The ending of the World Baseball Classic on Tuesday night at LoanDepot Park in Miami, Florida, couldn’t have been more dramatically scripted by a movie screenwriter.
Japan’s Shohei Ohtani, the 2021 American League MVP, dominant as both a pitcher and hitter since entering Major League Baseball from Nippon Professional Baseball in 2018, faced Mike Trout, a three-time American League MVP and arguably the sport’s best player over the past decade.
With defending champion Team USA down 3–2 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning and the count 3–2, the Los Angeles Angels teammates stared each other down. Ohtani, who was Japan’s designated hitter in the championship game before being called on a closer, then unleashed a wicked whirling slider that Trout could not manipulate his bat to touch.
Game over. WBC over. Exuberant celebration by Japan and their fans.
“This really proves that Japanese baseball can beat any team in the world,” said Ohtani after the Japanese baseball program captured its third WBC title in five tournaments since the event’s inception in 2006. “It was a very short time, but I really enjoyed playing with my teammates,” gushed the 28-year-old sensation, who may be the most coveted free-agent in baseball history—his contract with the Angels is set to expire at the end of this season.
Over the 12 days the WBC was held, it proved to be one of the most compelling and appealing sporting spectacles on the planet. Some of the game’s brightest and richest stars played for the pure love of the game, the opportunity to represent their country, and to show they are indeed among baseball’s elite.
Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson Jr. used the WBC to affirm the latter. He was called on to play second base in the tournament so Team USA manager Mark DeRosa could maximize his club’s offense. The 29-year-old from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, won the Silver Slugger Award, which honors the best offensive player at each position in both the American and National Leagues, in 2020; led MLB in batting with a .335 average in 2019; and was an All-Star in 2021 and last season.
“I’m always out to prove something,” he said to reporter Ken Rosenthal, who works for both Fox, which broadcast the WBC, and The Athletic. “Just to be among some of the greats—I just get a chance for the world to see what kind of athlete I am. And also, the guys get to know what kind of person I am—the human being.”
The WBC provided that platform, and Japan and Team USA gave baseball fans a memorable closing act.