The World Baseball Classic (WBC) is an international baseball tournament that showcases the best players from around the world, representing their home countries. The WBC is sanctioned by the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) in partnership with Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA). The WBC is one of the two main senior baseball tournaments sanctioned by the WBSC, alongside the Premier 12, but the WBC is the only one that grants the title of “World Champion” to the winner. The WBC aims to promote the game of baseball globally and to celebrate its diversity and cultural significance.
The Origin of the World Baseball Classic
The idea of creating a global baseball tournament that would involve the best players from different countries and leagues was first proposed by MLB Commissioner Bud Selig in 1999, after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted to remove baseball from the Olympic program after the 2008 Summer Olympics. Selig envisioned a tournament that would rival the FIFA World Cup in popularity and prestige, and that would showcase the talent and passion of baseball players and fans around the world. Selig also wanted to expand the international market and fan base of MLB, which had been dominated by the United States, Japan, and Latin America.
Selig enlisted the help of MLBPA Executive Director Don Fehr and MLB International President Paul Archey to develop the concept and format of the tournament, as well as to secure the participation and cooperation of the other professional baseball leagues and federations, such as the NPB, the CPBL, the KBO, and the CNS. The WBSC, the governing body of baseball and softball worldwide, also played a key role in sanctioning and organizing the tournament, as well as in establishing the rules and regulations, such as the use of the designated hitter, the pitch count limit, the extra-inning rule, and the mercy rule.
The first WBC was officially announced in May 2005, and was scheduled to take place in March 2006, during the spring training period of MLB. The inaugural WBC featured 16 teams, divided into four pools, with the top two teams from each pool advancing to the second round, and then to the semifinals and finals. The 16 teams were selected based on their performance and ranking in the previous international tournaments, such as the Olympic Games, the World Cup, and the Intercontinental Cup, as well as on their popularity and marketability. The 16 teams that participated in the first WBC were:
Pool A: China, Chinese Taipei, Japan, South Korea
Pool B: Canada, Mexico, South Africa, United States
Pool C: Cuba, Netherlands, Panama, Puerto Rico
Pool D: Australia, Dominican Republic, Italy, Venezuela
The first WBC was a huge success, attracting over 740,000 fans in attendance, and over 1.5 billion viewers worldwide. The tournament also featured many memorable moments and performances, such as the upset victories of South Korea over Japan, and of the Netherlands over the Dominican Republic, the dramatic walk-off home run of Adam Stern for Canada against the United States, the dominant pitching of Daisuke Matsuzaka and Johan Santana for Japan and Venezuela, respectively, and the thrilling final between Japan and Cuba, which Japan won 10-6, thanks to the clutch hitting of Ichiro Suzuki and the MVP performance of Matsuzaka.
The first WBC also proved to be a catalyst for the growth and development of baseball in many countries, especially in Asia and Europe, where the sport was not as popular or established as in the Americas. The WBC also increased the exposure and recognition of many players, who later signed contracts with MLB teams, such as Kosuke Fukudome, Alexei Ramirez, Aroldis Chapman, and Hyun-jin Ryu.
World Baseball Classic Champions
The WBC has been held five times since its inception in 2006, with Japan winning three titles (2006, 2009, and 2023), the Dominican Republic winning one title (2013), and the United States winning one title (2017). The WBC awards the World Baseball Classic Championship Trophy to the winning team, as well as individual awards such as the Most Valuable Player (MVP), the All-World Baseball Classic Team, and the Pool MVPs. The MVPs of the previous WBCs are:
2006: Daisuke Matsuzaka (Japan)
2009: Daisuke Matsuzaka (Japan)
2013: Robinson Canó (Dominican Republic)
2017: Marcus Stroman (United States)
2023: Shohei Ohtani (Japan)
World Baseball Classic Previous Venues
The WBC is played in different venues across the world, depending on the location of the participating teams and the availability of the stadiums. The WBC usually consists of four rounds: the first round, the second round, the quarterfinals, and the semifinals and finals. The first round is divided into four pools, each with five teams, and the top two teams from each pool advance to the second round. The second round is divided into two pools, each with four teams, and the top two teams from each pool advance to the quarterfinals. The quarterfinals are played in two venues, one in Asia and one in North America, and the winners of each quarterfinal advance to the semifinals and finals, which are played in one venue, usually in North America.
