The World Baseball Classic (WBC), which returned after six years, ended in great success. With the expansion of participating countries in the finals, it recorded a box office performance that exceeded expectations, confirming the possibility of rising like the FIFA World Cup.
The 2023 WBC ended on the 22nd (Korean time) with the final held at Londippo Park in Miami, Florida, USA. Japan defeated the United States 3-2 and tasted the joy of winning for the third time in 14 years since 2009.
The WBC, which started in 2006, caught both rabbits of fun and box office success in this 5th tournament. The number of spectators in the first round was 1,019,999 in total, breaking the record for the highest number of spectators. Compared to the 510,056 spectators in the first round of the previous 2017 tournament, it has nearly doubled.
In addition to the influence of 20 countries participating in the finals, which is an increase of 4 countries from the 2017 tournament when 16 countries participated in the first round, the average spectator per game also showed a significant increase from 20,402 to 25,275.
In particular, the heat of the WBC in Japan, which won the championship, was hot. The second match of the first round of Group B, against rival Korea, recorded 44% of TV viewer ratings, and the match against Italy in the second round (quarterfinals) recorded 48%.
An average of 36,000 fans visited the baseball field for the Group B match of the first round held at the Tokyo Dome in Japan, including the games in the host country, Japan. Fans showed high interest even if it was not a Japanese game, making the atmosphere at the stadium warm.
The heat was also hot in Central and South America, a country that lives and dies in baseball.
Puerto Rico, a baseball powerhouse that has produced numerous major league stars, recorded 61% of TV ratings against its rival, the Dominican Republic.
The gaze of baseball periphery countries toward the WBC has also changed. Great Britain tasted the joy of victory by beating Colombia 7-5 in their first WBC finals appearance. British public broadcaster ‘BBC’ praised the development of domestic baseball, saying, “England won a historic first victory. We won an important come-from-behind victory against Colombia and reunited the team again.”
The Czech Republic, which clashed with Korea in Group B, also won a valuable victory in their first appearance at the WBC by beating China. In the case of the match against Japan, the heat was so hot that it was broadcast live on the Czech national television.
It is also encouraging that major league players, who were lukewarm about participating in the WBC, are showing enthusiasm as the history of the tournament deepens.
Baseball, which was far from ‘nationalism’, confirmed that the wind of change is blowing through the WBC.
Major League icons Shohei Otani (Japan) and Mike Trout (USA, Los Angeles Angels) decided to participate in the WBC early on, attracting fans’ attention.
In addition to this, a large number of major league MVP careers also played in the 2023 WBC. Paul Goldschmidt (St. Louis Cardinals)메이저놀이터 and Mookie Betts (LA Dodgers) played for the United States, Miguel Cabrera (Detroit Tigers) and Jose Altuve (Houston Astros) for Venezuela, and Freddie Freeman (Atlanta Braves) for Canada.
The match between pitcher Ohtani and hitter Trout, which baseball fans could only imagine, took place in the final, and the appearance of countries full of big league stars such as Venezuela, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic focusing on a one-game match with all their might reminds me of the World Cup. did.
In particular, the United States’ 9-7 come-from-behind victory over Venezuela in the quarterfinals, and Japan’s 2 RBIs and doubles in the bottom of the ninth in the semifinals between Japan and Mexico showed the world the true taste of baseball.
The ‘number of cases’, which is more complicated than soccer, also made my hands sweat until the end. In the case of Group A in the first round, Cuba, Italy, the Netherlands, Panama, and Taiwan all recorded 2 wins and 2 losses, creating an interesting scene where it was unknown who would advance to the quarterfinals until the final match.
The unexpected ‘power leveling’ also ignited the WBC box office. Italy’s advance to the quarterfinals, Korea’s elimination in the first round, Taiwan’s fall to the bottom of the group stage, and European countries’ first wins, such as England and the Czech Republic, proved that baseball is changing into a sport in which certain countries cannot guarantee victory.
This year’s tournament proved that the WBC can be upgraded to a mega sporting event, with the unique flow and fun of baseball’s short game, the enthusiasm of the players, the interest of the fans, and nationalism.