The world of baseball is getting a little tighter this year, and it all starts in Jupiter's Roger Dean Stadium this month. The World Baseball Classic Qualifier, an international baseball tournament with a World Cup-like format, pits nation against nation, bridging cultural and sporting gaps from September 19-23.
Sanctioned by the International Baseball Federation and created by Major League Baseball, the World Baseball Classic is the first tournament of its kind to include major leaguers and was created in part in response to the Olympic committee’s decision to remove baseball as an Olympic sport in 2005. The World Baseball Classic’s first pitch was thrown in 2006 and then again in 2009, when the IBAF decided to turn the tournament into a four-year rotation. The third installment will follow in 2013.
The new rule to allow MLB players had many believing the United States, the originators of the modern game, would be a shoo-in for gold, but the Japanese and the mighty right arm of Daisuke Matsuzaka took the spotlight in 2006 and 2009, leading them to back-to-back titles. In fact, the Untied State’s best showing was a meager fourth place in 2009, with a paltry .500 record (7-7) for the classic. Hopefully this year the Stars and Bars can get their act together and defend our baseball heritage on our home turf, when the finals take place in March in San Francisco’s AT&T Park.
Though popularity for the World Baseball Classic has not yet reached a fever pitch in the United States, the tournament has proved to be incredibly popular overseas, with the 2006 and 2009 finals ranking as some of the highest-rated television ratings in Japan. Bolstered by this, the 2013 Classic has grown in stature, nearly doubling from 16 to 28 teams, thus creating the need for a new round of qualifiers, which are set to begin this month.
Twelve teams have already qualified for the tournament: the United States, Japan, South Korea, Cuba, China, Australia, the Netherlands, Italy, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. Another 16 are set to battle it out in the newly formed qualifying round, and the top team of each pool will move onto the March rounds. Twelve of the newly added teams are first-timers to the classic, representing Colombia, Nicaragua, Brazil, France, Spain, Great Britain, Germany, New Zealand, Israel, Thailand, the Czech Republic and the Philippines. The other four qualifier teams represent Canada, Chinese Taipei, Panama and South Africa, all of which participated in the 2009 Classic but failed to win a game.
The qualifying rounds begin in our own backyard in Jupiter’s Roger Dean Stadium. South Africa, Israel, Spain and France will take to the diamond September 19-23 for six games to determine who will join the chosen 12 in March. Using a modified double-elimination format (check below for an example bracket), the games begin with South Africa playing Israel on September 19 at 7 p.m., followed by Spain vs. France (the Pyrenees Showdown!) on September 20 at 7 p.m. Games three and four will match up the 1-0 and 0-1 teams, with Israel predetermined to play in game three and South Africa in game four; their opponents will be determined by the result of game two. Game five’s first pitch will be thrown at 7 p.m. on September 22, and the final game takes the diamond at 5 p.m. on September 23.
But Florida’s World Baseball Classic fun doesn’t end there. In March, Miami’s stunning Marlins Park will host a second-round match-up, one of the Classic’s semifinals games, though dates are yet to be determined.
- For ticket and game information for Roger Dean Stadium’s qualifier round, visit Roger Dean Stadium’s website: rogerdeanstadium.com; the World Baseball Classic’s website: worldbaseballclassic.com; or Ticketmaster.