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The Philadelphia Inquirer
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Scott Lauber

Trea Turner, J.T. Realmuto, and Kyle Schwarber look back on WBC experience with pride

MIAMI — Here’s the thing about playing in the World Baseball Classic: There isn’t much time to reflect on it. One day, you’re hitting a home run against Japan in the championship game in front of 36,000 fans; the next, you’re back in Phillies camp, getting four at-bats in a meaningless Grapefruit League exhibition at a minor league ballpark.

But for a few minutes late Tuesday night, after Team USA fell to Japan and the great Shohei Ohtani, Trea Turner pledged his allegiance to playing in the WBC again in 2026.

“Definitely do it again,” said Turner, standing on the field at LoanDepot Stadium and still wearing his blue Team USA jersey as his 2-year-old son, Beckham, tried to run the bases. “If they have me, yeah, I would love to.”

Oh, they’ll have him. If not for Turner, the Americans’ run in the WBC likely would’ve ended last Saturday night in the quarterfinals. But he brought them back against Venezuela with an eighth-inning grand slam, Team USA’s signature moment from its eight games and this year’s equivalent to Adam Jones’ catch in 2017.

Turner didn’t stop hitting, either. He went 9 for 23 (.391) and slugged five homers, tying a tournament record set in 2006 by South Korea’s Seung Yuop Lee.

“I will say this until I die: That Trea Turner homer against Venezuela will be one of the greatest memories for everyone in that room,” Team USA manager Mark DeRosa said. “I think it just brought the team together.”

Turner wasn’t sure what to expect when he left the Phillies to join Team USA in Phoenix. He knows players who loved the WBC experience and others who loathed it. But Turner and Phillies teammates J.T. Realmuto and Kyle Schwarber were struck by how quickly the team came together.

“It was a blast,” Realmuto said. “I would much rather do this. Spring training can drag out a little bit, so it’s nice to get two weeks away and have these at-bats that mean a lot.”

Never mind that Realmuto got only 12 at-bats while alternating starts with Dodgers catcher Will Smith. Schwarber got 14, mostly as Team USA’s designated hitter. Realmuto had eight Grapefruit League at-bats before leaving for the WBC; Schwarber had 13. Neither is worried about being ready when the Phillies open the season on March 30 in Texas.

“This is like the best at-bats that you could ever get before a season,” said Schwarber, who continued his torment of Japan’s Yu Darvish of the Padres by hitting an eighth-inning homer against him in the championship game. “You’re not really tiptoeing your way through a spring training at-bat. You’re coming in and competing. It’s time to win. I don’t feel like the quantity [of at-bats] is a problem because I would say everyone got really good quality.”

Regardless, it’s back to reality now for the Phillies’ trio.

Schwarber said competing in the WBC was “one of those bucket list items,” but one that he hopes to do again. Realmuto said he’s in for 2026, too. Team USA captain Mike Trout, who struck out in a dream matchup against Angels teammate Ohtani in a championship-game ending that will be talked about for years, has indicated that he would play again, too.

There are inherent problems with the WBC. Timing is the biggest issue. Wedging the tournament into spring training isn’t ideal, but there isn’t an ideal time to play it.

MLB frowns on teams for discouraging their top stars to compete. Still, Mets closer Edwin Díaz‘s season-ending knee injury while celebrating Puerto Rico’s quarterfinal victory and the wayward pitch that broke Astros second baseman Jose Altuve‘s hand won’t make clubs any less wary about letting their players go. And Turner suggested that some players already feel pressure to stay in spring training camps.

“I don’t think it’s on the players. I think it’s more on the teams,” he said. “I’m sure guys want to be here and they’re not allowed for whatever reason. I’m sure some players don’t want to be here. But I would say 95 percent of people would like to play in this.

“This tournament was different, unique, and something you can’t really recreate unless you have all the guys play for their country, have these fans show up, and just all have this energy. It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed it. It’s stuff that I’ll always remember.”

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