It’s been five years since Team USA shut out Puerto Rico 8-0 to claim their first ever World Baseball Classic title. And for the first time since, the tournament is back.
The pool game for the fifth edition, which was originally scheduled for 2021 but scuttled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, begins on Wednesday.
Managed by MLB, the WBC was introduced in 2006 and championed by then commissioner Bud Selig as a way to grow the game on the international stage.
This year’s tournament features an expanded line-up of teams, from 16 to 20, ranging from perennial powerhouses like the United States, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Japan and South Korea, to new entrants from Great Britain. Britain, Nicaragua and the Czech Republic. Here’s what you need to know.
What are the dates?
The tournament begins on March 8 (although the first match, which will be played in Taiwan, begins at 11 p.m. ET on March 7) and the final will be played on March 21.
Which teams are playing?
The field is made up of 20 teams playing in four pools. We will introduce them to you as the pool game progresses.
Where are the games held?
For the first round, Pool A will play in Taichung, Taiwan, at the Intercontinental Baseball Stadium. Pool B plays at the Tokyo Dome in Japan. Pool C is at Chase Field in Phoenix and Pool D at LoanDepot Park in Miami.
The second round matches (the quarter-finals) will be played at Tokyo Dome (for the top two teams from pools A and B) and at LoanDepot Park (for the top two teams from pools C and D), and the semi-finals and finals will be in Miami.
How can I watch? What is the program ?
In the United States, the games will be available on Fox, FS1, FS2, FOX Deportes, Tubi, and the Fox Sports app.
Here’s what the first-round schedule looks like:
tuesday 7 march
Cuba vs. Netherlands (11 p.m. ET)
Wednesday, March 8
Panama vs Chinese Taipei (6 a.m. ET)
Australia vs. Korea (10 p.m. ET)
Panama vs Netherlands (11 p.m. ET)
Thursday March 9
China vs. Japan (5 a.m. ET)
Italy vs. Cuba (6 a.m. ET)
Czech Republic vs. China (10 p.m. ET)
Cuba vs. Panama (11:30 p.m. ET)
Friday March 10
Korea vs. Japan (5 a.m. ET)
Italy vs Chinese Taipei (6 a.m. ET)
China vs. Australia (10 p.m. ET)
Panama vs. Italy (11 p.m. ET)
Saturday March 11
Czech Republic vs. Japan (5 a.m. ET)
Netherlands vs. Chinese Taipei (6 a.m. ET)
Nicaragua vs. Puerto Rico (12 p.m. ET)
Colombia vs Mexico (2:30 p.m. ET)
Dominican Republic vs. Venezuela (7 p.m. ET)
Great Britain vs USA (9 p.m. ET)
Czech Republic vs. Korea (10 p.m. ET)
Chinese Taipei vs. Cuba (11 p.m. ET)
Sunday March 12
Japan vs. Australia (6 a.m. ET)
Netherlands vs. Italy (7 a.m. ET)
Nicaragua vs. Israel (12 p.m. ET)
Great Britain v. Canada (3 p.m. ET)
Venezuela vs. Puerto Rico (7 p.m. ET)
Mexico vs. United States (10 p.m. ET)
Australia vs. Czech Republic (11 p.m. ET)
Monday March 13
Korea vs. China (6 a.m. ET)
Dominican Republic vs. Nicaragua (12 p.m. ET)
Colombia vs. Great Britain (3 p.m. ET)
Israel vs. Puerto Rico (7 p.m. ET)
Canada v. United States (10 p.m. ET)
tuesday march 14
Nicaragua vs. Venezuela (12 p.m. ET)
Canada v. Colombia (3 p.m. ET)
Israel vs. Dominican Republic (7 p.m. ET)
Great Britain vs Mexico (10 p.m. ET)
Wednesday March 15
(Quarterfinal) Pool B runners-up vs. Pool A winner (6 a.m. ET)
Venezuela vs. Israel (12 p.m. ET)
Mexico v. Canada (3 p.m. ET)
Puerto Rico vs. Dominican Republic (7 p.m. ET)
United States vs. Colombia (10 p.m. ET)
The full schedule can be found here.
What is the format?
Each team meets once in the first round. The top two teams in each group by winning percentage, eight in total, advance to the quarter-finals, which are sudden death (this is a change from 2017 when the quarter-finals also followed the format of the round robin). The four winners of the quarter-finals go on to the semi-finals, and you know what happens after that.
Who’s playing? Names I’ll recognize?
Absolutely. Many big names from MLB and international leagues will represent different countries. Here are some examples:
- All the composition of the American team
- Almost the entire Dominican Republic roster (think Sandy Alcantara, Julio Rodríguez, Manny Machado, Juan Soto)
- Shohei Ohtani, Yu Darvish, Masataka Yoshida, Lars Nootbar, Roki Sasaki, reigning NPB MVP Munetaka Murakami (Japan)
- Javier Báez, Francisco Lindor, Edwin Díaz, Marcus Stroman, José Berríos (Puerto Rico)
- Freddie Freeman, Tyler O’Neill, Cal Quantrill (Canada)
- KBO MVP Lee Jung-hoo, Ha-seong Kim, Tommy Edman (Korea)
- Ronald Acuna Jr. Randy Arozarena (Venezuela), Xander Bogaerts (Netherlands)
What are the rules?
The official rulebook, so to speak, is here for those of you who want to study it. The tournament will use MLB 2022 rules, with a few additions. Here are some highlights:
- Each team has what is called a designated pitching pool, 10 pitchers who are not on the official roster but who are eligible to participate in one or more consecutive rounds if need be.
- Throw limits affect how throwers can be used (for example, if a thrower throws 50 throws on a release, they can’t throw again until a minimum of four days has passed)
- Position players can only pitch if they get permission from the Game Operations Technical Committee, which oversees the use of the pitcher.
- There is a first-round leniency rule: games will end if there is a lead of 10 points or more after the seventh inning and 15 points after the fifth inning.
- Ghost runner goes global – extra innings will start with a player at second base
- As these are 2022 rules, the pitch clock, taller bases and offset restrictions will not be used
Why does (player name here) play for (country name here)?
There are seven rules that determine a player’s eligibility to play for a certain team. To simplify, a player can represent a country if:
- They are citizens or legal permanent residents of that country
- They were born in this country
- One of their parents is a citizen of this country
- One of their parents was born in this country
- They are eligible to receive citizenship or a passport for a country
- They have previously made the WBC final roster (qualifier or tournament) for that country
How long has this tournament existed?
This is the fifth edition of the World Baseball Classic. Japan were the tournament’s first-ever winners, beating Cuba in the final to win the title in 2006, and winning again in 2009. In 2013, the Dominican Republic went undefeated – the only team to do so in relatively short of the tournament – en route to his first WBC title. And the last time it was played, in 2017, Team USA won for the first time.
For updated scenarios throughout the tournament, visit our WBC database.
Follow all the action by checking out our live blog.
And to set the tone for the next two weeks, here’s a playlist featuring artists representing every WBC 2023 nation – we hope you enjoy.
(Shohei Ohtani top photo: Kenta Harada/Getty Images)