2022 Year in Review: Four World Cups headline international baseball’s return to normality

2022 Year in Review: Four World Cups headline international baseball’s return to normality
The World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) awarded four Baseball World Titles in 2022, three to the United States, who were victorious in the U-12, U-15 and U-18 age categories, and the fourth to Japan who were crowned U-23 champions.

Following the forced hiatus of much of sport, 2022 saw the welcome return of a full calendar of international baseball featuring four World Cups. In particular, the U-12 and U-23 Baseball World Cups were hosted by Taiwan, the U-15 edition took place in Mexico, while the United States staged the U-18 edition. All events were streamed live on the WBSC’s new and improved GameTime OTT platform.

The season opened in Tainan, Taiwan, on 29 July with the U-12 Baseball World Cup, which was originally due to be held in 2021.

Although the local government had COVID-19 restrictions in place at the time, these challenges were overcome by the tireless efforts of the WBSC and the Chinese Taipei Baseball Association to ensure a successful event.

The United States defeated Venezuela in the final, 10-2, and claimed their fourth U-12 World Title, hitting four home runs in the World Championship game, resulting in a grand total of 27 home runs in the tournament.

USA's Colin Anderson, the tournament MVP, made headlines as he drove a home run 430 feet (131 metres) from home plate, reportedly the longest home run in the history of the U-12 Baseball World Cup.

"I believe what we did is just a team effort," commented manager RJ Farrell. "We hit a lot of home runs, but we executed things properly and set up those home runs."

"Coming here to Tainan, playing in front of these fans, it makes it worth the 15-hour flight to get here," he added. "It's just amazing."

The hosts Chinese Taipei beat the Dominican Republic, 9-5, to claim the bronze medal.

During the Chinese Taipei-Italy game on Tuesday 2 August, three out of four members of the umpiring crew were women. Minseo Kim from Korea was the home plate umpire, while Japan’s Kana Wada and Kyoko Matsumoto worked at first and second base, respectively.

The VI U-12 Baseball World Cup was the first event streamed live through the new GameTime platform.

Just over a month later, USA added to their tally of titles by defeating Cuba, 4-3, on 4 September in a classic final in the U-15 Baseball World Cup at Estadio Sonora in Hermosillo, Mexico.

Including the U-16 Baseball World Cup results, it marked the seventh title in the age bracket for the US.

The activation of COVID-19 protocols resulted in the cancellation of the third-place game, and the bronze medal was awarded to Chinese Taipei.

The United States topped off a highly successful 2022 with a win on home soil at the XXX U-18 Baseball World Cup to celebrate their 10th World Title in the age bracket. They beat Chinese Taipei in the final played on 18 September at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Florida, 5-1.

"The WBSC is a different brand of baseball," said USA manager Denny Hocking, a former Major League Baseball (MLB) star, at the end of the final. "It's about what you can do for your country. I think this group became a family on its way to this World Championship game."

USA's Bryce Eldridge homered to break the score open in the seventh and then made it to the mound to close the game. Eldridge earned MVP honours.

"I'm not overthinking about the future. Of course, I hope to play in the Big Leagues, but let me enjoy my moment. It's the most important moment of my life," said Eldridge after the final. "This team was very well put together. We have those who can hit for power and those who can hit to the opposite field. We have players who can do it all, and it's important to give them a chance to prove it."

Inclement weather made the completion of the tournament a challenge. The United States and Japan finished the last Super Round game 45 minutes before the World Championship.

The final baseball event of the 2022 season began on 13 October in Taipei City and Taichung. The IV U-23 Baseball World Cup was also plagued by bad weather as a typhoon hit the shores of Taiwan and forced the cancellation of two entire days of games in Taipei.

An outstanding organising effort by the WBSC and the Chinese Taipei Baseball Association, with the collaboration of the participating national teams, saw five games moved from Taipei City to Dou Liou. This effort ensured that the tournament concluded on time.

On 23 October, Japan defeated Korea in the final at Tianmu Stadium in Taipei City, 3-0. A three-run home run by second baseman Masashi Maruyama in the bottom of the third represented all the run production of the game.

"I realised that my teammates had been trying hard to get on base, so I figured that I had to contribute as well," said Maruyama after the final.

Chinese Taipei beat Mexico in the bronze medal game, 3-1.

Japan's closer Ryusei Gonda earned MVP honours.

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