Yes, there will be another World Baseball Classic.
A joint steering committee overseeing the tournament made official on April 20th. what long has been presumed: that the second international baseball competition to include Major League players will be staged in March 2009, with dates and venues yet to be determined.
Additionally, all eight teams that advance to the second round in first World Baseball Classic — the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Puerto Rico, United States and Venezuela — will receive the first invitations. The remaining eight will be determined and unveiled by the seven steering committee members in December 2007, but it will be a tough decision, for there are many countries interested in participating.
“We are extremely pleased with the impressive results of the 2006 World Baseball Classic and excited about the momentum and anticipation it has generated for the upcoming 2009 event,” said Bob DuPuy, MLB’s president and chief operating officer. “As international baseball continues to develop and thrive, and the supply of quality baseball nations grows, the task of selecting the 16 deserving teams has become increasingly difficult,” DuPuy said.
The eight countries that were eliminated in the inaugural first round were China, Chinese Taipei, South Africa, Canada, Australia, Panama, Italy and The Netherlands. There has been a desire from other baseball-playing countries to be included in the 16-team field, and some that so far don’t play the game. Israel, for example, is starting its first professional baseball league this summer and is seeking a berth in the next Classic.
“Numerous countries, far more than we currently can invite, are clamoring to get in,” said Gene Orza, the chief operating officer of the MLB players association and its representative to the steering committee. “Given the limitations on the size of the field that we face at this date, we want to make sure that the widespread interest in participation gets the attention it deserves.”
The first tournament was such a rousing success that the steering committee announced a dispersal of $8 million to the International Baseball Federation (IBAF), plus the baseball federations of the 16 nations and commonwealths that participated based on their finish in the tournament. The federations are expected to distribute a minimum of $3.3 million to their local baseball programs. And in addition, the IBAF will receive $1 million to continue developing the game globally.
Attendance at the seven venues was 737,112 tickets sold, the semifinals and finals were sold out at PETCO Park, undoubtedly a front runner to host the Classic’s climax again in 2009. The steering committee said it would begin taking bids for venues immediately.
Last time, the games were also hosted in San Juan, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Ariz., Anaheim and Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Japan won the initial tournament from March 3-20, 2006 with a squad featuring just two major league players by defeating Cuba 10-6 at San Diego’s PETCO Park, while Communist Cuba made it to the final with the latest generation of their amateur dynasty.
Many US major leaguers shunned the Classic in favor of pre-season workouts with club teams in advance of the April opening of the US season. Some had suggested moving the event to November, after the major league World Series, but major league baseball commissioner Bud Selig had voiced doubts about a change.
Thursday’s meeting in New York was the second for the steering committee, which is made up of officials from Major League Baseball, Nippon Professional Baseball, the IBAF, and representatives for the MLB and NPB players associations.