

My biggest takeaway from the tournament was, of course, how dominant Japan was, but also how the gap between American and Japanese baseball isn’t as far as spectators once thought. Japanese baseball has always been a perennial threat, at least internationally, with studs like Ichiro Suzuki and Yu Darvish gracing the Japanese threads over the years.

Japan has shown its dominance and consistency over the years, but this 2023 World Baseball Classic tournament run was the stuff of legend. Simply put, if you didn’t enjoy and appreciate Japan’s undefeated run, then you can’t appreciate the international success of baseball as a sport.

As for Team USA, the championship defeat was tough, but this year marked a change in how American baseball players viewed the tournament; superstar hitters such as Trout and Mookie Betts actually participated compared to previous tournaments.

The difference between gold and silver medals for Team USA depends on the willingness of elite American pitchers to actually participate. Imagine if the Americans had a rotation including Jacob deGrom and someone such as Corbin Burnes.

Ultimately, the baseball world was the biggest beneficiary of the 2023 World Baseball Classic. Expect more premier athletes to participate in the tournament in future years, given how celebrated this year’s tournament was from start to finish.

Contact Matthew Corey Flores at 


MARCH 24, 2023