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03/23/08 9:00 PM ET
Venues set for World Baseball Classic
Japan, Mexico, Canada, Puerto Rico to host first round in '09
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
The first-round venues are set for the second running of the World Baseball Classic, which will begin on March 5, 2009, in Japan.
As in 2006, Tokyo Dome and Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico, will host first-round games. In 2009, those venues will be joined for the first time by Rogers Centre in Toronto and Foro Sol Stadium in Mexico City.
Rogers Centre is the home ballpark of the Blue Jays, and Major League Spring Training exhibition games have been played at the 27,940-seat facility in Mexico City.
"The 2009 World Baseball Classic will further demonstrate the remarkable global growth of our game," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "There has been incredible demand to host the games of the second World Baseball Classic, and we are pleased to have four international destinations as our first-round venues. We are excited about the 2009 World Baseball Classic and look forward to next March."
The 16-team field is the same as '06, though an expansion of the field to 24 countries and territories with qualifying rounds as a preface to reach the main competition is under consideration for 2013.
Next year's brackets are as follows:
Pool A -- China, Chinese Taipei, Japan and Korea will begin play on March 5 in Tokyo Dome, where the A's are opening the regular season against the Red Sox this week.
Pool B -- Australia, Cuba, Mexico and South Africa, from March 8-12 in Mexico City.
Pool C -- Canada, Italy, the U.S. and Venezuela, from March 8-12 in Toronto.
Pool D -- Dominican Republic, the Netherlands, Panama and Puerto Rico, from March 7-11 in Puerto Rico.
Venues for the second round, plus the combined semifinals and finals are still to be determined, although San Diego's PETCO Park seems to be set for the second round and Dodger Stadium has the inside track for the semifinals and finals.
The semifinals and finals were sold out at San Diego's 45,000-seat home of the Padres in 2006. Japan vanquished Cuba, 10-6, to win the tournament and Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, who now toils for the Red Sox, was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.
Attendance for the '06 tournament at its seven venues was 737,112 tickets sold, a major coup considering that the Asian bracket didn't reach the 80 percent capacity in Tokyo Dome that was originally projected.
It was the first time that Major League players were allowed to represent their native lands in an international baseball tournament. The baseball competition in the Summer Olympics, which is slated for Beijing in August, includes non-25-man roster MLB players only.
In another new wrinkle for '09, a rules change has been made in the qualifying portion of the tournament, which will now be a double-elimination format in the first two rounds.
In '06, there was round-robin play as teams with the top two records in each bracket ascended to the second round and the semifinals with a complicated formula based on runs scored used as the first tie breaker.
The semifinals remain as single-elimination games.
Also, unlike '06, there will be a crossover of brackets in the semifinals. In '06, Cuba defeated the Dominican and Japan ousted Korea in the semifinals.
"The best baseball players in the world are looking forward with great anticipation to playing in the 2009 World Baseball Classic," said Don Fehr, the executive director of the Players' Association, who is a partner with Major League Baseball in the venture. "Implementation of double-elimination and crossover games to the World Baseball Classic next year will make the games even more intense and the tournament even more exciting for both players and fans. It will be an unforgettable experience."