The 2023 World Baseball Classic Final took place in Miami, Florida, USA, and Japan clinched their fifth World Baseball Classic title with a thrilling 3-2 victory over the reigning champions, the United States, ending their campaign with an impressive record of seven wins.
This marked Japan's third victory in the Classic, breaking a 14-year title drought since their last win in 2009.
The Japanese team's journey to the championship was filled with excitement. In the second game of the Elite Eight, they fielded Shohei Ohtani, who quickly struck out Italy's leadoff batter, Sal Frelick, securing a victory at the Tokyo Dome and advancing with five consecutive wins to the semi-finals.
In a nail-biting semi-final against Mexico, trailing 4-5 in the bottom of the ninth inning, Ohtani kick-started a comeback with a double, and Sotaka Murakami sealed Mexico's fate with a single, aided by a bunt, propelling Japan to the championship game.
Ultimately, in the finals, Japan overcame the United States, securing the coveted world championship title. Japan now holds the record for the most World Baseball Classic titles.
The United States, the previous Classic champions, secured a place in the semi-finals with a grand slam victory against Venezuela. In their clash with Cuba, the U.S. team showcased their dominance, triumphing with a remarkable 12-point margin.
Although they fell short by one run in the final against Japan, the United States' standing as a baseball powerhouse remained unshaken.
Mexico finished the Classic season with four wins and two losses, ultimately claiming the championship. In the quarterfinals, they staged an impressive comeback against Puerto Rico in the bottom of the seventh inning, securing a spot in the semi-finals.
However, their journey was cut short by a narrow defeat to Japan in the semi-final match. Cuba, the winners of Group A, advanced to the quarterfinals with a close 4-3 victory over Australia.
The 2023 World Baseball Classic attracted a staggering 1.3 million spectators, setting a new record for attendance and representing a 20 percent increase compared to the 2017 edition. TV ratings were equally impressive, with the Japan-Korea clashes in Group B achieving a record-breaking 44.4% viewership, marking a new high for Japanese television this year.
The ratings for the U.S.-Japan final also reached unprecedented heights, witnessing a 69% surge in U.S. viewership compared to 2017. Globally, viewership in China, one of the host regions, skyrocketed by 151% compared to previous years, while Mexico experienced a 103% increase, Canada 44%, South Korea 36%, and Puerto Rico 11%.
The immense commercial success of the Classic as an international event was evident from the bustling crowds inside the Tokyo Dome Stadium, one of the venues for this year's edition, to the long queues at the adjacent merchandise stores.
Sales of fan merchandise for this year's Classic have surged by 149% compared to 2017, and all four venues hosting the event set new records for derivative sales, surpassing a 100% increase from 2017.
Since its debut in 2006, the quadrennial Classic has become one of the most awaited events for baseball fans around the world. It is not only a global feast for baseball fans, but also an important platform to promote the improvement of baseball standards and popularization of the sport worldwide.
In 2026, the World Baseball Classic will celebrate its 20th year, witnessing the baseball feast with fans around the world. We look forward to seeing you at the top of the next baseball carnival.