(ATR) The World Baseball Classic showcases the game’s rise as a major global sport, according to the World Baseball Softball Confederation.
WBSC president Riccardo Fraccari tells Around the Rings that the fourth edition of the event set records in both television ratings and attendance, with the tournament drawing more than one million people for the first time.
"The phenomenal success of this year’s World Baseball Classic is a direct reflection of how baseball is growing into a major global sport and how our sport’s return at the Tokyo 2020 Games will help further strengthen the Olympic brand," Fraccari tells ATR.
Fraccari says the WBC will also help countries grow the game with the exposure provided by the 2017 tournament that came to a close on Wednesday. Team USA won the tournament for the first time in its history but will not be the only country reaping the rewards.
"There was a global representation of six continents in the WBC, and all 16 National Teams were highly competitive," Fraccari says.
"And with success stories like Israel and Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic, and countries like Pakistan in the qualifiers, the impressive results that these countries achieved on the world stage will serve to further boost the investment and interest in baseball in their countries."
Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred also recognized the success of the 2017 WBC.
"I think when you have a tournament that gets the kind of traction that the 2017 edition did, it will make it easier to get players the next time around," Manfred told reporters before the final between the U.S. and Puerto Rico on Wednesday. "Not only for the U.S., but for all the countries."
While both the WBSC and MLB recognize the success of the 2017 tournament, it is not yet confirmed that the World Baseball Classic will appear again in 2021.
"We've had crowds that not only were record-number crowds, but had passion that it's hard to think where you saw something that good the last time," Manfred said.
"And best of all, the games on the field have been absolutely unbelievable, compelling. Our players at their best, combined with a little nationalism, has really been a great thing."
The WBSC hopes this level of enthusiasm for baseball on the international stage will lead to a successful Olympic return in 2020 complete with MLB professionals competing for their national teams.
Written by Kevin Nutley
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