03/24/2008 12:04 PM ET
2009 World Baseball Classic announcement
THE MODERATOR: I'd like to introduce the people that will be on the stage today. First, we have Major League Baseball President and COO, Mr. Bob DuPuy; next we have Mr. Gene Orza, Chief Operating Officer of the Major League Baseball Players Association; next from The International Baseball Federation, we have Mr. Harvey Schiller; and Chairman of the Yomiuri Shimbun, Takuo Takihana; and Major League Baseball's Senior Vice President of International Business Operations, Mr. Paul Archey. These are the five people on stage here today. The Commissioner, Mr. Allan Selig, who was scheduled to be here today, has been unable to attend today due to airplane travel.
First we have Mr. Bob DuPuy, Major League Baseball President and COO.
BOB DuPUY: We are very excited to be here to celebrate and prepare for the 2008 Ricoh opening series between the defending World Series Champion Boston Red Sox and the Oakland A's. We thank our great and gracious host Yomiuri for hosting us, and we thank the two teams from the NPB, the Hanshin Tigers and the Yomiuri Giants, for participating in the exciting exhibition games, and we wish both teams well during the upcoming NPB season.
The opening of the Major League Baseball season is a sign of the international reach of baseball, and now we want to talk about another global event that will occur in less than a year, the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
The World Baseball Classic is a unique collaboration of management and players from the NPB, from Korea, from Major League Baseball and from the International Baseball Federation. We thank the steering committee for all of its fine and hard work in organizing the event.
It's very appropriate that we have the announcement of the 2009 World Baseball Classic here in Japan since Japan was the winner of the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006, where it won in thrilling fashion as we saw in the video.
The first World Baseball Classic was an enormous success and exceeded almost all of our expectations for the event. Almost 750,000 fans from countries throughout the world attended the games. The brand of baseball as you saw on the video was unique and exciting and unlike anything we had seen before, and there's great anticipation for the 2009 event.
The steering committee is very pleased to announce that we have invited back the 16 teams that participated in the first World Baseball Classic, and they will compete in the first round in four world class venues that Paul Archey will describe for you in a few moments. These four very worthy sites were chosen from many, many bidders for the first round of the World Baseball Classic, again, indicating the interest in the WBC throughout the world.
I think it speaks very well for the international growth of the game that all four sites for the first round are located outside the continental United States in just our second tournament. This is truly a worldwide event, and these sites represent and reflect its scope.
The global growth of the game of baseball continues to evolve. The World Baseball Classic will be our primary vehicle for celebrating the richness of baseball's cultures and the people who play our game. What we experienced in 2006, which was remarkable by any standard, is only going to improve with time. This is truly one of our most exciting collaborative ventures, and I'm greatly looking forward to next year's event.
Thank you very much for having me.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Mr. DuPuy. Now let us invite Mr. Gene Orza, MLB Players Association COO.
GENE ORZA: A little over three years ago at a meeting very much like this one in Dallas, I said that there probably would be a variety of ways to measure the success of the World Baseball Classic, but one of them for me, as a representative of players, was the degree to which the players who played in the World Baseball Classic, at its end, would come to me and say, Gene, I'm really glad I played in the World Baseball Classic, coupled with the number of players who came up to me at the end of the World Baseball Classic and said, Gene, I'm really sorry I didn't play in the World Baseball Classic.
I'm pleased to report to you that over the course of the last two years in particular, I have had no player who played in the World Baseball Classic say anything other to me than, 'Gene, I'm very proud to have played in the World Baseball Classic, please consider me to play again in the next one.' And I have had countless players say to me, 'Gene, I really would like to play in the World Baseball Classic this time.'
So I'm here to report to you that if you thought that the World Baseball Classic in 2006 was an exciting event with a great display of talented baseball players, wait until you see the 2009 World Baseball Classic. It's going to be bigger and better and stronger, and it's going to make an impression on you even greater than the one I believe it should have made upon you back in 2006.
Back in Dallas about three and a half years ago, I also said something else which I think needs to be said right now, and I want to take this occasion to say it. As a representative of baseball players, we tend to do some things that are related to the representation of your players, like litigate cases, resolve disputes, handle scheduling matters. You don't really get involved in the nuts and bolts of putting on a baseball game, particularly when the baseball games you're putting on traverse the globe.
