MIAMI — It will be talked about for generations.
A moment in history that will be stored in a time capsule.
A scene so dramatic that it belonged in a Hollywood movie studio, and played out in real time Tuesday night, leaving the baseball world in a frenzy.
It was so full of emotion that when Shohei Ohtani was the last to arrive into the interview room, after being voted the Most Valuable Player of the World Baseball Classic in Japan’s 3-2 victory over the United States, he let everyone take a rare peek inside his soul.
"I believe," Ohtani said, "this is the best moment in my life."
It was a sentiment shared by everyone who had the privilege of watching it unfold before their eyes.
"Did you think," Los Angeles Angels three-time MVP Mike Trout said, "that it was going to end any other way?"
Trout, captain of USA’s team, had been answering questions for the past two months about the possibility of facing his Angels teammate Ohtani in the WBC title game.
"I think as a baseball fan," Trout said, "everyone wanted to see it."
It seemed like an impossible ask, but there it was, with two outs in the ninth inning, and Japan clinging to a 3-2 lead.
Trout walked to the plate.
Ohtani stood on the mound.
And a sellout crowd of 26,058 at loanDepot Park stood up screaming.
"He’s a competitor, man," Trout said. "That’s why he’s the best. He likes to compete, and you can’t take that away from him.
"I’m like that too."
Ohtani, who had not pitched in relief since 2016 while in Japan, twice walked from the bench to the bullpen in preparation for the moment. He actually went back and forth in a single inning when Japan sent six men to the plate in the sixth, needing to make sure he was ready if his spot came up in the order as Japan’s DH.
He slowly started walking from the bullpen to the mound in the ninth inning, letting the crescendo build, staring straight ahead.
This is the moment he had waited for, bringing the WBC title back to Japan, and proving they can play with anyone.
Ohtani gave an impassioned speech before the game, telling his teammates to forget about the names on the back of Team USA jerseys, ignore the numbers on their baseball cards, and have the belief they can win for their country.
Now, here was Ohtani, having to face the 2022 NL batting champion in Jeff McNeil, the 2018 AL MVP in Mookie Betts and the three-time AL MVP in Trout.
"We were excited," USA coach Michael Young said. "Shohei Ohtani is an incredible player, but look at who we were bringing up there. We had the guy who won the batting title, three MVPs, and one of the best players of all-time going up there. We were in win-mode at that point."
Ohtani walked McNeil, who was replaced by speedster Bobby Witt Jr. Next up, Betts, the dangerous leadoff hitter. But on Ohtani’s second pitch, a 98-mph fastball, he grounded into a routine double play.
The stage was now set and the crowd stood in appreciation of the moment, as Trout, Ohtani’s teammate since 2018, stepped to the plate.
"I thought it was like a Manga," said Japan first baseman Kazuma Okamoto, "like a comic book."
First pitch: Slider, 88 mph. Ball 1
Second pitch: Swinging, fastball, 100 mph. Strike 1.
Third pitch: Fastball, 99.8 mph. Ball 2.
Fourth pitch: Swinging, fastball, 99.8 mph. Strike 2.
Fifth pitch: Fastball, 101.6 mph. Ball 3.
Trout stepped out, and momentarily exhaled.
"I saw him take a big deep breath," said USA manager Mark DeRosa, "to try and control his emotions. I can't even imagine being in that moment, the two best players on the planet locking horns as teammates in that spot."
Trout believed Ohtani was going to fire another fastball.
Instead, Ohtani came back with an 87-mph sweeping slider.
Trout didn’t have a chance.
He swung, and hit nothing but air.
It was just the 24th time in Trout’s career, spanning 6,174 plate appearances, that he struck out swinging at three pitches.
Ohtani yelled into the night, stretched out his arms as wide as they would go, threw his glove into the air, then his baseball cap, and was mobbed by his Japanese teammates.
— MLB (@MLB) March 22, 2023
"Obviously, it didn’t come out the way I wanted it to," Trout said. "But I think as a baseball fan, everyone wanted to see it."
It was such a magnificent moment, bigger than the game’s outcome, that Trout and most of the USA players hung out on the field after the game, taking pictures with family members, and talking about the matchup for the ages.
"It’s funny how fate works," USA third baseman Nolan Arenado said. "Everybody wanted to see it, and they got it.
"The unfortunate part is that we lost, but it was still pretty cool."
Said Young: "It couldn’t have been drawn up any better. They are teammates, arguably the two best players in the sport, and they are staring at each other at the end of this great, incredible tournament."
DeRosa says it only started to dawn on him in the late innings, perhaps as early as the seventh, that Ohtani was going to enter the game. He saw him leave the bench and wander down to the bullpen, and never return, until the ninth.
"I wish we had a 7-2 lead and he wasn't pitching,’’ DeRosa said, “but my mind was in the fact that the baseball world's going to win tonight. They're going to get the two best players in the game on the same team getting after it with two outs in the top of the ninth.
"I mean, you really can't write it any better.
"I just would have liked to have seen Mike hit a 500-foot homer instead of the result."
Trout, who described the WBC tournament as the ultimate joyride, was obviously disappointed, looking back at the scoreboard three times while walking back to the dugout. He wasn’t about to let that one at-bat tarnish his memory.
It’s the first time he ever played in the WBC, and he guaranteed he’d be back in 2026.
"It’s probably the funnest 10 days I ever had," Trout said. "I talked to a lot of people about this. Fans come to the ballpark, obviously cheering for their team, but then you got families and people coming to the ballpark cheering for their country. It’s different. I can’t really express what’s different about it, you just feel it in your veins.
"It’s great for baseball. It just sucks it didn’t go the way I wanted to.
"He won Round 1."
Welcome to the club.
There’s a reason MLB teams already are salivating at the chance to sign Ohtani as a free agent, no matter if its costs $500 million, $600 million or partnership in the franchise.
He had a surreal slash line of .435/.606/.739 with four doubles, a home run, 10 walks, while also yielding a 1.86 ERA with 11 strikeouts in 9 2/3 innings.
"You know what blows me away on the stage," DeRosa said, "is the fact that no moment's too big for him … What he's doing in the game is what probably 90% of the guys in that clubhouse did in Little League or in youth tournaments, and he's able to pull it off on the biggest stages.
"He is a unicorn to the sport."
Certainly, St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Lars Nootbaar knew all about Ohtani before he arrived to play for Japan, but after becoming his teammate, he really can’t adequately find the words to describe him.
"All you got to do is just be born to be able to throw a 100 (mph) and hit the ball 500 feet," Nootbaar said laughing. "But, no, he's exceeded all of my expectations. He's able to do stuff that I can't even dream of doing."
There’s no one in the history of major league baseball who was ever in the starting lineup as a DH, and finished the game as the closer, trying to squeeze time in between at-bats just to warm up.
The road map to Ohtani being able to pull it off was set a few days ago, with the Angels’ blessing. It would be for one inning, making sure to limit his pitches, and returning him back to the Angels in time to start Friday in a spring training game to assure he’s ready for opening day.
Well, he still has 10 days to worry about opening the season against the Oakland A’s.
For now, he’s got a championship to celebrate.
"This is one of the things that I wanted to achieve," he said. "This really proves that Japanese baseball can beat any team in the world."
Perhaps, Team Japan manager Hideki Kuriyama, a former journalist, said it best:
"Baseball is great, and it kind of describes life."
Only on a baseball field, on a magical night in South Florida, can a baseball fantasy turn into actual reality.
A night that may never be forgotten.
Follow Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout provide perfect ending for WBC thriller