Beyond the Bison: United States wins first-ever World Baseball Classic title

Elise Covert, Sports Co-Editor

“We’re trying to make America great again,” Team USA Manager Jim Leyland said in a pregame press conference for the World Baseball Classic final. After facing criticism throughout the tournament that the U.S. players weren’t as spirited or having as much fun as other teams, Leyland’s quip set the stage for as spirited a baseball game as the United States has seen in the World Baseball Classic.

Despite the sport’s moniker of “America’s pastime,” the United States had never won a World Baseball Classic championship—until this year.

The U.S. team claimed its first-ever title with an 8-0 win against Puerto Rico in Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles in front of more than 50,000 fans. The victory was a remarkable achievement after the team had a shaky start to the tournament. They needed extra innings to squeeze out a win against Colombia, blew a five-run lead against the Dominican Republic, and lost to Puerto Rico in the second round. However, the United States rallied to win both of their elimination games leading up to the championship. They first avenged their prior loss in a rematch against the Dominican Republic, then took down Japan to reach the final before successfully taking on Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico entered the championship game undefeated, but six no-hit innings from pitcher Marcus Stroman quashed the Puerto Rican offense and propelled the Red, White, and Blue to the unprecedented victory. Stroman, a pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays, was eligible to pitch for Puerto Rico this year, as his mother was born there. In December 2016, he declared his spot on the American side to the disdain of many Puerto Ricans. After enduring months of social media taunts, Stroman rode an emotional wave to the gold medal podium.

Evidently, Puerto Rico had already had championship gear printed and a parade planned for the following day—just in case the American team needed any more motivation to put an end to their opponent’s undefeated streak. Many players commented on the brotherhood they developed with their teammates and the pride they felt being a part of American history.

America’s pastime, indeed.

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