PHOENIX – While major league organizations prepare to open spring training facilities next week, the clubs will have to share most of March with the World Baseball Classic.
This is the fifth occasion of the international event and a tournament that the United States last captured in 2017. Because of the pandemic, the 2021 tournament was canceled and delayed until 2023.
As a result of baseball dropped as an Olympic sport in 2005, the WBC began operation. With a 16-team field in the initial 2006 tournament, the field has grown to a present 20 clubs. Teams are arriving at training sites in three countries and the finals of the tournament are scheduled for the Miami home of the Marlins in mid-March.
Until that period, the tournament features the top players in the world and competition, especially between the United States and the Dominican Republic, which they would likely meet in this competition, should provide an elite quality.
The 20-teams are divided into four sections and identified as Pool A, Pool B, Pool C and Pool D. The United States, managed by Mark DeRosa, is placed in Pool C along with Great Britain, Mexico, Columbia and Canada. Perhaps the stronger division is Pool D and which includes the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and Nicaragua. Israel is placed in Pool D.
When the rosters were announced late Thursday afternoon, the competition gods were active and kind. For Team USA, expect to see Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Kyle Schwarber, Jeff McNeill, Trea Turner, Pete Alonso, Tim Anderson, Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, J.T. Realmuto, Will Smith Ryan Presley, Nestor Cortes, Kendall Graveman, Clayton Kershaw Adam Wainwright and Diamondbacks’ Merrill Kelly.
Match this team against the Dominican Republic and includes Julio Rodriguez, Juan Soto, Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., Rafael Devers, Nelson Cruz, Manny Machado, Jeremy Pena, Jean Segura, Gary Sanchez, Sandy Alcantara, Johnny Cueto, Hector Neris, and Diamondbacks’ Ketel Marte.
Because of extended family background, several major league players are playing on teams fans would not expect, Consider, Freddie Freeman playing for Canada, Joc Petersen for Israel, and the Diamondbacks’ Alek Thomas for Mexico. All but two players for Israel were born in the United States, and all players on Venezuela were born in that nation. Venezuela is the only team to have no foreign-born players on its team.
Among players, there are 13 from the Arizona organization scattered about 12 teams. Only Italy has two Arizona organization players, outfielder Dominic Fletcher and right-hander Mitchell Stumpo, on its squad. Of the 13 players, five players are listed on the Diamondbacks’ 40-man roster.
WHERE TO SEE THE WBC – Competition opens in four sites and includes Taichung, South Korea, Tokyo, Phoenix and Miami. The United Sates opens play on March 11 against Great Britain at 12 noon, Phoenix time, in Chase Field. The other contests for Team USA in this bracket include March 12 against Mexico (7 p.m.), Canada on March 13 (7 p.m.), and Columbia on March 15. All games in the Pool C bracket are scheduled for Chase Field.
Mexico is scheduled to meet Canada in Pool C on March 15 at 12 noon in Chase Field. The last time these two teams met in WBC competition a major fight broke out and spilled into the stands at Chase Field. One Canadian sportswriter remarked at the time, “came to a baseball team and fight broke out. Felt like I was right at home.”
Teams from South Korea and Japan from Pool A and B advance to the semis in the Tokyo Dome on March 15 and 16, and semis, for Pool C and D, are slated for Loan Depot Park, home of the Marlins, on March 17 and 18. Tournament finals is scheduled for Miami on March 19-21.
ELSEWHERE … Andruw Jones, father of Diamondbacks’ former number one draft pick, is the bench coach for the Netherlands … Tony Perezchica, the current Diamondbacks’ third-base coach, is the third-base coach for Mexico