The 2023 World Baseball Classic has provided several incredible moments on and off the field as the game of pool heads toward its conclusion, including a one-time perfect game, some surprise giveaways and a moment of joy for one of baseball’s biggest stars.
The tournament has also provided some incredible moments of exposure for previously little-known players like Nicaraguan pitcher Duque Hebbert, who was awarded a contract with the Tigers after knocking out three MLB superstars from the Dominican Republic, or Harry Ford, a Mariners prospect who powered Great Britain into a rout against Colombia and became a hero on home soil.
[WBC Daily: Team USA breaks out, a perfect game, an incredible inning]
Here are some of the best moments from the last few days of the World Baseball Classic.
Mike Trout is having ‘the time of his life’
One of the biggest subplots for Team USA going into the 2023 WBC was that Angels superstar Mike Trout was not only participating in the tournament for the first time, but recruiting other MLB stars for the team as captain. After a relatively quiet first two games, Trout crushed a three-run home run to cap a nine-run first inning in the USA’s crucial 12-1 bounce-back win over Canada; he later told Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that he is having the time of his life in the WBC.
Mike Trout talks to Ken Rosenthal after the USA defeats Canada 12-1
[FOX Sports Insider: World Baseball Classic stakes feel greater than ever before]
“Just the group of guys, the atmosphere, the coaching staff, just everything that goes along with it, it’s been incredibly fun,” Trout said. “It’s special to put the USA on your chest and go out and play for your country.”
The friendship between Japan and the Czech Republic
The incredible story of the Czech Republic baseball team, the vast majority of whom are amateur players with ordinary jobs, captured the hearts of observers around the world. That includes Pool B’s biggest star (and ultimately its MVP), Japan’s Shohei Ohtani. The two-way superstar not only paid tribute to the Czech team on his Instagram, but also received a gift from Ondrej Satoria, the pitcher who struck out Ohtani when they faced off.
Satoria, who works as an electrical technician at his day job, presented Ohtani with his white Czech jersey signed by all of his team members, which the 2021 AL MVP happily accepted.
This was not the only gift exchanged between the two teams. Japanese pitcher Roki Sasaki gave two bags of candy to a Czech batter who he accidentally hit with a pitch during his game.
The good news spread to coach Pavel Chadim, who thanked Japan’s hospitality and atmosphere in a packed Tokyo Dome.
And while the Czech Republic bid farewell to the WBC after finishing fourth in Group B, it will be a “see you later” as the team officially qualified for the 2026 World Baseball Classic.
Japan congratulates Australia
Japan’s dominance was expected behind a stacked squad featuring Ohtani, but few expected Australia to join them in advancing to the quarter-finals of Group B. However, that’s exactly what happened, and the Japanese fans happily celebrated Australia’s success.
Here come the British!
Great Britain won its first game of the World Baseball Classic on Monday and did so in style as the underdog British players pulled out tea-drinking celebrations and a home run crown in their upset victory over Colombia. Even her fans got royal fever!
Locker Ian Gibaut recorded the save in the win despite having to do so in a slightly malfunctioning jersey.
And Harry Ford, the 20-year-old whose crucial home run helped seal the victory, is already inspiring the next generation of English baseball enthusiasts.
What a moment for the Gómez family
Many families are watching their dreams come true when relatives take the field in the World Baseball Classic, but few came full circle like the Gomez family did when Rio Gomez took the mound for Colombia at Chase Field on Tuesday. Gomez grew up in Arizona as his father Pedro became one of the most successful bilingual baseball reporters in sports media.
Pedro died at his home in Phoenix in February 2021 of a sudden heart attack. 13 months later, his Colombian-born widow Sandi stood by as her son pitched a scoreless inning for his home country against Canada.
More from the World Baseball Classic:
Get more from Major League Baseball Follow your favorites for information on games, news and more