Sunday, March 3, 2013

March 3, 2006: The Inaugural World Baseball Classic Begins

On March 3, 2006, the inaugural World Baseball Classic began. Two games were played that day at the Tokyo Dome in Japan. South Korea beat Chinese Taipei 2-0 and Japan beat the crap out of China by the score of 18-2. It was the beginning of a tournament that would bring 16 teams from all over the world to play baseball while representing their home countries. Every continent on the planet was represented besides Antarctica.The games were played in Japan, Puerto Rico, and in several venues around the United States.

It took more than two years of planing to bring this tournament together. The thought of some of the greatest players in the game representing their home countries appealed to people all over the world. Some of the best players in the world participated in the tournament from a variety of major league teams. The first two rounds featured a round robin format that had teams eliminated on run difference tiebreakers. It led to a 4 team playoff, with Cuba taking on the Dominican Republic and Japan facing off against South Korea to decide who would fight for the World Baseball Classic title.

The Cuban team didn't feature one major leaguer, despite that fact they beat the Dominican's 3-1. The entire roster on the Dominican side of the ball was made up of MLB players, that included Albert Pujols and Jose Reyes. The South Korean team had beaten Japan twice in the earlier rounds and would have to do it again to win the title. Japan put those losses behind them and shutout South Korea while putting up 6 runs. It led to Cuba taking on Japan to determine  who would be the first WBC Champion. Japan took a commanding led early by the end of the fifth inning they led 6-1. Cuba fought back and by the end of the eighth the score was 6-5 and Japan was clinging onto their lead. In the top of the ninth Japan scored 4 runs, the only thing Cuba could muster in the bottom half of the inning was one run and Japan took the title with the 10-6 win. Ichiro Suzuki and a little known pitcher named Daisuke Matsuzaka led the charge for Japan. Matsuzsaka would be named MVP for his efforts in the tournament, one year later he found himself pitching for the Boston Red Sox.

It was deemed a success by everyone involved and three years later a second WBC would be held. Japan won the tournament again and Matsuzaka won his second MVP award. After the 2009 tournament it was decided it would be played every four years.

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