Finally, true Baseball World Cup, now named World Baseball Classic, will really happen on 2006. For the first time, MLB will let his best professional to play the international games. 16 teams will go for the true World Championship.
Before the 2005 All-Star Game, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and Don Fehr, the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, announced the specifics of the tournament.
The countries invited includes: Japan, Korea, China and Chinese Taipei are in Pool A. United States, Canada, Mexico and South Africa are in Pool B. Cuba, Panama, Puerto Rico and the Netherlands are in Pool C. Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Italy and Australia are in Pool D.
The inaugural World Baseball Classic opens its 18-day run next March 3. First, three-day Asian Qualifying Round in Japan’s Tokyo Dome from March 3-6, other three first-round pools will be staged in Arizona, Florida and Puerto Rico from March 8-11. Then end with the title game at a Major League venue in the U.S. on March 20.
Japan has tentatively agreed to participate, but final approval must come from the Nippon Baseball Players Association. Cuba has also yet to accept its invitation. Neither nation was represented at the press conference.
Eight players, wearing the home jerseys of their respective national teams, attended the conference: Jason Bay of Canada; Justin Huber of Australia; Miguel Tejada of Dominican Republic; Hee-Seop Choi of Korea; Andruw Jones, play for the Netherlands; Carlos Lee of Panama; Carlos Beltran of Puerto Rico; and Dontrelle Willis of U.S.
If the 2005 event is successful, it is targeted to be held again in 2009 and then every four years thereafter.
It will be the first international tournament to include Major League players on the 25-man rosters of each of the 30 Major League teams. Each nation will be allowed to carry a roster of 27 players, with a minimum of 12 pitchers. Each of Major League Baseball’s 30 teams will eligible a maximum of nine players to play in the tournament.
In the first round, each teams plays the other three teams in the same pool once, and the two teams with the best records go on to the second round. The winners from Pools A and B and the winners from Pools C and D will form the next pair of four-team brackets.
In the second round, each teams plays the other three teams in the same pool once, and the two teams in each pool with the best records go on to the single-elimination semifinals. The two semifinal winners advance to the single-elimination championship game.
There are 39 total games projected in the tournament.
Any player signed to a Major League contract must be approved to participate in the event by Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association. But any other player in the world is eligible to play for his nation if he is a citizen of that nation, or if the country is his country of origin.
Each team will have a manager and five coaches. Player rosters must be submitted to the International Baseball Federation 45 days in advance of training camps opening for each team — Feb. 26 for teams competing in the Asian Qualifying round and March 3 for the nations opening in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
At that point, all players are subject to Olympic-type drug testing and penalties, including a two-year suspension from international play for an initial positive test. Any Major Leaguer testing positive under the tournament rules would not be subject to penalty under the Joint Drug Testing and Prevention Policy now in force in the big leagues.
Baseball, which was just dropped from the 2012 Olympic Games, has been a gold-medal sport since 1992. Since 2000, only Major League-affiliated players outside each team’s 25-man roster have been eligible to play for any of the teams attempting to qualify or Olympic Games.
MLB hope World Baseball Classic was proof positive that baseball is truly global and hope to help Baseball back to Olympic 2016. And although it is very difficult, maybe one day, the World Baseball Classic would have a similar impact as soccer’s World Cup.