The 2017 World Baseball Classic is almost here, which means All-Stars from all over the globe soon will be battling it out in the star-studded 16-team tournament.
All of that talent should bring lots of fancy glovework, from the likes of Nolan Arenado (United States), Ender Inciarte (Venezuela), Francisco Lindor (Puerto Rico), Starling Marte (Dominican Republic), Andrelton Simmons (Netherlands) and many more.
Those slick-fielding stars have a lot to live up to, as the previous three editions of the Classic each have brought their share of defensive gems. Below is a look back at five that are worth remembering heading into this year's tournament.
:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::
The World Baseball Classic runs from March 6-22. 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. Internationally, the tournament will be distributed 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.
5. Turning two -- in style
Robinson Cano and Jose Reyes have never been teammates in pro ball, but in the Dominican Republic's first game of the 2013 Classic, the two middle infielders were working together like longtime double-play partners. In the eighth inning of a 9-3 Dominican victory, Venezuela's Marco Scutaro bounced a grounder past pitcher Santiago Casilla with one out and a runner on first. Cano moved to his right, fielded the ball on the run and deftly flipped it with his glove to Reyes, who grabbed the feed barehanded before turning two.
4. A Reyes robbery
In the opening round of the first World Baseball Classic in 2006, the Dominican Republic led Italy, 8-3, when Mike Piazza tried to start a ninth-inning rally against Fernando Rodney. Reyes, Piazza's former Mets teammate, had other ideas. On a bouncer up the middle, Reyes ranged to his left, made a diving stop, jumped to his feet and threw a strike to first for the out.
3. Pitchers are athletes, too
Right-hander Kazuhisa Makita, who has spent his career with the Seibu Lions of Japan's Pacific League, entered in a big spot for Japan in the 2013 Classic. In his team's second-round opener against Chinese Taipei, Japan tied the game 3-3 in the top of the ninth before Makita came on in relief. After a leadoff single, Chinese Taipei's Dai-Kang Yang tried to put down a sacrifice bunt but lifted it back toward the mound. Makita reacted with alacrity and dove headfirst toward the plate, just managing to get his glove under the ball for the out. He was rewarded with the victory when Japan scored in the next inning.
2. Who is that strong-armed catcher?
When the Netherlands upset the Dominican Republic, 3-2, in their opening game of the 2009 World Baseball Classic, their catcher made a crucial play by throwing out the speedy Willy Taveras trying to steal third in the ninth inning. That helped the Dutch team advance to the second round, where they faced the U.S. Early in that contest, Ryan Braun singled and decided to test this little-known Dodgers farmhand behind the plate. Big mistake. On a high pitch, the big backstop launched a throw -- from his knees -- that zipped right to the bag to retire Braun. Later that year, Kenley Jansen started to put that powerful arm to a different use as he gave pitching a shot. By the following summer, he was in Los Angeles.
1. The Andrelton effect
MLB fans got a taste of Simmons' spectacular defense when he debuted with a 49-game stint with the Braves in 2012. The next March, Simmons showed off that tremendous glovework in the Classic. Playing for the Netherlands in a second-round matchup against Cuba, the future Gold Glove shortstop put his extensive range and rocket arm on display in a single play. On a popup to shallow center, Simmons raced out to make a sliding over-the-shoulder grab before whirling around and firing accurately to first for an inning-ending double play.