The fourth edition of the World Baseball Classic is finally here. The opening game of the Classic is set for Monday, when South Korea will face Israel at the Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul at 4:30 a.m. ET. You can watch that game -- as well as all World Baseball
The fourth edition of the World Baseball Classic is finally here. The opening game of the Classic is set for Monday, when South Korea will face Israel at the Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul at 4:30 a.m. ET. You can watch that game -- as well as all World Baseball Classic games -- on MLB Network and MLB.TV.
The two countries -- competing in Pool A along with Chinese Taipei and the Netherlands -- are opposites when it comes to World Baseball Classic experience. Korea has participated in all three Classics, with multiple deep runs -- Korea finished third in the inaugural 2006 Classic and lost an extra-inning heartbreaker to Japan in the '09 championship game.
Israel, meanwhile, will be making its first Classic appearance. The country won its qualifier in September, beating out Great Britain, Brazil and Pakistan to earn the final spot in the 16-team field.
A host country for the first time, South Korea, managed by In-Sik Kim, will be looking for a strong start on its home turf, especially after a surprising first-round elimination in the 2013 Classic. Some of the Korea Baseball Organization's top players could lead the way -- like outfielder Hyoung-Woo Choi, first baseman Tae-Kyun Kim and former Mariners first baseman Dae-Ho Lee and left-hander Hyeon-Jong Yang -- as well as Cardinals closer Seunghwan Oh, the lone Major Leaguer on the squad.
:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::
"We'll be playing under a lot of pressure," In-Sik Kim said at a joint managerial press conference at the Sky Dome. "Since we'll be going up against strong countries, we'll have to do the best we can to live up to our fans' expectations. It's a short tournament, and every game will play out like a championship game."
Israel will be out to prove it belongs in the Classic, baseball's biggest international stage. With a roster made up largely of MLB-affiliated players like Ike Davis, Ty Kelly and Cody Decker, plus Major League veterans like Samuel Fuld and Jason Marquis, manager Jerry Weinstein's team might just have what it takes to make a run.
"It's going to be a daunting task for us," Weinstein said at the press conference. "They have a very good team; they're well-managed, with very good players playing on their home turf with home fans. They will be difficult to beat."
Things to know about this game:
• With a 14-5 record in the first three Classics, South Korea (.737) is second to only the Dominican Republic (14-4, .778) in winning percentage in the tournament's history, and trails only Japan (17-7) in overall wins. But of the three countries, only Korea does not have a title.
• Oh has played in nine career Classic games (the most of any pitcher in Pool A) with a 2.70 ERA, two saves and 10 strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings. Kim was a unanimous selection to the All-Tournament Team in the 2009 Classic, batting .345/.486/.690 with a Classic-leading three home runs, 11 RBIs and nine runs scored during Korea's run to the silver.
• Did you know? Facts on Pool A of WBC '17
• The 38-year-old Marquis started two of Israel's three games in the qualifiers. He threw four perfect innings in the final against Great Britain, when Israel clinched the final spot in the World Baseball Classic's 16-team main draw.
The World Baseball Classic runs from Monday through March 22. In the U.S., games will air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN will provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. will have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. The tournament will be distributed internationally across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games at Marlins Park, Tokyo Dome, Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Mexico, Petco Park, as well as the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.
David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.