The last hope of having a Latin American team in the final of the World Baseball Classic ended with a long hit that almost left the Marlins stadium, in the heart of Little Havana. While the Japanese celebrated their spectacular victory in the semifinals, the cameras focused on the disconsolate Randy Arozarena. The versatile Cuban-Mexican outfielder was the protagonist of several of Latin America’s best moments in the Classic, with spectacular catches. What other images of this tournament will be stored in our memory?

Randy Arozarena, the “Mariachi” and leader of Mexico

Mexico started the V World Baseball Classic in the worst possible way: with an unexpected defeat against Colombia. No one could predict at that moment that the team led by Benji Gil would be just three outs away from competing for the tournament title.

One of the main responsible for the recovery of the Mexican team was Arozarena. The Cuban-Mexican was an inspiration offensively and made spectacular plays in left field. His statistics show that he averaged .500 (14-7) and drove in nine runs, which earned him recognition as the MVP of group D.

After the initial setback, the Mexicans won three consecutive games, including one against the United States, which placed them in first position in the group. This led them to face Puerto Rico in the quarterfinals. That game was very close and had as its climax a catch by Arozarena in the eighth inning that left no opportunities for the Puerto Ricans.

For the first time in history, Mexico managed to include itself among the four greats of a Classic. For the semifinal game, everyone gave Japan’s Samurai as the favorite. However, the Mexicans were ahead 3-0 and then 5-3. Arozarena made another spectacular catch against the fences and it seemed that the surprise could be achieved. But, in the bottom of the ninth inning, Giovanny Gallegos could do little against the Japanese batters, who scored two runs and ended the Mexican dream. Anyway, third place is by far Mexico’s best performance in a World Baseball Classic.

“We didn’t achieve victory tonight, but we did manage to put Mexico’s name as high as we can,” recognized director Gil.

The resurgence of Team Asere

Cuba’s Team Asere was a historic team. After 62 years of waiting, a Cuban team finally included active Major League players on its roster, highlighted by Yohan Moncada and Luis Robert Jr. Things started badly for the Caribbean team in their Asian group because they lost their first two challenges to the Netherlands and Italy. However, they recovered with victories over Panama and Chinese Taipei, and this was enough to lead a group where all five participants ended with a balance of two wins and two losses.

In the quarterfinals, the Cubans prevailed over Australia, 4-3, and for the second time in the Classics, advanced to the semifinals. In Miami, the reception was not the most cordial by the emigrant community, who took every opportunity to show their dissatisfaction with the prevailing situation in their native country and with the fact that not all the best Cuban baseball players in the Majors were called up.

The United States was far superior to Cuba, 14-2, in the first semifinal; but despite this heavy defeat, Team Asere, as the Cuban team was known, left a good impression and opened a path, hopefully without setbacks, for them to compete with all their stars in the VI World Baseball Classic, scheduled for 2026.

The eagerness of Team Rubio

Puerto Rico played and lost in the finals of the World Baseball Classic in 2013 and 2017. In this edition, they were placed in the “group of death” alongside Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. Few believed that Team Rubio could advance; however, against all odds, led by Yadier Molina, they defeated the Dominicans in the decisive match and once again included themselves among the top eight teams in the tournament.

That huge victory could not be celebrated. A few minutes after star closer Edwin Díaz struck out the three batters he faced, amidst the celebration, the player fell to the ground with clear signs of pain. The worst fears were confirmed: a serious injury to his right knee, surgery and eight months of recovery.

Despite this terrible news, Team Rubio came out with eagerness against Mexico and took the lead in the quarterfinal match, but the Mexicans rallied and held the difference thanks, above all, to Arozarena’s spectacular fielding in the eighth inning, which prevented the Puerto Ricans from tying the game.

Related content: Five Letdowns in the World Baseball Classic

Venezuela, everything perfect until the eighth inning vs. USA

Venezuela was the best Latin American team in the first phase of the World Baseball Classic. “Arepa Power” made itself felt in Miami, with convincing victories over Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic and more comfortable wins against Israel and Nicaragua.

The stage was set for a clash of titans against the United States. The Venezuelans started off behind in the score, but they equalized and took the lead. Only two innings remained to advance, for the second time in their history, to the semifinals. However, the relief pitching failed at the opportune moment. José Quijada placed three men on base, and then Silvino Bracho threw a changeup down the middle of the home plate to Trea Turner. The now Philadelphia Phillies shortstop hit the ball to left field in what he himself considered the most important hit of his career.

“Unfortunately, this is baseball. We have to accept this and as men, we have to keep our heads up. It’s not easy, especially when the opponent manages to come back in the game,” recognized manager Omar López.

Dominican Republic, the great disappointment of the World Baseball Classic

The vast majority of specialists considered the Dominican Republic among the three most likely candidates to win the World Baseball Classic. The team looked very complete, with big names in the lineup, from Juan Soto to Rafael Devers and Manny Machado; however, nothing worked for “Plátano Power” in the Classic.
The Dominicans fell in their debut match against Venezuela. Then, in the decisive match of the group, against Puerto Rico, they couldn’t hit at the opportune moment and were eliminated.

This debacle will hurt for a long time.

Panama, two wins and a ticket to the next World Baseball Classic

After 14 years of absence from the World Baseball Classic, Panama returned to the tournament. The canaleros achieved their first two victories in the history of the tournament against Chinese Taipei and Italy in the highly competitive Group A. The total number of runs allowed left them in fourth place – all teams finished with a balance of 2 and 2 – but this was enough to guarantee a direct spot in the upcoming Classic.

The other two Latin American teams that competed in this edition of the Classic, Colombia and Nicaragua, finished in last place in their respective groups and therefore will have to play qualifying tournaments to try to return to the tournament in 2026.