Category Archives: International baseball

News from the European Leagues, International tournaments and the fortunes of the Great Britain National Team

World Baseball Classic Qualifiers in March

This time of year is always exciting for baseball fans. Pitchers and catchers started to report to MLB Spring Training camps yesterday and British baseball teams are stepping up their pre-season training ahead of their 2020 campaigns.

We have even more reason to be excited this year, though, as Great Britain will be competing in a World Baseball Classic qualifier in Arizona at the end of March.

The only problem is, there still isn’t a huge amount of detail about the event barely a month before it is due to begin.

Although rumours of the qualifiers had been out there for a while, the event was only announced officially on 28 January. The published details confirmed that 12 teams would compete across two six-team tournaments to determine the final two qualifiers for the full 2021 WBC event. Both tournaments will be staged at the Kino Sports Complex in Tucson, Arizona.

Pool 1 takes place between 12-17 March and will consist of the following teams:

  • Brazil
  • France
  • Germany
  • Nicaragua
  • Pakistan
  • South Africa

Pool 2, the important one for us, follows this up between 20-25 March:

  • Czech Republic
  • Great Britain
  • New Zealand
  • Panama
  • Philippines
  • Spain.

Predicting international tournaments is always a challenge due to the fluid shape of the rosters from event to event and that’s especially the case for the WBC, where some Minor League prospects are released by their parent MLB team to compete.

The Great Britain programme has done an impressive job in recent years of creating an environment in which MLB teams trust them to provide a level of professionalism in how they will take care of the players. Liam Carroll’s team has benefited from some quality additions to the roster as a result in recent WBC qualifiers, not least shortstop Jazz Chisholm who was ranked by MLB Pipeline recently as the 66th best prospect in baseball.

Work will be going on behind the scenes to piece together the strongest group of Lions possible, mixing some MLB-affiliated talent with stalwarts of the Great Britain and domestic British baseball scene.

The full tournament format details can be found on Each pool will be comprised of a nine-game double elimination competition.

Great Britain’s first game, against the winner of Spain vs. New Zealand, will be on Saturday 21 March, although it is an evening game in Arizona and will actually start at 3.30 am for us. That’s 3.30 am on a Sunday though, which is supposed to be a day of rest and in this case can serve as a day of rest following an early start! The rest of the schedule will be determined by whether GB win that game or not.

The last two WBC qualifiers that Great Britain have been involved with have been streamed live for free on, so hopefully that will be the same for these two events as they should provide some great action to liven up the Spring Training period.

Frustratingly, the official website still states that ticket details “will be available soon”. I’ve been contacted by several people over the past week or so, people in Arizona or those heading out there, eager to know more and having failed to receive information from other official sources. You do get the sense that this is all a bit ‘last minute’, which is a real shame considering how much these events mean to the baseball communities of the countries involved.

Fingers crossed that clarification will be forthcoming soon and, whether from Arizona or the UK, we can start planning how we can follow Great Britain’s progress.

U23 European Championships This Week

In a busy year of international baseball, the latest competition sees Great Britain heading to Prague for the Under 23 European Championships.

Drew Spencer of the London Mets has taken on the role of GB’s U23 Head Coach and he will lead a team to the Czech Republic looking to build on the positive performances shown by the U12s and U18s so far this summer.

The U23 event takes place from Wednesday to Sunday and consists of eight teams spread across two first round pools.

Great Britain are in Pool A alongside France, Germany and the Netherlands, with Pool B containing Belgium, Croatia, Ukraine and the hosts, Czech Republic.

GB Schedule

Great Britain’s First Round schedule is as follows:

  • Wed 7th – Netherlands (15:00 local, 14:00 in UK),
  • Thurs 8th – Germany (15:00 local, 14:00 in UK),
  • Fri 9th – France (13:30 local, 12:30 in UK).

Once the First Round games are complete, the top two teams from each Pool will play semi-finals on Saturday (Pool A 1st vs Pool B 2nd etc), with the winners heading to the Final on Sunday and the losers playing a Third-Place game.

The teams that finish third and fourth in the First Round will play out their own Second Round on Saturday and Sunday, so all eight teams are ensured of five games across the five days.

Full Schedule details are available on the CEB Tournament webpage.

How To Follow The Action

The hosts Eagles Praha stream their league games live from their main field on YouTube, so that’s likely to be used during the U23 tournament. Great Britain’s games on Wednesday and Thursday will be played on that field, with the Friday game being on the Tempo Prague Field which doesn’t appear to have a live webstream presence.

As always with CEB events, there will be a live game tracker available from the main tournament page, whilst no doubt the Great Britain Baseball Twitter feed will be providing updates as well.

Tie-breaker brings an end to Great Britain U18’s Euro Qualifier

Great Britain U18’s bowed out of the European Championship U18 Qualifier in Sundbyberg, Sweden, on Friday.

After Belgium mounted a 5-run final inning comeback to beat Israel, Great Britain entered their game on Friday evening against Sweden knowing that a win would send them through to Saturday’s final, but a defeat would leave their fate in the hands of the CEB’s dreaded Teams Quality Balance equation.

Unfortunately a 6-2 defeat, including a lengthy delay in the bottom of the sixth inning due to a problem with the floodlights, meant the latter did come into play and brought an end to their tournament.

Will Lintern’s team mounted a typically spirited final-inning fightback, plating one run and then having the bases loaded when Sweden were able to get a ground-out to end the threat.

