Cinderella story and hometown victory: 2017 World Baseball Classic gains worldwide popularity

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By Alex Reiner and Jack Beck

The 2017 World Baseball Classic was filled with Cinderella stories, swagger and the home team bringing home the bling. The United States brought home its first gold medals against Puerto Rico by an 8-0 final score in front of 51,000 home fans on March 23 at the Los Angeles Dodgers’ stadium.

“It was great to see the atmosphere and excitement that surrounded the entire tournament,” Harry Azadian ’19 said. “The teams were having a lot of fun and showed a lot of pride while representing their countries.”

Puerto Rico stole the show with their mix of young stars, like the Cubs’ Javier Baez, and veterans, like the Cardinals’ Yadier Molina. All members of the team bleached their hair to show unity and commitment to win for their country.

“It was awesome watching [Puerto Rico] play,” Azadian said. “They all seemed like they were enjoying themselves during the game and were able to dominate the entire time.”

Puerto Rico was dominant during pool play and advanced to the finals undefeated. They then faced the Most Valuable Player of the World Baseball Classic, Marcus Stroman, of the Toronto Blue Jays, who threw six hitless innings in route to the United States’ commanding victory.

The finals had all Staples’ students watching from the first to last out. “I’m not much of a baseball fan, but watching Stroman take control of the game, was amazing,” Will Birch ’18 said. “He was fun to watch and deservingly won MVP.”

Azadian also had nothing but praise for Stroman. “He did not display any signs of being nervous in such an important game, and dominated [Puerto Rico’s lineup],” Azadian said.

The United States stole the show in the end, but it was Israel that had people watching early on in the tournament. Heading into the tournament, Israel was ranked 41 in the world, but shocked the world with a classic David and Goliath story. In pool play, they defeated South Korea, ranked third in the world, Chinese Taipei, ranked fourth in the world and the Netherlands, ranked ninth in the world.

They continued their success into the second round beating Cuba, ranked 5 in the world, but then fell to the Netherlands and Japan, halting their success. Their dominant performance allowed them to advance to the quarterfinals and qualify for the 2021 World Baseball Classic.

“It is always great to see a Cinderella story in such an intense tournament,” Jack Sharkey ’18 said. “Nobody thought that they would even qualify and to have such great success shows what a beautiful game baseball is.”

With the United States winning for the first time, many people think that it will help bring viewership back to baseball, which it has been lacking for years.

“This World Baseball Classic was one for the ages,” Azadian said. “I’m now excited to see what the 2021 [World Baseball Classic] will bring.”