For MLB stars headed to World Baseball Classic, ‘hype is a little bit higher’ this year

The St. Louis Cardinals organization is among many MLB clubs that will be well-represented at the World Baseball Classic that starts Friday. Nineteen players, the most of any team, including 13 with major-league experience, will represent 11 countries at the long-awaited tournament that will run through Miami.

First baseman Paul Goldschmidt and third baseman Nolan Arenado, who competed for Team USA in 2017, will be joined this time around by veteran pitcher Adam Wainwright. The three were interviewed about making the WBC roster at a Cardinals media availability for their Team USA players before spring training opened in February.

Of the excitement around the tournament, Arenado said, “I feel like the hype is a little bit higher this time around than it was in 2017 … not just USA, all over.”

“I think last time (in 2017), one of the main topics was that the best players didn’t play,” said Goldschmidt, the 2022 National League MVP. “I’ve said before, this is one of the greatest baseball experiences I’ve ever had. … I was basically begging to get back on the team.”

Goldschmidt will not be the only award winner playing in the WBC. He joins Mike Trout, Shohei Otahni, Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, Jose Altuve and Miguel Cabrera as former MLB MVP winners who will represent their countries. Clayton Kershaw, who has two NL Cy Young awards as the ace of the Los Angeles Dodgers, was in line to play the WBC, but dropped out earlier this month. But Miami Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara, the 2022 NL Cy Young winner, is ready to go, and he will pitch in the WBC in his home stadium, loanDepot Park, for the Dominican Republic.

In total, 67 major-league All-Stars had initially made plans for the WBC, across 20 international teams.

While some question the tournament’s impact on the spring-training regime of its participants, according to Arenado, the level of the talent on display can be of benefit.

“The intense games, that intense environment that the WBC has, its just gets your ready quick,” he said. “You have no other choice than to get ready fast.”

Another Cardinal, Lars Nootbar, will make history as the first player ever born outside of Japan to represent the county’s national team. Nootbar qualifies for eligibility because his mother is Japanese.

“My mom is actually the only one in the States, the rest of her family is in Japan,” Nootbar told MLB Network Radio this month. “Quite frankly, for my mom, I think this is a more proud moment for her than when I did get called up to the big leagues.”

WBC pool play begins March 8 in Taichung, Taiwan, and wraps up with the final in Miami March 21.

Carlton is a Digital Broadcasting student and intends to pursue a career in journalism. Born and raised in Broward County, he hopes to combine his passion for this community and storytelling to deliver news, insights, and perspectives to the people of South Florida.