In just about three weeks, Major League Baseball Spring Training complexes will open in both Florida and Arizona.While most fans will then begin the countdown to Opening Day, others will be gearing up for the third installment of the World Baseball Classic.
The WBC tournament is sanctioned by the International Baseball Federation and has taken the place of Olympic Baseball. The sport was last contested during the 2008 summer games in Beijing. Since then, baseball and softball were voted out of the 20012 and 2016 games. Part of this decision has to do with the regional nature of the sport. While baseball is huge in North and South America as well as the Far East, it has a very small following throughout the rest of the world.
Twelve teams that won at least one game in the 2009 WBC were guaranteed a spot in this year’s tournament. The remaining four spots were contested last fall by 16 nations. The winners, Spain, Brazil, Canada and Chinese Taipei will be joining the rest of the participating countries.
Round One of the tournament proves that the event is truly a global one. Between March 2nd and March 10th round robin games will be played on opposite ends of the world as follows:
- Pool A featuring Japan, Brazil, China and Cuba at the Fukuoka Yahoo! Japan Dome in Fukuoka, Japan.
- Pool B featuring Australia, Chinese Taipei, Korea and the Netherlands at the Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium in Taichung, Taiwan.
- Pool C featuring Spain, Venezuela, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
- Pool D featuring Italy, Mexico, Canada and the United States at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona.
Round Two will feature double elimination with the Pool A and Pool B winners and runners up at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo March 8-12. Pool C and Pool D teams will hold their second round matches at Marlins Park in Miami, Florida March 12-16.
Finally, the Championship will be contested over three games at San Francisco’s AT&T Park March 17-19.
The World Baseball Classic has yet to generate a ton of excitement among fans here in the states. It has however, allowed baseball enthusiasts in other parts of the world to be a part of the sport and see their players compete with Major Leaguers.