World Baseball Classic Qualifier Preview: Sydney (Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Africa)

The first qualifier for the World Baseball Classic will feature an eclectic group of three “Commonwealth” nations in addition to the Philippines, and while it’s likely that the host Australians will come out on top, it will be interesting to see how the others do, especially New Zealand, which arguably has the fastest-growing baseball program in the world.

Go below the jump for the more:

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World Baseball Classic Update for February 9, 2016

As we barrel towards the World Baseball Classic Qualifiers, here’s the latest news:

 

The Run-Up to the Sydney Qualifiers:

First off, the most important news for all of us is how we’ll be able to watch it. And good news! In the USA and Canada, all games will be on the World Baseball Classic website! Go to the link to see how else you can watch it, as select games will be on TV on MLB Network and all games will be on ESPN in the Pacific Rim area, although some games will be tape-delayed.

There have been some changes to rosters since they were first announced. Perhaps the most notable addition has been that infielder Gift Ngoepe has been added to South Africa. Probably the best African baseball player in history, Gift is now on the Pirates’ 40-man roster, which probably delayed it being official.

Various teams have been playing informal warm-up games in the run-up to the qualifiers. You can see pictures and info on some of New Zealand’s play on their Facebook page, for example.

The New Zealanders will be wearing #37 on their uniforms in memory of Lincoln Holdzkom, who died in a car accident last year.

In other WBC news:

Tickets are now on sale for the Panama City portion of the Qualifiers.

Attention Britons and people with fairly close British ancestry: the United Kingdom’s baseball team is holding open tryouts on Sunday, March 6th!

Athletics catching prospect Bruce Maxwell, who was born in Germany, will be part of the German team in their qualifying tournament.

There are a few other stories I’ve missed, but I’m hard at work on the WBC Qualifier preview for Sydney, so those other stories will have to wait until next time!

 

 

(Blogathon ’16) WBC News for January 29, 2016

This post is part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page.

It’s time for a World Baseball Classic update! With the first qualifiers coming up, more news has started to come out. Let’s take a look at some of the news:

Sydney Qualifying Pool Rosters and Schedules released:

On Wednesday, the rosters and schedules for the Sydney qualifying pool came out. They can be found over here on Baseball America. I’ll have a more thorough preview as we get closer to the event, but it’s definitely a case where Australia should be considered the heavy favorite, full of players with experience in MLB or the Minors. After Australia, it’s a fight for the second spot to face them in a winner-take-all game to get to the main tournament. Clay Rapada is probably the most notable player outside of the Australians, as he will be playing for the Philippines, the country of his father’s birth, before retiring. Former All-Star Jason Bartlett, also of Filipino descent, was also expected to play, but I don’t see him on the roster.

News from other qualifying pools:

As I mentioned last time, the qualifiers, unlike the main tournament, are not events where MLB teams are required to allow 40-man roster players to take part if there’s an overlap with official team acitivites. This will most hurt a team like Mexico, where the Blue Jays are unlikely to allow their three Mexican players from taking part in the March qualifier in Mexicali.

Jon Morosi, one of the best people to follow for WBC news, had information on his Twitter feed on the German team, who will be managed by Garth Iorg (yes, that Garth Iorg). Depending on what difficulties Mexico has, they could be a threat in Mexicali, even with Max Kepler likely skipping as he tries to win a spot on the Twins, they will have Donald Lutz, one of the few Germans with MLB experience.

Bruce Chen, who retired last season, is apparently willing to pitch for Panama.

Other WBC News:

Ozzie Guillen is totally up for managing Team Venezuela in 2017.

 

And that’s it… for now.

Keep an eye out for more WBC news on the Baseball Continuum as it occurs.

At 9 AM: International Baseball Culture

This post has been part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page.

World Baseball Classic News for 12-17-2015: Catching Up

It’s time to catch up on some World Baseball Classic news!

 

Lincoln Holdzkom passes away

First off, though, there is tragic news out of California, where New Zealander-American pitcher Lincoln Holdzkom has passed away after a car accident. Holdzkom, the brother of John Holdzkom of the Pirates organization, was expected to be the team captain for New Zealand in the WBC Qualifiers. Our thoughts are with him and his family and friends.

Mexico’s roster starts to take shape

Jon Morosi has an article on the Mexican National Team that has begun to take shape. Edgar Gonzalez will be the manager for Team Mexico in the WBC Qualifiers and presumably the main tournament as well if they qualify. His younger brother, Adrian Gonzalez, will be on the roster. The team could be pretty deep in pitching, Morosi writes:

Mexico’s preliminary roster will be especially deep in pitching, with Yovani Gallardo, Marco Estrada, Roberto Osuna, Aaron Sanchez, Miguel Gonzalez and Dodgers prospect Julio Urias among the notable arms certain to be included on it. Pitchers Jorge De La Rosa, Joakim Soria and Olivez Perez also are eligible to play for Mexico, as is Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier, who is Mexican-American.

