Players From 16 Countries Will Compete In World Baseball Classic

By Dialogo
March 06, 2009

MLB developed the World Baseball Classic for countries that have an interest in playing.I think its a good idea, and will eventually catch on.But, all players should participate for the country in which they were born Star players from 16 countries are ready to represent their native lands in the 2009 renewal of the World Baseball Classic (WBC). China and defending champion Japan competed in the first game March 5. The building enthusiasm for the tournament reflects two notable developments in the sport: the worldwide reach of what once was strictly an American game and, reciprocally, the diverse makeup of U.S. major league rosters. Most of the national teams will include players on loan from the U.S. major leagues. The team from the Dominican Republic, whose 25-man roster will be composed entirely of major leaguers, includes some of the U.S. game’s brightest stars — from Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees and David Ortiz of the Yankees’ archrival Boston Red Sox to pitcher Pedro Martinez and slugger Alfonso Soriano. Major League Baseball’s commitment to the tournament is clear from its willingness to give up more than 200 players during the important “spring training” period ahead of the 2009 regular season, breaking the usual training rhythm. The move is not completely altruistic, to be sure. By showcasing the talents of stars who have made good in the United States, baseball executives hope to enhance the sport’s worldwide appeal even further. With baseball dropped as an Olympic sport after the 2008 games in Beijing, where South Korea won the gold, the WBC has become the one true international competition. Baseball officials are pushing hard to have the sport reinstated at the 2016 Olympics, competing with rugby, golf, squash, karate, roller sports and softball for one of two openings on the program. The initial round of WBC games will be held at venues in Tokyo, Mexico City, Toronto, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Second-round action among surviving teams will be held starting March 14 at stadiums in San Diego and Miami. The championship games will be held at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles starting March 21. The 36 umpires assigned to officiate in WBC games include 21 from the U.S. major leagues, four from Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and two from the Korean Baseball Association. Others are from Canada, Mexico, Panama, Cuba and Australia, and two represent the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. Carlos Beltrán, a hard-hitting center fielder for the New York Mets, reflects the pride expressed by many WBC participants. “There is not one experience in baseball, in the big leagues, that is bigger than playing for your country,” he told major league Web site after being named to Puerto Rico’s team. U.S. baseball teams provide a treasure trove of foreign-born players to draw upon. Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig’s office has reported that 239 of the 855 players on rosters at the start of the 2008 season were born outside the 50 states. That amounts to 28 percent, or just slightly less than the record of 29.2 percent set in 2005. The Dominican Republic produced the largest number of those players, 88, followed by Venezuela (52); Puerto Rico (29); Japan (16); Canada (14); Mexico (11); Cuba (eight); Panama (five); Australia (four); Taiwan (three); Colombia, Curacao and South Korea (two each), and the Netherlands, Nicaragua and the U.S. Virgin Islands (one each). The New York Mets led all teams with 15 foreign-born players on their 40-man roster. Even more striking are the figures for the minor leagues, the smaller-market entry point for virtually all future major league stars. There, 3,356 of 7,021 roster players — a record 47.8 percent — were born outside the 50 states. The 2009 tournament is the second WBC, coming three years after Japan won the inaugural 2006 Classic by defeating Cuba in the championship game, 10-6. Sponsors hope to hold future events once every three years. Japan and Cuba continue to boast strong teams, but who will win this year is anyone’s guess. Cuba’s situation is unique among the WBC field. The Cuban government places restrictions on emigration. Cuban-born major leaguers defected to play baseball in the United States. Consequently, Cuba uses only Cuba-based players. Still, it has regularly placed high in international competitions. Team USA manager Davey Johnson is optimistic about his team’s prospects this year, despite a disappointing finish in 2006 when the United States was knocked out early after back-to-back losses to Korea and Mexico. This time, Johnson told, “I think the United States is the team to beat.” His players, he says, “are all fired up to want to represent [their country] … and have a good showing.”