The venues of the previous WBCs are:
2006: Tokyo Dome (Tokyo, Japan), Chase Field (Phoenix, USA), Scottsdale Stadium (Scottsdale, USA), Hiram Bithorn Stadium (San Juan, Puerto Rico), Cracker Jack Stadium (Lake Buena Vista, USA), Angel Stadium (Anaheim, USA), Petco Park (San Diego, USA)
2009: Tokyo Dome (Tokyo, Japan), Foro Sol (Mexico City, Mexico), Rogers Centre (Toronto, Canada), Hiram Bithorn Stadium (San Juan, Puerto Rico), Petco Park (San Diego, USA), Dolphin Stadium (Miami Gardens, USA), Dodger Stadium (Los Angeles, USA)
2013: Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium (Taichung, Taiwan), Fukuoka Yahoo! Japan Dome (Fukuoka, Japan), Hiram Bithorn Stadium (San Juan, Puerto Rico), Salt River Fields at Talking Stick (Scottsdale, USA), Marlins Park (Miami, USA), AT&T Park (San Francisco, USA)
2017: Gocheok Sky Dome (Seoul, South Korea), Tokyo Dome (Tokyo, Japan), Estadio Charros de Jalisco (Guadalajara, Mexico), Marlins Park (Miami, USA), Petco Park (San Diego, USA), Dodger Stadium (Los Angeles, USA)
2023: Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium (Taichung, Taiwan), Tokyo Dome (Tokyo, Japan), Chase Field (Phoenix, USA), loanDepot park (Miami, USA)
Most Remarkable Players in World Baseball Classic
The WBC features many of the world’s best baseball players, including dozens of current and former MLB players, as well as stars from other professional leagues such as the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) in Japan, the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) in Taiwan, the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) in South Korea, and the Cuban National Series (CNS) in Cuba. Some of the most remarkable players who have participated in the WBC are:
Ichiro Suzuki (Japan): The legendary outfielder played in the first three WBCs, leading Japan to two titles and collecting 23 hits, the most in WBC history. He also had a stellar MLB career, becoming the first player to reach 3,000 hits in both the NPB and the MLB, and winning 10 Gold Gloves and the 2001 AL MVP award.
Yadier Molina (Puerto Rico): The veteran catcher played in four WBCs, helping Puerto Rico reach the finals twice and winning two Pool MVP awards. He is also one of the best defensive catchers in MLB history, winning nine Gold Gloves and two World Series titles with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Miguel Cabrera (Venezuela): The slugger played in three WBCs, hitting four home runs and driving in 15 runs. He is also one of the most accomplished hitters in MLB history, winning the Triple Crown and the AL MVP award in 2012, and becoming the 28th member of the 500-home run club in 2021.
Shohei Ohtani (Japan): The two-way sensation played in two WBCs, showcasing his skills as both a pitcher and a hitter. He won the MVP award in 2023, leading Japan to its third title with three home runs, seven RBIs, and a 1.59 ERA in 11 1/3 innings. He also had a historic MLB season in 2021, becoming the first player to hit 40 home runs and strike out 200 batters in the same year.
World Baseball Classic Impact to Society
The WBC has a positive impact on society, as it fosters a sense of pride, unity, and diversity among the participating countries and their fans. The WBC also promotes the game of baseball to new audiences and markets, especially in regions where baseball is not as popular or developed. The WBC also supports the development of baseball programs and facilities in various countries, especially in developing nations, through initiatives such as the World Baseball Classic Development Fund and the World Baseball Softball Confederation Development Commission. The WBC also inspires young players to pursue their dreams of playing baseball at the highest level, and to represent their countries on the global stage.
World Baseball Classic Impact to Economy
The WBC also has a positive impact on the economy, as it generates significant revenue and economic activity for the host countries and cities, as well as for the participating teams and players. The WBC attracts millions of fans, tourists, and media personnel, who spend money on tickets, merchandise, lodging, transportation, food, and entertainment. The WBC also creates jobs and income for the local workers, businesses, and organizations involved in the organization and operation of the tournament. The WBC also enhances the brand value and exposure of the host countries and cities, as well as of the WBSC, MLB, and the participating teams and players, which can lead to more opportunities and partnerships in the future.
According to various estimates, the WBC has generated over $100 million in total revenue in each of the previous tournaments, and has created an economic impact of tens of millions of dollars for each of the host countries and cities. For example, the 2017 WBC generated $101 million in total revenue, and created an economic impact of $37 million for Los Angeles, $30 million for Phoenix, and $35 million for Miami. The 2023 WBC had alread surpassed these numbers, as it has already set records in attendance, viewership, and social media engagement.
Next World Baseball Classic
The next WBC will be held in 2026, three years after the 2023 edition. The WBC usually follows a four-year cycle, but the 2021 edition was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the 2026 edition will resume the three-year cycle that was used for the first two editions in 2006 and 2009. The venues for the next WBC have not been announced yet, but they are likely to be revealed in the summer of 2025. The 16 teams that participated in the 2023 WBC are automatically qualified for the 2026 WBC, while the four teams that finished last in their pools (Chinese Taipei, China, Colombia, and Nicaragua) will have to compete in the 2025 WBC Qualifiers, along with eight other teams, to secure the remaining four spots. The 2026 WBC will be another exciting and memorable event for baseball fans around the world, as they will witness the best players from different countries and cultures compete for the ultimate glory of being the World Champion.