The World Baseball Classic's success could not be possible without the enormous expenditure of effort, time, energy, enthusiasm of a lot of the people I see in this room, mostly the people who are employed by Major League Baseball and work on behalf of the Office of the Commissioner. So I thought it was important to say it then, and I say it now, what success the World Baseball Classic has has many fathers perhaps, but in fact, one of the prime, if not the prime reason for the success of the World Baseball Classic is the commitment, not only of energy and enthusiasm but of people, human bodies, that the Commissioner of Baseball, Bud Selig, has dedicated to the playing of the World Baseball Classic.
I want to take the occasion to publicly congratulate him and thank him for giving so much of Major League Baseball to this endeavor, this worldwide endeavor, of making baseball the truly international game we all want it to become.
So I'll close by simply saying again what I said earlier. If you thought that the 2006 World Baseball Classic was exciting, as we would say in America, "You ain't seen anything yet."
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Mr. Orza, COO of Major League Baseball Players Association. Now Dr. Harvey Schiller, the president of the International Baseball Federation, please.
HARVEY SCHILLER: Thank you. On behalf of the International Baseball Federation and our 115 member countries, once again, we are very proud to participate in this tournament. This is an exciting time for baseball around the world. As everyone knows the Olympic competition is coming up in Beijing in a couple months. This tournament in the past and this tournament in the future will continue to grow. It is our belief that the participation of so many countries, especially having venues that are truly international, will bring many, many more people to the game.
It's an exciting time for baseball. It's an exciting time for young people around the world to dream about being part of this tournament and other tournaments. We're excited to be here.
I do want to say that with the full cooperation of the professional leagues from the representative countries, as well as the member federations of the International Baseball Federation, this tournament will be fully WADA-compliant, World Anti Doping Agency-compliant, with all their competition testing. We're setting the stage for everything that's right in sport, and I'm proud to say that baseball is taking a leadership position compared to every other sport in the world to ensure that we respect the game of baseball, the game of sport, and we help young people around the world dream these kind of dreams. Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: That was Dr. Harvey Schiller, president of the International Baseball Federation.
Next we have chairman of the Yomiuri Shimbun, Mr. Takuo Takihana.
TAKUO TAKIHANA: Good morning, everyone. Thank you very much for coming so early in the morning to participate in this press conference today, of the 2009 WBC Tokyo round, which will kick off the Classic. I'd like to welcome you on behalf of the hosts, a member of the WBC steering committee. Japan, about 80 years ago, in 1931, hosted the first U.S. Japan All Star Tour, and since inviting Babe Ruth in 1934 has aimed for the internationalization of baseball and its growth around the world.
The WBC, which is the fruit of 10 years of talks between MLB and the MLB Players Association, was held in 2006. The game with the leaders from nations from all around the world, including the Major Leaguers, was something fans all over the world were looking forward to. And it was created to be able to help see that dream come true.
The steering committee of the WBC, WBC, Inc., has been designated as the host of the Tokyo round, of which we are very honored.
We believe we are close to 80 year relationship, especially from the late 1990s when we began to successfully implement MLB related events. This is our understanding. At the last WBC event Japan clocked a dramatic win.
At this time we will be having the home country baseball, the USA, as well as Korea, which clocked two wins against Japan, and second place for Cuba, who has drawn international competitions, and baseball nations Dominican Republic and Venezuela, which is full of baseball superstars. We can expect an even more exciting event this time. And on behalf of the commission and the world, we promise to make the Tokyo round a huge success. Thank you very much.
THE MODERATOR: That was Mr. Takuo Takihana, chairman of the Yomiuri Shimbun.
And now we will hear from MLB Senior Vice President Paul Archey giving a summary of the 2009 World Baseball Classic. Please take a look at the screen in front of you.
PAUL ARCHEY: It is a great pleasure we are here today in Japan in the home of the 2006 World Baseball Classic champion and owner of this great trophy here to my left to make some exciting announcements regarding the 2009 World Baseball Classic. First I'd like to start by presenting the venues that will host the first round in next year's tournament.
As Bob DuPuy mentioned, we're very proud of the fact that we're able to host the first round in four historic international venues. First, Pool A will be held in Tokyo at the Tokyo Dome. It's one of the most recognizable and storied baseball venues in all the world, home of the Yomiuri Giants, also the host of our opening season games this year, as well as many other Major League Baseball All Star Tour Series with Japan as well as two other opening series, also known by many affectionately as the "Big Egg." We're very proud to be starting the tournament here at the home of the 2006 champions.
