Today marks the three-year anniversary of the Korean National Baseball Team winning the inaugural World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Premier12® at the Tokyo Dome in Japan on 21 November 2015.
In the first-ever global battle amongst baseball’s Top 12 ranked nations in the world, Korea had entered the tournament ranked eighth.
Led by manager Kim In-sik and filled with the biggest stars in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) league, Korea was drawn into Group B, alongside then-No. 1 Japan, No. 2 United States, No. 6 Dominican Republic, No. 10 Venezuela and No. 12 Mexico.
Prior to the start of the event, Kim said: “The National Baseball Team is a source of pride for our entire country — we take it very seriously and need to honour this responsibility. We will look to finish this global battle with the Premier12 top prize in our hands.”
Korea faced Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani (the pitcher) twice. In Game 1 of the Premier12 at the Sapporo Dome in Japan, Othani and the Samurai pitchers shutout Korea, 5-0. In Taiwan, Korea then defeated No. 6 Dominican Republic, No. 10 Venezuela, and No. 12 Mexico, before falling to USA, 3-2, in 10 innings to finish third in the group and advance to the quarterfinals.
In the knockout stage, Korea met world No. 3 Cuba, winning the quarterfinal contest at Taichung’s Intercontinental Stadium, 7-2, which set up a rematch with Japan in the semifinals at the Tokyo Dome.
After another dominating performance by Othani (7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 11 K), Korea stunned the sold-out 40,000-seat Tokyo Dome, exploding for four runs in the ninth inning, behind Dae-ho Lee’s two-run single, which completed a 4-3 come-from-behind victory.
In the Final, Korea led from start to finish, shutting out the U.S. National Team, 8-0, to become crowned the inaugural Premier12 champions. Hyun-soo Kim and Byung-ho Park both collected three RBIs and starter Kwang-hyun Kim earned the win, pitching five scoreless innings.
Hyun-soo Kim was named MVP and led his nation with 10 RBIs — the second most in the tournament, behind the 13 of Samurai Japan National Team slugger Sho Nakata (Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters – NPB).
Upon returning home, the Korean National Team delegation was met by proud fans and a national media frenzy at Seoul’s Gimpo International Airport.
Successful launch for WBSC Premier12
The overall potential broadcast reach for the inaugural Premier12 was 253.7 million households, while fans from 217 countries and territories watched online, generating an estimated US$ 131 million in worldwide TV advertising value and brand exposure for Premier12 sponsors, WBSC and the sport of baseball.
Premier12 set multiple 2015 TV ratings records in host-nation Taiwan and was also the most watched international sporting event of the year in co-host Japan.
The Premier12 buzzed on social media, recording the highest volume of online engagement/discussion in Taiwan for the six-month period of October 2015 to March 2016, in the category of entertainment. Topics related to Premier12 were trending on Twitter.
Over 30,000 news articles on Premier12 were published online.
A total of nearly US$ 4 million prize money was awarded to the players and respective National Federations.
The second edition of the WBSC Premier12, which will also serve as a direct qualifier for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, will be staged in November 2019, with Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) hosting the Super Round and Finals. Opening Round hosts will be announced in future news releases.