Major League Baseball announced today that the 2013 World Baseball Classic Field will be expanded to 28 teams. What does this mean for Team Canada?
World Baseball Classic, Inc. (WBCI) today announced, with the endorsement of the tournament Steering Committee, the introduction of a new World Baseball Classic Qualifying Round for the 2013 World Baseball Classic which will expand the competitive field from 16 to 28 countries.
This new “Qualifying Round” will consist of 4 4-team divisions with the bottom 4 teams from the last iteration of the World Baseball Classic serving as the top seeds in each division. Those 4 teams are: Canada, Chinese Taipei, Panama and South Africa.
These qualifying games will take place in the Fall of 2012 in a six-game double elimination format – the same as the 2009 Classic. The teams are:
*Participated in the 2009 World Baseball Classic
Again, just like in the previous Classic, the composition of the pools will be determined based on geographical location. Although they are situated across the Atlantic Ocean, I have a reliable source that tells me Canada will be in the same pool as Great Britain.
The winners of each pool will advance to join the top 12 teams of the previous Classic: Cuba, Japan, Dominican Republic, China, Korea, Mexico, United States, Australia, Venezuela, the Netherlands, Italy and Puerto Rico.
What it means for Canada is a chance to host another round of WBC games. What better venue to host Canada’s pool than the Rogers Centre in Toronto? The Blue Jays’ home is the only venue that is used in the Major Leagues and is a world-class facility. And if the Canadians don’t make it out of the qualifying round (gasp!), at least Canadian fans will have a chance to see their team perform on the world stage yet again. The Rogers Centre was also a venue for the 2009 World Baseball Classic, hosting a game between Canada and the US that attracted over 40,000 fans.
Although Canada is now in the position of having to qualify for the tournament, I can see nothing but positive outcomes as a result of the expansion. The risk of Canada losing games to the countries listed above is extremely low and the increased experience in international competition will only serve to strengthen the Canadian program. The additional 6 games will bring additional national attention to the Canadian Baseball Program and that can only be a good thing – especially in a hockey-dominated sports market. The best part? The opportunity to get an earlier look at Brett Lawrie as Team Canada’s starting third-baseman.
Many countries have fought hard to participate in this tournament and their inclusion validates them as legitimate players in the international baseball scene. Having visited Spain in 2008, I can tell you that baseball is alive and well there. I’ve played with teammates who have played baseball professionally in France; the French have a very passionate baseball community. The opportunity for España & France to play their way into the World Baseball Classic will only serve to generate more interest in the sport and increase the level of play in their respective nations. I am positive the same can be said for the rest of the nations participating in the event.
“The expansion of the World Baseball Classic from 16 to 28 teams is a testament to the sport’s continuing growth in participation and popularity around the world,” said Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director Michael Weiner. “The overwhelming fan, player and media support bestowed upon the first two World Baseball Classics is at the root of this decision, which makes the World Baseball Classic a truly global competition.”
The expansion to 28 teams now makes the World Baseball Classic the preeminent international baseball tournament in the world. It only serves to heighten the level of anticipation for this great event and I look forward to seeing the level and brand of baseball employed by the additional countries!