If you recall, in 2006, the tournament was jump started by the excitement that was here in the first round, particularly in the last game when Korea defeated Japan before the tournament in the United States started, and we're very excited about the opportunity to begin that tournament here.
Pool B will be played in Foro Sol Stadium in Mexico City, Mexico. Foro Sol Stadium is located in the heart of Mexico City, one of the largest cities in the world, home of the Red Devils, who play in the Mexican league. This stadium has also hosted a number of other large international baseball events, as well as the Mexican championship, and also hosted two other Major League Baseball Spring Training games in its history.
Pool C will be played in Toronto, Canada, at the Rogers Centre. Rogers Centre is home of the Blue Jays, who play in Major League Baseball in the American League. It's one of the great international cities of the world. It's also been the host to many great baseball events, including two World Series in the '90s.
Pool D, again, we will return to San Juan and play in Hiram Bithorn Stadium, named after the first Puerto Rican to play in Major League Baseball. Hiram Bithorn Stadium has been the host of many great and exciting international baseball events, including two rounds of the 2006 World Baseball Classic, but also hosted the opening series of Major League Baseball before, as well as the Montreal Expos, a number of games that they played there.
Again, we are very proud to announce these venues and excited that we can bring the World Baseball Classic to four international venues and allow fans in each of those countries and territories to enjoy and participate in the World Baseball Classic.
Next we'd like to present to you the teams that will participate in each pool. First, in the Tokyo pool, we will once again have the same match ups that we had in 2006, China, Chinese Taipei, Japan and Korea. We're very excited about this pool, again, to be able to have the reigning champion to open up the tournament, looking at possible match ups against Korea in a final. The Chinese Taipei team, who just recently qualified for the Olympics, and China, which has one of the fastest growing baseball teams in the country, and we just recently played two Major League Baseball Spring Training games in that country.
The host of the Japan pool is the Yomiuri Shimbun, who has served as our host for a number of Major League Baseball events and has a great participation with our organization. And the tournament will kick off on March 5th and will run March 5th through the 9th here in Tokyo.
Pool B, Mexico City, the teams will include Australia, Cuba, Mexico and South Africa. Again, some exciting match ups in this pool. The runner up from the 2006 World Baseball Classic, Cuba, will open up there; Mexico, who had a very strong showing in the 2006 tournament; Australia, which is the home to more than 100 professional players playing in the United States; and South Africa, which again, has one of the baseball is recognized as one of the fastest growing sports in South Africa, and a team that is continuing to improve, and also capture one of the most surprising teams in 2006 to kind of capture the imagination of many fans playing competitively in the Arizona pool.
Our host will be El Diva, our promoter with a strong partnership and support from the Mexican government, the ministry of sport of the Mexican government, and the dates of that pool will begin on March 8th through the 12th.
Pool C, the Rogers Centre in Toronto, will feature Canada, Italy, United States and Venezuela. Arguably one of the most competitive pools in the first round will feature match ups of many of the teams having professional players, Major League players, will feature Canada playing in front of their home crowd in Toronto, and again, will feature many of the stars of Major League Baseball playing for the United States, Venezuela and Canada.
The host will be the Toronto Blue Jays of Major League Baseball, and the pool will begin on March 8th and end on the 12th, same as the previous pool.
Pool D, Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The pool will consist of the Dominican Republic, the Netherlands, Panama and Puerto Rico, and again, feature some very interesting match ups. Anyone who had the opportunity to be in Puerto Rico to see the excitement, enthusiasm and competitiveness of that pool last year, again, will feature match ups, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, Netherlands, who had the first an only no hitter of the tournament in 2006, and Panama, who came within one pitch of knocking off tournament runner up Cuba in that opening round.
Our host in Puerto Rico will be MB Sports, the promoter who has worked with us on bringing the opening series of the 2006 World Baseball Classic, as well as the Expos, to Puerto Rico. The dates will run from March 8th to March 11th in San Juan.
Next I'd like to announce a couple of format changes to the tournament. We'll switch to double elimination, as well as a crossover in the semifinals or in the final four round, which I will explain to you. First, the double elimination, we are switching from a round robin format within the pools to a double elimination in the first two rounds. On the screen you will see a bracket which is not meant to confuse you but meant to show you how the team how this would play out in a double elimination format.
It's very common in some parts of the world, this type of format. In others it is not as common as a round robin. But we made this move for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, to make sure that we settle the teams that would advance would be settled on the field, not by a tie breaker that was not only confusing to players and teams but confusing to those who organized the games. We wanted to settle it on the field.
