Finally, after months of negotiations between the Nippon Professional Baseball Officials and the players’ association, they have conclusion on Friday.
One of the main professional league, Japan decides to play in the 2006 World Baseball Classic next March, and they delivered an acceptance four-paragraph letter to Major League Baseball’s Tokyo office, “We are pleased to tell you that we accept your invitation to the 2006 World Baseball Classic,” to confirm they will join the first-ever, truly world champion, 16-nation tournament.
“I am pleased that Nippon Professional Baseball and its Players Association have agreed to participate in the first ever World Baseball Classic,” said Commissioner Bud Selig. “Japanese players are among the best in the world and their participation in this event is important to the global growth of the sport. All of us in baseball are looking forward to this extraordinary tournament. It is great for the game of baseball.”
“All of us in baseball here in America are gratified that Nippon Professional Baseball and the Japanese Professional Baseball Players Association have agreed to participate in the Classic,” said Donald Fehr, Executive Director of the MLBPA. “I’m sure all the other participants feel the same way, for a Classic without Japan would be missing a country where baseball is played at the highest level of talent and expertise.”
“This is the first step toward playing in a truly international tournament, something our association has been longing for,” said Yakult Swallows catcher Atsuya Furuta, head of Japan’s players’ association.
Because Japan’s season start earlier then MLB, and the WBC are being organized by MLB but not by IBAF or third party, both NPB and NPBPA originally had objected to participate.
Besides, the tournament time of 2006 World Baseball Classic and wanted to have more input into future editions of the event, set to return in 2009 and every four years thereafter is also reason to cause Japan said no until now.
However, after several negotiations, including face-to-face meetings last month in New York between officials from MLB and MLBPA with NPB and NPBPA, Japanese players finally approved to join the inaugural baseball tournament which including the best players.
Manager of Softbank Hawks, Homerun King Sadaharu Oh, has been asked to manage the Japan Team. Although Oh did not officially agree, he has responded positively about this job.
So the First Qualifying Round of Pool A (include Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China) will play in the Tokyo Dome from March 3-6. The other three Pools will begin on March 8 in Phoenix, Florida and Puerto Rico.
As far as venues for the games go, MLB has been listening to bids from franchises in Southern California, Arizona and Texas to host the semifinals and finals in Major League stadiums. An announcement on that is expected shortly.
After Japan’s decision, international baseball giant Cuba is the only nation yet to accept an invitation to appear in the 2006 World Baseball Classic.
Due to political differences, Communist nation Cuba needs U.S. State Department clearance to allow Cuba team to play on United States. And Cuba also worries about their players might seek political asylum in the U.S. during the tournament.
Besides, despite 270 MLB players will be eligible to play in WBC 2006, none will be eligible for the Cuban team since all Major League players who are native Cubans have already been given asylum elsewhere
Hope politics won’t influence the Cuba to join the history event.