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03/03/08 8:10 PM ET
Team DR demands Classic venue
Dominican contingent will skip tournament if site isn't offered
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- The Dominican Republic won't participate in the 2009 World Baseball Classic unless the Latin American nation that is home to a plethora of Major League stars is considered as one of the venues. "If we do not receive any of the phases, we will not play in the 2009 World Classic," Leonardo Matos Berrido, general director of the Dominican team, told ESPNdeportes.com on Monday. "We sent a formal request to the organizing committee of the World Classic last November, and they didn't even have the courtesy to respond in either way." The committee that determines the makeup of the Dominican team called a press conference on Monday in Orlando to announce its decision and lodge its complaint. Hector Pereyra, president of the Dominican Baseball Federation, said his country deserves the recognition because of its rich baseball history. Countless great players, including Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Albert Pujols and Vladimir Guerrero, were born and raised in the Dominican Republic, where they learned to play baseball on many of its barren sandlots. "We believe that the Dominican Republic deserves this kind of opportunity, to present events of this magnitude," Pereyra said. "Over the past 30 years, our country has produced the largest number of foreign players in the Major Leagues." Paul Archey, Major League Baseball's vice president of international business operations, told ESPNdeportes.com that he was not aware of the Dominican's sentiments, "nor have I been contacted by any Dominican authority to speak on the matter." Archey couldn't be reached by MLB.com to comment. The steering committee that determines venues is about to certify the sites for the upcoming Classic and an announcement is expected by the end of the month. The entire first round will be played outside the U.S. next year, with Toronto, Mexico City, Puerto Rico and Japan having the inside track on those games. The second and third rounds are expected to be staged in the U.S., with San Diego as a clear possibility for the second round and Los Angeles the favorite to host the semifinals and finals. In the inaugural Classic two years ago, the Dominican joined Cuba, Japan and Korea as the finalists at San Diego's PETCO Park. Cuba defeated the Dominican squad and then lost in the finals to Japan. Daisuke Matsuzaka, now pitching for the Red Sox, was the tournament MVP. In 2006, first- and second-round games were played at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and the first round Asian bracket was played in Japan's Tokyo Dome. The rest of the games were played in the U.S. The Dominican Republic was one of 16 teams in the initial tournament, and the same group has been invited to return in 2009. The Dominican automatically qualified by virtue of the fact that it was one of the eight teams that ascended to the second round in '06.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. MLB.com reporter Marty Noble contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.