The double elimination tournament allows us to do that and not have to rely on a tie breaker of runs scored or head to head competition.
Secondly, it provides us the excitement of knockout games, more compelling match ups when you get to the losers' bracket; that is, you are faced with a more win or go home scenario. We think it presents a much greater excitement for the fans in this type of environment, rather than pool play.
The other format change is a crossover in the final four round among brackets. Simply what I mean by this is coming out of the second round, into the final four, the winner of one pool will play the runner up of the other pool, and vice versa. Again, another diagram that is not meant to confuse you but to explain how that would work. It's not nearly as complicated as that diagram. The winner will play the runner up from the other pool and vice versa, to avoid the scenario that we had in the first tournament that we received a number of comments about, particularly in this country and in Asia, to avoid Japan and Korea playing as they did the last time, three times, or a team playing another team three times on their way to a championship.
Finally, before we move forward, we'd like to once again just say how excited we are to announce these venues, these historic, international venues to host this tournament in the first round and the teams that will play in those pools. As was said earlier by Mr. Orza, we believe the first tournament was exciting and exceeded our expectations, and we believe the second one will only be better. Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: That was Mr. Paul Archey, senior vice president of MLB. Today we have players that participated in the 2006 World Baseball Classic that are essential figures in their participating teams for their opinions and visions. Let me introduce them to you now.
First we have from the Dominican Republic, Mr. David Ortiz, and he's from the Boston Red Sox. Next we have from the United States of America, Mr. Jason Varitek. He is also from the Boston Red Sox; he is a catcher. Also from the United States of America, we have Mr. Huston Street. He's from the Oakland Athletics. And next from Puerto Rico, we have Mr. Alex Cora. He's a member of the Boston Red Sox, the World Series Champions. And we have from Canada, Mr. Rich Harden, pitcher with the Oakland Athletics, and he's scheduled to come to the mound in Japan, as well.
These are the five players that we have with us today. And now we'd like to get some comments from the players. From me there are going to be two questions for all the players. I'd like to ask for your answers to the questions and a message to the fans around the world. First question, your impressions of the first World Baseball Classic; and the second question, your hopes for the second World Baseball Classic, your hopes and aspirations. We'll start off with Mr. David Ortiz.
DAVID ORTIZ: Hello, everybody. It's an honor for me once again to represent my country. It was a wonderful experience, the first one. I mean, everybody wanted to be part of the first one. But I think it was a great idea by MLB, and everybody that was part of it, to come up with an idea like that.
I remember back in my country when they started talking about it, there was a lot of excitement going around, and I'm pretty sure the second one is going to be as good as the first one. Thanks.
JASON VARITEK: I had a phenomenal time. The excitement in the arenas that we played in was far beyond what we imagined these players. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, and I think for our team, for the U.S., that's a great steppingstone for us to look at for the next one.
Again, the experience was phenomenal, the excitement was phenomenal, the level of play was phenomenal, and it was just overall an exciting time, and I would encourage any of the American players to play. Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Okay, the same question to Mr. Street.
HUSTON STREET: For me it was just an absolute honor. Any time you get a chance to put on the uniform of your country and stand in the representation of a sport that obviously has grown worldwide, and I think that was the coolest part for me was just to see how the baseball has grown worldwide, and obviously the competition was extremely strong.
For us, playing with the United States, we just want to come out next year and come together as players and put up a strong showing because it was it's something that we all took a lot of pride in. I remember a lot of us when we were facing elimination, we all came together, and people maybe didn't think we took it as seriously as we did, but there was about 14 of us sitting in a diner listening to the game's play by play just for a chance that we might be able to move onto the next round. I think it's something very special, and we'll look forward definitely to the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Mr. Street. Now Mr. Cora, please.
ALEX CORA: For me personally, it was an honor just to represent Puerto Rico in the tournament, but to be the host team over there in San Juan. As a lot of people know, besides the competition on the field, it was great. You know, I think, as everybody knows here, baseball in Puerto Rico has been fading. We didn't have a winter ball league last year for the first time in 70 years, and I think having the tournament again next year is going to be huge for our country to get back to show the passion that we have for this game. So that's what I'm looking for. It's going to be great for us again, having it in San Juan again next year.
THE MODERATOR: That was Mr. Cora. And Mr. Harden, please.