However, there are some problems that could trip up Mexico. For one thing, while MLB teams are very strongly encouraged to allow players to participate in the qualifiers, they are not required (unlike the main rounds of the WBC, where they are only allowed to officially block player participation if they are coming off an injury or there are too many players being picked from their roster). In addition, there is an ongoing feud between the Mexican League and Mexico’s national baseball federation that will make the participation of Mexican Leaguers iffy.

Edwin Rodriguez will begin recruiting for Team Puerto Rico

In a Spanish-language article on Elnuevodia.com, there is the news that Edwin Rodriguez will soon begin to recruit for Team Puerto Rico. While the article mentions how he will try to make an effort to get players of Puerto Rican descent (like Jake Arrieta) to take part, I personally think it’s more likely they’ll have to rely upon native-born Puerto Ricans like Yadier Molina, Carlos Beltran, Angel Pagan, Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, and the like. All of them are mentioned in the article. Puerto Rico came in a surprising second in the 2013 WBC.

Other Notes:

So, until next time, this has been a WBC update!

World Baseball Classic News for 9-17-2015: Qualifier Pools Announced!

Well, I told you that more news was probably coming, and today it was confirmed, as the World Baseball Classic qualifying pools have been announced! They are (all qualifiers in 2016):

 

Qualifier 1 (Sydney, Australia on February 11-14th):

Australia

New Zealand

Philippines

South Africa

Qualifier 2 (Mexicali, Mexico on March 17-20th):

Mexico

Czech Republic

Germany

Nicaragua

Qualifier 3 (Panama City on March 17-20th):

Colombia

France

Panama

Spain

Qualifier 4 (Brooklyn on Sept. 22-25th):

Brazil

Great Britain

Israel

Pakistan

As you can see, they’ve mixed up the locations (only Panama is a return qualifying host), the pools (no pool has more than two teams that were in the same individual pool last time), and also teams (Pakistan has replaced Thailand). Some things to note here:

  • MLB players will be able to participate in Qualifiers 1-3, but not Qualifier 4.
  • It is again a modified double-elimination, meaning it’s double elimination until there are only two, at which point it’s a winner-take-all championship game. I’ve always had a problem with this format and feel a straight-up double-elimination would be better, but I understand how the organizers would like the drama of a winner-take-all game.
  • Qualifier 4, in Brooklyn, is clearly meant to be a pool of teams that don’t have pro-worthy stadiums in their countries. It’s likely Brooklyn was picked due to New York’s diverse nature, with MLB and the other WBC organizers no doubt hoping that the city’s large Jewish population will turn up for Israel games.
  • Looking at this right now, I’d say that Qualifier 2 will probably have the highest level of talent, Qualifier 3 will be the hardest for any one team to get out of, and Qualifier 4 will be the hardest to predict. Qualifier 1, by contrast, looks like it should be a fairly easy draw for Australia.
  • I’m somewhat surprised that the Philippines is in Qualifier 1. I had a feeling they might make it an All-Commonwealth pool and have the Philippines be in New York City. At least, that’s what I thought after reading Jon Paul Morosi’s original post before it was official.

 

So, look in the coming days and no doubt more news will come out and I’ll take a look at some of the teams and other aspects of the qualifying tournament- like Pakistan’s baseball program.

 

WBC News for September 9, 2015: Some other stuff

There’s some other World Baseball Classic news I forgot to get to yesterday:

First off, way back in April, Russell Martin said he’s totally up for another go-around for Canada in 2017. He infamously missed the 2013 Classic because he wanted to play middle-infield.

In March, Jon Morosi- the biggest WBC booster amongst mainstream MLB writers- talked a bit about it. The 12 teams that didn’t finish last in their groups (Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Puerto Rico, South Korea, United States and Venezuela) will automatically get a bid. No major changes are expected in the actual WBC itself, although the teams that finished last in their groups (Mexico, Australia, Brazil and Spain) will have to go through qualifiers to qualify again. He indicated that Mexico, Germany, Australia and Panama were the likely places to hold qualifiers, due to facilities and likelihood to participate. He estimated that most qualifiers would occur in September and/or November of 2016, although he says that Australia may host in February of 2016 after the end of their league’s season but before Spring Training.

Speaking of which, the New Zealand baseball federation’s twitter feed implied that, indeed, there will be an Australian-based qualifier in February next year. However, I personally e-mailed Australia’s baseball federation asking about where they stand as far as the WBC, and they said that they have yet to hear from WBC Inc. (the company formed by Major League Baseball, the MLBPA, the IBAF and other professional leagues to manage the tournament), although they do know they will, as expected, have to go through qualifiers. It’s possible, perhaps even likely, that there will be a qualifying round in Australia in February 2016, but it’s definitely not official yet.

Finally, there was some talk that the Mexican portion of the qualifiers would be held in Mexicali, Hermosillo, or Monterrey.

Remember to follow the Baseball Continuum for more WBC news as it comes out in the coming weeks, months and years.

 

2014 SEASON PREVIEW (PART 8): Everything you wanted to know about the opening series in Australia but didn’t ask

So, it won’t be long before the 2014 MLB Regular Season starts… in Australia. Yes, this year, it starts in Sydney, Australia. You may or may not have questions about this, but I don’t particularly care what you think, so for our latest preview, we look at these two games that will start off the season.

