Cubs News: World Baseball Classic is great for baseball
Sam Navarro - USA Today Sports

Cubs News: World Baseball Classic is great for baseball

by - Staff Writer -

The World Baseball Classic has put baseball back on the grandest of stages over the past couple of weeks. Not only has America's past time brought engird and excitement back for the United States of America, but we have also seen the passion and appreciation for baseball that other countries have continued to grow on display during the tournament.

All 30 MLB teams have multiple players playing in the World Baseball Classic — baseball's version of the Olympics — and it has been an elite spectacle of baseball's immense talent and where the players come from.

For the Cubs, 18 players are representing nine different countries. None of those are from the USA — although Marcus Stroman did pitch for the United States during the last World Baseball Classic in 2017.

But this tournament has been precisely that, a World Baseball Classic. We've seen teams like Israel and Italy enjoy a tournament like they've never experienced before. We've seen countries like Japan and Mexico reassert some of their prowess in the baseball world. We've enjoyed watching Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Venezuela all win multiple games. And we've seen the USA defend their 2017 World Baseball Classic Crown and punch their tickets to the Championship once again.

We've seen award winners like Mike Trout, Paul Goldschmidt, Shohei Ohtani, Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuña Jr., Mookie Betts, Manny Machado, and Sandy Alcantara all represent their respective countries with incredible performances — and we've seen young players/prospects like Julio Rodriguez and Randy Arozarena shine on the brightest stage once again.

Plus, we've seen players like Marcus Stroman, Freddie Freeman, and Lars Nootbar choose their World Baseball Classic teams to honor family — showing how much the tournament means to them.

Despite March Madness and the excitement it induces overlapping with the World Baseball Classic — as well as some of the difficult times the games are being played due to international timezones — all eyes have been on baseball, which is a rare feat during what is typically spring training, especially with how low baseball's engagement numbers have dropped recently.

While the MLB struggles to retain fans due to blackout restrictions and has attempted to alter the game's watchability with the manipulation of baseballs and the adjustments on rules to speed up the pace of play and increase balls in play — the World Baseball Classic has rejuvenated baseball while relying on two simple, yet essential components: player talent and fan passion.

And baseball has been a significant beneficiary. Just take a look at some of these numbers.

Here's how the top WBC moments stack up against some of the most viral MLB moments from last season in terms of Twitter video views:

Shohei Ohtani's World Baseball Classic homer off the scoreboard gained 7.5 million views, and Trea Turner's World Baseball Classic grand slam received over 7M in less than 24 hours.

Aaron Judge's record-breaking 62nd home run of the season got just 2.9 million views from the Yankees account and 1.6 million from the MLB account.

Albert Pujols' historic 700th home run received just 2.2 million views, and Bryce Harper's electric NLCS home run to get the Phillies to the World Series has 2.4 million.

It isn't only engagement on social media that is proving the World's interest, and TV ratings are also off the charts.

Japan's first round drew a 42.3 TV rating, similar to Super Bowl ratings in the United States. Ratings in South Korea were up 35% from the last tourney, and Taiwan's ratings were up a whopping 151%, according to

Over 61% of televisions in Puerto Rico that were on during their quarterfinal game against the Dominican Republic were turned into the game. The US is reaching a viewership that has not been achieved in almost 15 years.

The tournament is not only setting records on television screens either — in fact, attendance in person has also seen alarming increases. This year's games after pool play drew over 1 million fans — the previous record was just 510,056 fans. Attendance records have been set at the Tokyo Dome in Japan and the United States.

Those trends are set to continue, as every seat has been filled since the quarterfinals. The semifinals and the Championship are also sold out — meaning the last half dozen games have been sold out and will be for the rest of the tournament.

Fan engagement on social media, at the stadium, and in television should tell the story — but you could also take it directly from the players.

Team USA Captain Mike Trout said, "looking in the stands, they are waving the American Flag. It means a lot to all of us. To play for our country, it's been a lot of fun."

"That's baseball," said Mexico's Alex Verdugo. "That's why I love this game!"

"We're playing because we love this game, we love this country," said Team USA pitcher Adam Wainwright. "That's a great feeling, man. I'm so proud to be out here."

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