RICHARD HARDEN: Good morning, everybody. For me I think I'm the only one up here that didn't get an opportunity to play in the last WBC. I was coming off of surgery; I was injured and wasn't able to make it. I was very disappointed.
I think all the games that were in Phoenix, I went out and watched every one and just wanted to be a part of the whole experience. I think it's every kid's dream growing up to get an opportunity to represent your country and play for something like that. You know, I think in this next one, I'm very excited to get an opportunity to do that in my own country, too, and just the pride that you feel getting the opportunity to go out and compete for your country. It's very exciting.
THE MODERATOR: That was Mr. Rich Harden from Canada. Thank you very much for your comments.
Now we'd like to open the floor for questions, question and answer session. If you have any questions, please indicate it by raising your hand.
Q. I'm not sure I should pose this question to, but I have two questions. First one is about after the second round to the semifinals and the final, any plans for the venue for those areas? And also, second question is about the members of the first league. I think membership has been changed except Asia. Why did you change the constituents of the membership?
PAUL ARCHEY: We will announce the venues for the second round as well as the championship round, the final four round, at a later date. When we announce those rounds, one of the things that for the second round we will take into consideration, obviously will be time zones as well as distance to travel. And then the championship round, again, will be announced sometime very soon.
The second question was the pool composition. The pool composition was first of all, in Tokyo it remained the same because primarily for two reasons; one, logistical, taking in travel for the Asian teams, but also fan interest, being able to play with the four Asian teams, play around here in Japan, in close proximity.
The other pools changed slightly, again, primarily for two reasons or three reasons. One, as we mentioned, we felt it was important. We had a tremendous amount of interest in cities and venues wanting to host the first rounds. We're very proud of the fact that we will play the entire first round outside of the 50 United States.
And as we looked to assemble those pools, we tried to take into account competitive balance by looking at a ranking of the teams to make sure that the pools were balanced appropriately, but also taking into account the fact of local fan interest and being able to attract fans. So while playing in Toronto, we wanted to make sure that Canada would play in Toronto. It didn't make a lot of sense to send them to Puerto Rico by having that venue. So competitive balance within the pools and also making sure that the local fans were served.
Q. For Mr. Varitek or Mr. Ortiz, right now you're on the same team with Mr. Matsuzaka and there's a possibility that you will be playing against him in the WBC. What impressions will you have of him then, and what kind of things will you be looking for?
DAVID ORTIZ: Well, people always expect you to do well after your first year, but I think Matsuzaka did a great job for us last year. I mean, first year in the majors as a pitcher is tough, man, because especially in the American League - the American League has a lot of good hitters, and the way he walked in and did what he did last year, I think it was outstanding.
I know, and everybody knows, that he can get it done better, but it takes some experience, what you have right now, and I'm pretty sure he's going to have a great season, even better than last year, because he's an outstanding pitcher and he has great stuff.
I think in the WBC, if I ever get to play him, it's going to be funny because we always at the clubhouse are trying to get to understand and get to know each other. It takes a minute to face your teammates, especially in a situation like WBC where everybody is expecting to win. So we'll see what happens.
JASON VARITEK: By the time we get to next year, Dice will have another year under his belt with us. So as far as my offensive attack against him, I'll come up with that by then. But right now [I'd say] I'm going to bunt (laughter) and then steal second.
Dice has done a great job for us and had -- without the World Baseball Classic, he might not be a Red Sox right now and he might not be a part of a world championship or aiding us to winning a world championship. So this whole venue allows us now the opportunity for the exposure for Daisuke to come up and play with us and ultimately win a world championship. I look forward to another year of playing with him and getting to know him as a player and as a person.
Q. The first World Baseball Classic, I've been reporting on it from the very beginning to the very end, and it was the most exciting tournament I've ever experienced, and listening to the upcoming Classic, I'm very much looking forward to it and I hope that I can report it once again. I have a question for you today, not on the WBC unfortunately but a question to Dr. Schiller and the executives of MLB, a question on something that the Japanese baseball field is worried about, and that is in regards to the Olympics. The 2008 Olympics, that is going to be the last time we're going to be seeing baseball as an event, and I'd like to ask you about that issue, Dr. Schiller. Have you asked the Major Leagues to help you get baseball back into the Olympics? Can you tell me a bit about that, Dr. Schiller? And also, Mr. DuPuy, I'd like to ask you a question. The 2016 Olympics are going to be held in Chicago or in Tokyo, and if that happens, will MLB cooperate? And a question to Mr. Varitek. You have participated in the Olympics and in the WBC, as well. How do you view about baseball being erased as an event from the Olympics? Are you satisfied with that? I'd like to ask the three of you for answers.