Okay, first thing’s first, give me the basic details of this thing again?

The LA Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks are going to play a two-game series at Sydney’s Sydney Cricket Grounds. These are regular season games that count in the standings.

Okay, so when are they taking place?

Game one takes place around 4 AM Eastern (1 AM Pacific) on March 22nd, with the second game taking place later that date at around 10 PM Eastern (7 PM Pacific). The reason for that is due to the international date line- locally the first game takes place a bit past 7 PM on the 22nd and a bit past 1 PM on the 23rd. Fun fact: Due to these games being in the Southern Hemisphere, the MLB season will, for the first time, START in Fall, as opposed to merely ending in it.

In addition, both the Dodgers and Diamondbacks will have exhibitions against the Australian National Team on the 20th (Dodgers) and 21st (Diamondbacks).

Who’s the home team here?

The Diamondbacks will be the “home” team.

Is it on TV here in America?

Yup. They’ll be on MLB Network, with Matt Vasgersian and Tom Smoltz calling it, with Ian Chappell providing further commentary.

The games will also be on the local TV broadcasts in Arizona and LA. The games about the Australian National Team should be available online, for example on MLB.TV.

Who’s Ian Chappell?

One of the greatest Australian cricketers of all time and a major fixture of Australian TV coverage of Cricket, Chappell has a baseball pedigree, and his son had a brief stint in the minors. Presumably he will be there to provide some local flavor, such as information on the Sydney Cricket Ground, some Australian traditions, etc.

Speaking of which where is this being played, again?

The Sydney Cricket Ground, established in 1848 (although renovated and/or rebuilt several times since then), is one of the world’s most storied cricket venues. It has also been used for both rugby union and league, the Commonwealth Games (at the time called the “British Empire Games”), Australian Rules Football, soccer, concerts, and, yes, at one point baseball- the Chicago White Sox and New York Giants played there during their 1914 world tour.

For baseball, the fences have been set up as 328 down the lines, 370 in the gaps and 400 to straightaway center. Here’s how they changed it from cricket to baseball:

So, who’s pitching?

Game 1: Clayton Kershaw vs. Wade Miley (filling in for Patrick Corbin, who is hurt)

Game 2: Hyun-Jin Ryu vs. Trevor Cahill

Where’s Zack Greinke?

Partially not there because an injury screwed up his throwing schedule, partially not there because his rather… unfiltered… thoughts about how he felt about starting the season in Australia. Carl Crawford and Matt Kemp also didn’t make the trip due to injury.

Are there even any Australians on these teams?

Sort of. Ryan Rowland-Smith. AKA “Hyphen”, is fighting for a spot in the Diamondbacks bullpen. He definitely will be playing in the exhibition games- in fact, the Diamondbacks have given him permission to pitch for Team Australia against the Dodgers.

Can you give me a brief history of baseball in Australia?

From my 2013 WBC preview:

The first baseball in Australia was played by American expats and their friends in the 1850s, but it wasn’t until the 1870s that the first organized teams were formed. The sport received more attention during the World Tours of barnstorming MLB players in the 19th and early 20th century and by the time American servicemen arrived in Australia during WWII there was a small but devoted amateur culture of baseball, one that has survived to this day. However, baseball has not yet been able to get permanently get past that amateur status, with two professional leagues (the Australian Baseball league of 1989-99 and the International Baseball League of Australia of 1999-2002) failing and a complete lack of professional baseball until the new Australian Baseball League was formed with MLB help a few years ago.

What will the crowds be like? I mean, you just said that professional leagues have struggled to survive and that it’s amateur baseball is simply “small but devoted”.

Well, they’ve sold out (or come very close to selling out) both games. It’s also likely, if reports are anything to go on, that they are going to be Diamondbacks fans.

Is this going to be one-off, or a regular thing?

Well, baseball has becoming increasingly driven in expanding the game’s reach internationally, and just having the WBC and the occasional opener in Japan isn’t going to be enough. Already there is some talk that MLB could return to Australia in 2018 if this series is a success, and there have also been rumblings about games in the Netherlands. And, just this year, there have been exhibition games in Panama City and, later in the spring, a return to Montreal. So, yeah, this is going to be a regular thing. Maybe it won’t be in Sydney, maybe it won’t even be a return to Tokyo, Mexico or Puerto Rico (although all of those are certainly possible), but there will be more openers overseas in the future.

Like where?

Besides obvious suspects like Korea, Taiwan or the Dominican Republic (none of which, amazingly, have ever hosted an official MLB game), I wouldn’t be surprised if you see rumblings about maybe doing series in other countries that play cricket, since it’s a lot easier to turn a cricket ground into a baseball field than, say, a soccer pitch. So, don’t be surprised if we end up seeing games in New Zealand (where baseball is the fastest-growing team sport) and the United Kingdom (although the weather there could be a problem) in the not-that-distant future.

Can I see the picture of Vin Scully holding the Koala Bear?

Okay.

Next time: More baseball previewing!