Team USA to face Japan in World Baseball Classic final tonight

by Jacob Fuller

Rob Issa, FISM News

Mike Trout and Team USA will face off against Shohei Ohtani and Team Japan in the World Baseball Classic final Tuesday night.

The Los Angeles Angels teammates may even go head-to-head on the field.

Trout, the three-time American League Most Valuable Player, has never had a chance to bat against Ohtani, the two-way superstar who joined the Angels in 2018.

Shota Imanaga will start the game for Japan but Ohtani could enter in relief.

“I’ll definitely be prepared to pitch wherever, but before that, I am going to have to hit, so make sure I put some runs on the board before I get to pitch,” Ohtani said through a translator.

Trout, the 10-time All-Star centerfielder, is eager for the opportunity should it happen.

“I get a front-row seat every time he pitches when he’s with us, so it’s pretty nasty,” Trout said. “And every person I talk to that faces him says they don’t want to be in the box. So it’s going to be interesting. I’m looking forward to it. He’s one of my good friends, so it’s going to be fun.”


Japan advanced to the Final on Monday night when Munetaka Murakami delivered a walk-off, two-run double for a 6-5 win over Mexico.


The United States advanced with a 14-2 rout over Cuba on Sunday.

Trea Turner hit two home runs to lead Team USA’s offensive onslaught. Turner, the All-Star shortstop who signed a $300 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies in free agency, hit a go-ahead grand slam against Venezuela to send the United States to the semifinals.

“I think it took us a little bit of time, but now we kind of found our stride a little bit,” Turner said.


After USA’s victory on Sunday, Cuban player Ivan Prieto Gonzalez didn’t show up to the team’s flight home, according to a report. Gonzalez apparently is becoming the latest Cuban athlete to defect to the United States to try to pursue playing professionally.

The 26-year-old catcher would be the first player to defect during the WBC. He served as a bullpen catcher for the Cuban team during the tournament.

Over the years, many baseball players from Cuba have found success playing in Major League Baseball in the U.S. Jose Abreu, Yordan Alvarez, Randy Arozarena, Aroldis Chapman, Yuli Gurriel, and Raisel Iglesias are among many MLB stars who defected from the Communist country.

Arozarena, who plays for the Tampa Bay Rays, played for Team Mexico in the WBC because he first lived there after he defected.

Cuba has long considered defectors as disloyal to their home country. However, this year the Cuban Baseball Federation allowed players to return and play for Cuba. Two-time All-Star Yoenis Cespedes, Yoan Moncada, and Luis Robert Jr. played for Cuba. Cespedes last played for the New York Mets in 2020. Moncada and Robert currently play for the Chicago White Sox.


Before the game against Team USA in Miami, there was a protest in the Little Havana community. Cubans living in Miami didn’t want Team Cuba so close to their new home because they associate the team with the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Three protesters ran onto the field during the game and were escorted out of the ballpark.

One demonstrator waved a flag that said “Libertad Para Los Presos Cubanos Del 11 de Julio, which means “Freedom for the Cuban Prisoners of July 11.” It was a reference to the day thousands of Cubans protested in the streets of the island in 2021 because of shortages of goods, power blackouts, and economic hardship. Hundreds of people who participated remain in prison.

The crowd in the stands in Miami shouted “¡Libertad!” chants as that protestor exited the field.