World Baseball Classic Day builds hype at the 'Home of Béisbol'

September 25th, 2022

MIAMI -- Anticipation continues to build for the 2023 World Baseball Classic, which will return in March after a six-year hiatus. To add to that excitement, the Marlins held World Baseball Classic Day during Saturday night's matchup against the Nationals. It began with a mural unveiling and culminated with a postgame concert on the Skyline Terrace with GioBeta, a Marc Anthony Tribute Band. 

loanDepot park will become the first venue in tournament history to host games in all three rounds of a World Baseball Classic in the same year. In 2017, South Florida served as the backdrop for the electric contest between the United States and the Dominican Republic.

Nationals designated hitter Nelson Cruz, who will serve as the D.R.'s general manager this time around, knocked the go-ahead three-run homer in the eighth inning of that game. He has seen interest in the Classic grow among fans and players over time. Cruz, an 18-year big league veteran, equated it to the thrill of the World Series.

"I don't think it's pressure," Cruz said. "I don't have to play. If I'm playing, definitely you have to prepare and all that. We have so much talent. The hardest part is to pick who's going to represent us. At the same time, it's easier because we have so much talent."

On Thursday, World Baseball Classic, Inc. (WBCI) announced the schedule for the 2023 World Baseball Classic games taking place at loanDepot park and Chase Field in Arizona. The Dominican Republic, 2017 runner-up Puerto Rico, Venezuela and a winner from the 2022 Qualifiers will compete in first-round games in Miami from March 11-15.

Stars like Javier Báez (Puerto Rico), Edwin Díaz (Puerto Rico), Carlos Correa (Puerto Rico) and Jose Altuve (Venezuela) already have committed to playing. Opening night will be a must-see event, with Venezuela and the Dominican Republic squaring off at 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 11. The home of the Marlins also will host the North American quarterfinals, which includes teams advancing from Pools C (U.S.A., Mexico, Colombia, Canada or Qualifier 3) and D, from March 17-18. The semi-finals and finals will be played in Miami from March 19-21.

"It's going to be crazy," said Nationals catching and strategy coach Henry Blanco, who will serve on Venezuela's staff. "I guarantee you it's going to be a full house in here. And who knows who's going to win? Whoever plays the best game is going to win the ballgame, so we're looking forward to that."

On Saturday, Cruz and Blanco were joined by J.P. Arencibia (USA) and René Rivera (Puerto Rico) on the left-field concourse in Section 29 to unveil a World Baseball Classic bracket mural. It pays tribute to the Spanish-speaking community with the tagline "Home of Béisbol."

"I think the final rounds being in Miami, we can add a few decibels to it and the way we live baseball here," Marlins vice president of marketing Tiago Pinto said. "We celebrate through the year here on the Saturday [Legacy] nights that we celebrate all these different communities. Seeing everybody come together and celebrate the game in such a passionate way, it's our small tribute to those communities, the spelling of 'Home of Baseball.' We truly believe that from the end of the MLB season towards March, I think we're going to see that fever just get higher and higher."

If there was one common theme from the evening, it's what the game means to the various nationalities represented -- whether it be Cruz's Dominican Republic or singer/songwriter Justin Quiles' Puerto Rico. Quiles, who sported a No. 4 Marlins City Connect jersey for Cardinals catcher and Boricua Yadier Molina, threw out the first pitch. He is an avid fan of the Classic.

"Like every Puerto Rican, got a little baseball in our blood," Quiles said. "It's part of our culture, it's part of our life. My family, too. They all love baseball. We grew up watching baseball, and a lot of my friends play baseball as well."