The greatest two-way baseball player to walk the planet struck out the best hitter in our country March 21. The world was watching — were you?
Baseball might be America’s pastime, but on a world stage, it is anyone’s game. And this year, Japan proved yet again that it’s theirs. Dominating the World Baseball Classic (WBC), the now three-time champions executed an undefeated, storybook run, beating world-class athletes and boasting a roster full of their own.
The WBC is an international championship series, attracting teams from across the world to compete every four years. This March, 20 national teams competed for the title at four stadiums across the globe. In Asia, players traveled to Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium in Taiwan and the Tokyo Dome in Japan. The U.S. hosted two locations: Chase Field in Phoenix and Loan Depot Park in Miami.
The WBC’s combination of elite superstars and diverse countries makes a significant statement about the sport of baseball. Although it may seem like the white man’s game — a very traditional sport that has a segregated and white-dominated history in the U.S. — baseball has rich and diverse roots from across the globe. The WBC brilliantly showcases this diversity and scoffs at a humiliating American history of discrimination. Today, players of color and athletes from all around the world fill MLB rosters. Beyond America’s baseball, the sport is played extensively and passionately throughout the world. In the Dominican Republic, baseball is the most popular sport. It is a rich tradition of unity and a symbol of success and dreams for many. Japan’s baseball can be called emotional, electric, disciplined and patriotic. An annual national high school summer championship tournament is played at the legendary Koshien Stadium, a ballpark that holds 60,000 spectators. Roughly 4,000 teams aim to be one of the 49 that participate. Some 62 million people tuned into the WBC to witness Japan defeat Korea in Tokyo March 10.
To the “baseball is boring” or “these games don’t matter” crowd: I urge you to watch the WBC because it may be the most passionate, electric and exciting form of baseball there is. Players proudly wear their countries’ colors across their chests and their hearts on their sleeves. Nations’ best pitchers duel with the greatest hitters from other countries, setting the stage for moments that could never happen with nearly as high levels of excitement and emotion. Christian Vazquez, a catcher for Team Puerto Rico, said in Spanish: “Wearing your homeland’s colors on the playing field is unexplainable. And this is an even bigger responsibility for all of us because it’s not representing a team, but an entire island. Our home country. And you give it all for your family and for all the people that got you here today. I was a World Series champion with the Red Sox, and this experience just has no comparisons. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.”
This year, the U.S. did not fail to attract a star-studded lineup. Pitching against Uncle Sam’s team, one would have to face multiple-time World Series champions, All-Stars and Gold Glove winners such as Nolan Arenado, Mookie Betts, Trea Turner, Kyle Schwarber, Adam Wainwright and, of course, captain Mike Trout. But that abundance of accolades is the very reason for the biggest critique of Major League Baseball (MLB) players participating in the WBC. For many fans, coaches, agents and athletes themselves, playing in the WBC is just an easy opportunity for a team’s most valuable and talented players to get injured and miss out on the nearing MLB season. Unfortunately, this has been a reality for some: Edwin Díaz, a member of Puerto Rico’s team, left this WBC with a torn patellar tendon and now must miss the entirety of the New York Mets’ season before it has even begun. Jose Altuve, a key hitter and infielder for the Houston Astros, must sit out for 8-10 weeks thanks to breaking his thumb in the WBC.
So, should MLB players skip out on the global tournament in order to preserve the likelihood that they’ll be healthy for their regular season and established team (that’s paying them hundreds of millions of dollars)? All things considered, no — and for two main reasons.
One, if avoiding injury is the logic used to discourage participation, we could make the same critique to Spring Training — similarly “meaningless games” that produce season-ending injuries before Opening Day. Rhys Hoskins, a member of last year’s defending National League Champions the Philadelphia Phillies, tore his ACL March 23 in a Spring Training game. Athletes get hurt, stats don’t count and success in these games almost never correlate to success in the actual season — but no one’s taking to the Twitter scene to angrily call for the cancellation of Spring Training. If Díaz and Altuve didn’t participate in the WBC, there’s still the very real possibility that they would have met the same fate in Spring Training.
And most importantly, baseball players take the risk to play in the WBC because they love it and they love their country. It speaks volumes that Wainwright, who’s played in multiple All-Star games and has brought home a World Series trophy, said this about the WBC: “I’ve never had this much fun playing baseball in my entire life. I’ve never got to play for my country before so I think that has a big reason behind why I’m having so much fun watching and listening to people chant USA…That’s a wild feeling, man, I’ve never had that before. Last night and tonight — two loudest crowds I’ve ever seen in baseball.”
Teammate of Díaz and a proud member of Puerto Rico’s team, Francisco Lindor said in Spanish, “I understand how Mets’ [Díaz and Lindor’s MLB team] fans are hurting. But while for so many people the regular season is what counts, playing in the WBC means just as much to all of us. It is the dream of every Puerto Rican ballplayer to wear Puerto Rico’s colors and to represent our country.”
The stats and results of the tournament may be meaningless on paper, but the experiences and results are the most meaningful milestones for these players’ athletic careers.
It may be only five tournaments deep in history, but the WBC is exponentially picking up steam — 318 MLB players represented their respective countries in the WBC this year, with all big league clubs sending athletes. As the electric and passionate tournament continues to grab the attention of superstars across the world, the same should be said about baseball’s fans. In 2026, I encourage you to tune into the greatness and excitement that is the World Baseball Classic.
Contact Emma Cho at firstname.lastname@example.org.