HARVEY SCHILLER: As everyone knows, the International Olympic Committee voted in Singapore a few years ago to move baseball off the program following the games in Beijing this year. We are working very hard to return the game to the program in 2016 or even before in London if we can.
The IOC considers this question in Copenhagen in October of next year. We have been focusing and working with Major League Baseball, the Players Association, professional leagues and all of our member organizations to attempt to have the best players participating in the Olympics.
As most of you know, being on the Olympic program is extremely important to our member countries in terms of development and funding.
We feel confident that we can present to the IOC and its program commission the reasons for baseball's inclusion. It's a growing sport, it's a sport for all, and it means a great deal to the millions of people that will play it and have played it around the world.
We are also, as we mentioned, making strong statements about drug testing and anti doping. We're taking a leadership position in that in the sport of baseball. I know there have been a lot of negative reports in the past, but I think that our goal is to work together to ensure that we have a drug free sport, and we have had the complete cooperation of all in trying to get to that particular point.
BOB DuPUY: On the last point first, all of our players are subject to WADA testing when they participate in international events and will continue to be so, so the drug testing issue should not be an issue with regard to the participation of baseball in the Olympics.
We've had numerous discussions with Dr. Schiller and with IOC members about returning baseball to the Olympics. We do cooperate with the International Baseball Federation with regard to fielding teams for the Olympics, and we'll continue to do so and we'll obviously review the situation when the 2016 games are awarded with regard to venue and what can be done to ensure that baseball is returned to the Olympics as quickly as possible.
We currently send 40 man roster players. We will continue to look at that over time.
HARVEY SCHILLER: I would like to add that the bidding cities of Tokyo and Chicago, of course, and others, would present some very, very good venues for the sport of baseball.
JASON VARITEK: My question I think had to do with whether it would be sad if it was lost as an Olympic sport. I was fortunate to be a part of the first one, and once again, we had our learning experiences from that. And I luckily made that team out of basically somebody else getting hurt.
So the experience I had was, beyond doubt, a life experience. I'd hate to have that taken away from other people. A lot of people worked hard to allow it to get in, into the Olympics, but I just hope we're able to spark back the interest to make it a worldwide interest to allow us to continue.
Q. This is for either Gene or Bob. Eligibility questions for players with an issue last time with someone like say Mike Piazza, eligible to play for Italy and the country of your ancestors. Has that changed and are there any adjustments there and changes expected?
GENE ORZA: No, the eligibility rules for the 2009 World Baseball Classic will be the same. I know a lot was written about or commented on concerning eligibility in 2006. The basic premise, though, was we didn't want players similarly situated in the sport to have on one hand the opportunity to play for their country and on the other not be able to. For example, Mike Piazza is eligible for Italian citizenship. Manny Ramirez, no one would suggest he shouldn't be allowed to play for the Dominican, but the rules for citizenship in the Dominican versus the United States are much more restrictive versus those with respect to Italy and the United States.
So in reality what the rules were attempting to do was not to favor Mike Piazza's problem but address Manny Ramirez' problem, which is that he's associated with the Dominican as closely as anyone else, but why should he not be able to play simply because the Dominican had different rules on eligibility and citizenship, whereas Mike Piazza didn't. So we tried to make it given the international scope of the tournament, tried to have a basic premise or a basic ground floor of eligibility that applied to all players equally, and we will have that same system in place for the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
HARVEY SCHILLER: I might make a comment that it's not unlike other sports, ice hockey basketball and many others in terms of eligibility. It's fairly consistent in terms of the way the rules are applied.
Q. The president of the Dominican Republic and the Dominican Baseball Federation announced they will not play in the 2009 World Baseball Classic since there is not a Dominican Republic venue. What is the asset to the Dominican Major Leagues?
GENE ORZA: I hate to do this to you but your information is outdated. We have communicated with the Dominicans, and I think there was some misunderstanding on that, but we have, in fact, confirmed that they not only are willing to play but they have accepted our invitation to play in 2009. That's a later development that perhaps you are not aware of, but in fact, two days ago, Tito Ferreira sent us an email or had a conversation with one of our representatives indicating that he understands now what happened. He had some misinformation and that he had, in fact, accepted our invitation to play. So we expect them to be right up there at the top competing in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. They are, in fact, playing.