From March 6th to March 22nd, the 4th Annual World Baseball Classic took place in four countries around the globe. The road to the championship saw many surprising and exciting moments that led to a dramatic finish. The way the tournament is shaped up is the first and second rounds are round robin games with the teams in their pools with the top two teams from each pool moving on until the single elimination games in the semifinals.
Puerto Rico and the United States would both advance to the second round pool and meet in a round robin game. Puerto Rico would edge out the United States 6-5 and take first place in the pool.
After the loss to Puerto Rico, the United States needed to beat a red hot Dominican Republic to make it to the semifinal game in Los Angeles.
A home run by Giancarlo Stanton and an over-the-wall catch by Adam Jones would be key plays to the United States victory over the defending champions. According to Sports Illustrated, the United States played their best game of the classic and deserved to be in the semifinals.
The United States’ next challenge would be undefeated Japan in their semifinal game. All eyes were on the United States as this proved to be the make it or break it game for them. The United States would walk away with a stunning 2-1 win over the Japanese and would head to the championship game for the first time since the creation of the classic.
According to Sports Illustrated, the two runs that USA scored atoned to more luck than skill. A failed attempt to field a ground ball cleanly by Japan’s third baseman gave the United States a one-run lead to end the game.
Puerto Rico would also play a tough semifinal game against the Netherlands. The Netherlands kept the game close, but Puerto Rico would barely get past them, winning the game 4-3. Puerto Rico would set up another meeting between the United States.
During the tournament, the Puerto Rico team felt the need to bring the entire country with them. To show this connection between the players and their country, each player dyed his hair blonde. The idea was to bring their own unique aspect to the classic to show that the team played for each other and their country.
According to ESPN.com, third baseman Carlos Correa said the purpose of the hair was to unify the country. “There were no crimes, there were no assassinations back home while we were playing in this classic,” Correa said. “Everybody was dyeing their hair blond, so we had our whole nation behind us that is going through tough times right now.”
The United States was looking for revenge in the championship and got what they came for. They stunned Puerto Rico and shut them out 8-0. This was the first WBC Championship the United States ever won.
According to ESPN.com, United States outfielders Adam Jones and Andrew McCutchen were not too happy when they heard rumors of Puerto Rico’s pre-celebratory plans.
“‘It didn’t sit well,’” Andrew McCutchen said. “‘We heard and we saw t-shirts were made and printed out for the Puerto Rican team. We even heard a flight was made for them for that parade because they said they were going to win. That ignited us, we were ready to go, and we showed that tonight.’”
“‘That didn’t sit well with us, so we did what we had to do,’” Jones said.
However, the players for Puerto Rico would reject these accusations saying they didn’t hear of any t-shirts being made up. No matter the outcome, the plane ride would be celebratory because the team brought the country together.
There was some comparison to the WBC Championship and to the MLB World Series. According to USA Today, many Puerto Rican players said the WBC Championship was a much more memorable experience.
Kike Hernandez decided to play for the Puerto Rico team rather than tryout for the Dodgers because he would rather play for his country.
“To be in this Classic, there’s no comparison with the experience of being in the Major Leagues,” said Hernandez.