The 2013 World Baseball Classic is here, and I’m PUMPED! There’s a tinge of sarcasm, but I unapologetically love the WBC. I don’t insist you share the same level of enthusiasm I have for the tournament, but any baseball fan worth their salt should be paying attention. The WBC is where I got my first real glimpses (live and on television, but I did see everyone listed live) of players like Yoenis Cespedes, Yu Darvish, Aroldis Chapman, and Daisuke Matsuzaka before they came to the United States. Not to mention the number of players we may never see, for whatever reason. I have a personal fascination with the Cuban team, for this very reason.
I have genuinely never had more fun at a baseball game than I have had attending World Baseball Classic games. Fans of Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Korea are a particularly amazing bunch. Energy, joy, and passion you rarely see at the ballpark. Maybe we can learn something from how these fans approach the game.
Players to watch:
Yulieski Gourriel (Cuba): Gourriel is 28, and probably would have defected by now if he was ever going to, but I’ve been fascinated by him since the 2006 tournament. Hits for average, power, and decent glove.
Jose Abreu (Cuba): First baseman with big time power. Here’s a Jonah Keri article that will do him more justice than I can.
Alfredo Despaigne (Cuba): Slugging outfielder. Had his single-season home run record broken by Cespedes and Abreu (tied at 33), then went ahead and reclaimed it this past season (36). Despaigne was paced by Abreu the entire season, passing him with an inside-the-park home run on the final day of the season.
Masahiro Tanaka (Japan): The current buzzworthy pitcher out of Japan, expected to be the next big transfer to MLB.
Xander Bogaerts (Netherlands): #12 prospect in all of baseball, according to Baseball Prospectus. Unfortunately, he’s a part of the Boston Red Sox organization.
Jen-Ho Tseng (Chinese Taipei): 19 years old, and he’s hitting 95 on his fastball. MLB clubs are watching, and so should you.
Padres in the WBC: Edinson Volquez (Dominican Republic), Luke Gregerson (USA), Chris Denorfia (Italy), Jesus Merchan (Spain), Mark Hardy (Canada), Corey Adamson (Australia). Former Padres Chris Oxspring and Justin Huber are also playing for Australia. Anthony Rizzo is playing for Italy, so watch and be thankful we avoided a quarterback controversy.
FUN WBC FACT: In the Netherlands, baseball is known as Honkbal. Honkbal is fun to say. Honkbal.
Pool A: Brazil, China, Cuba, Japan (Japan Dome – Fukuoka, Japan)
Pool B: Australia, Chinese Taipei, Korea, Netherlands (Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium – Taichung, Taiwan)
Pool C: Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Spain, Venezuela (Hiram Bithorn Stadium – San Juan, Puerto Rico)
Pool D: Canada, Italy, Mexico, United States (Salt River Fields and Chase Field – Phoenix, Arizona)
Supposedly, all of these games will be televised on MLB Network and/or ESPN Deportes.
Round One (Round Robin format): Pool winners and runners-up advance to next round (all times Pacific)
Friday, March 1:
- 8:30 p.m. Australia @ Chinese Taipei (Pool B)
Saturday, March 2:
- 2:00 a.m. Japan @ Brazil (Pool A)
- 3:30 a.m. Korea @ Netherlands (Pool B)
- 7:30 p.m. Cuba @ Brazil (Pool A)
- 10:30 p.m. Netherlands @ Chinese Taipei (Pool B)
Sunday, March 3:
- 2:00 a.m. China @ Japan (Pool A)
- 11:30 p.m. China @ Cuba (Pool A)
Monday, March 4:
- 2:30 a.m. Korea @ Australia (Pool B)
- 8:30 p.m. Australia @ Netherlands (Pool B)
Tuesday, March 5:
- 12:00 a.m. Brazil @ China (Pool A)
- 3:30 a.m. Chinese Taipei @ Korea (Pool B)
Wednesday, March 6:
- 3:00 a.m. Japan @ Cuba (Pool A)
Thursday, March 7:
- 12:00 p.m. Italy @ Mexico (Pool D)
- 3:30 p.m. Venezuela @ Dominican Republic (Pool C)
Friday, March 8:
- 11:30 a.m. Canada @ Italy (Pool D)
- 3:30 p.m. Spain @ Puerto Rico (Pool C)
- 6:00 p.m. Mexico @ United States (Pool D)
Saturday, March 9:
- 8:00 a.m. Dominican Republic @ Spain (Pool C)
- 11:30 a.m. Canada @ Mexico (Pool D)
- 2:30 p.m. Puerto Rico @ Venezuela (Pool C)
- 6:00 p.m. United States @ Italy (Pool D)
Sunday, March 10:
- 9:30 a.m. Spain @ Venezuela (Pool C)
- 1:00 p.m. United States @ Canada (Pool D)
- 4:30 p.m. Dominican Republic @ Puerto Rico
The rest of the schedule is up in the air, as times can be changed and may vary depending on who qualifies. Keep your eye on this page for the most up-to-date schedule beyond the first round. In the second round, Pool A and B winners and runners-up play one another, same with C and D. A/B second round games take place in Toyko, Japan, C/D games take place at Jeffrey Loria’s Baseball Funhouse (Marlins Park). Semi-finals and finals take place at AT&T Park March 17-19.