Despite getting the victory, it turned out to be a frustrating night for the home team. Had Israel held onto their lead in the earlier game then Sweden’s 2-0 record against GB and Belgium would have sent them through to the final. Instead, the TQB tie-breaker was needed to separate Sweden, Britain and Israel’s 2-2 records and the Swede’s fell one run short of bettering Israel’s TQB score.

Positives to take

Every tournament gives players the opportunity to develop and there were plenty of signs of that on display for Great Britain.

Jack Seppings went 6-for-14, led the team in runs scored (7) and stolen bases (4 from 4 attempts, including 3 in the game against Switzerland) whilst also pitching 6.1 innings across three appearances.

Michael Flaherty went 6-for-13 with 3 doubles and James Warren proved to be an RBI machine, leading the team with 8 runs batted in.

William Baranello will surely learn a lot from his two starts in the event, showing a real ability to miss bats with 12 strike-outs over 8 innings pitched. If he can pair that with developing his control (11 walks and 3 wild pitches) then he could prove to be an exciting prospect.

Aside from what shows up in the stats, every inning pitched, every inning in the field and every plate appearance would have been valuable learning experience for the young Lions. The future looks bright even though the team didn’t quite go as far as they might have hoped this time around.

Full tournament details can be found on the CEB website.

Up next …

Great Britain’s U23 team are in tournament action next, heading to Prague in the Czech Republic for the U23 Euros. The competition begins on 7 August.

Great Britain U18s look to secure qualification for the 2020 U18 European Championships

UPDATE: I’ve updated this post to correct it (rather than leave it up and post a new one that might get overlooked). The CEB competition rules state two teams go through but I overlooked that there are two qualifying pools! So, only the first placed-team will advance.

Great Britain U18’s staged a sensational comeback against Israel in Sundyberg, Sweden, on Thursday to give themselves a great chance of qualifying for the U18 European Championships next year.

Will Lintern’s team conceded 4 runs in the bottom of the first inning to be in an early hole against an Israel team that had won its first two games of the tournament. However this just set the stage for the Young Lions to roar back later on. They trailed 6-4 heading into the top of the sixth inning (the games here only lasting 7 innings rather than the usual 9) before turning the game on its head.

Great Britain scored 2 two-out runs in the sixth inning to draw level and then took the lead in the top of the seventh inning on a sacrifice fly by catcher Aidan Pearce that brought home Nathan Simmons. Jack Seppings had minimal margin for error in the bottom of the seventh inning but a 1-run lead was all he needed as he pitched around a hit-by-pitch to close the game out.

Where does that leave us?

Friday is the last day of the preliminary round before the qualifier final on Saturday.

Here are the standings heading into the final day.

2Great Britain21

Belgium and Israel will face each other at 13.00 UK time before Great Britain take to the field against Sweden at 17.30 UK time.

If Great Britain win their game they will be guaranteed a spot in the Qualifier final on Saturday. If Sweden win it then they alongside GB and the loser of the Belgium-Israel game will all be tied on 2-2 (the winner of that game will move to a 3-1 record and make the final). How that plays out depends on which of Belgium or Israel are left in the tie-breaker conundrum.

If Israel defeat Belgium

In this scenario the Great Britain and Sweden game will essentially become a semi-final. If GB win they go through with Israel, both on 3-1 records. If Sweden win then they would come out on top on the first tie-breaker rule, results between the teams tied, as they would hold a win against both of the teams they are tied with (whereas Belgium and Great Britain would both be 1-1).

If Belgium defeat Israel

It becomes more complicated in this scenario as Great Britain, Israel and Sweden would all be 1-1 in results against each other. That means it would go on to the second tie-breaker, CEB’s dreaded Teams Quality Balance (TQB) equation.

Teams Quality Balance (TQB) is the sum of runs scored divided by the number of innings played on offense minus the number of runs allowed divided by the number of innings played on defense. (RS/IPO)-(RA/IPD)=TQB.

The TQB is calculated with four decimal places. The fifth decimal place is used to round up or down

Currently, if my sums are correct (warning: that is not a given!), Israel have a decent lead (0.43095) ahead of GB (0.05) and then Sweden (-0.23333); however those figures could change substantially depending on the results of the final games. And it won’t just be a simple calculation either: a 1-run loss for GB would affect things differently depending on it being 0-1 or 5-6 etc.

So, what result do we want from the Belgium-Israel game?

From an odds point of view I guess Belgium winning is preferable because that would at least give Great Britain a second chance even if they lost against Sweden; however the clear-cut, winner-goes-through scenario that would follow an Israel victory in the opening game would be less of a brain-scrambler.

Of course, the best result would be for Great Britain to beat Sweden and make the earlier Belgium-Israel result irrelevant (other than in deciding who GB will face in the final). That would make everyone happy.

Other than Sweden.

But then they gave us Abba which ultimately led to the film Mamma Mia (and Mamma Mia 2), so they’d just have to accept that karma was on our side.

How to follow the games

You can follow along either by using the classic CEB ‘Gameday’ scoring system on their website or watch via the Sundbyberg Heat YouTube channel.

The route to the 2020 Olympics is set out for European nations

Everyone’s focus is mainly on club baseball at this time of year, with Major League Baseball’s Opening Day soon to be upon us and British teams playing friendlies as the gear up for the start of the domestic season in early April.

However, some significant international baseball (and softball) news has just been announced. The World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) has confirmed the qualification process for the 2020 Olympics.

Baseball and softball were last in the Olympics in 2008 and they’ve been given another chance by virtue of their popularity in the host nation, Japan.

The full details can be found in the news article on the WBSC website.  Our focus is of course on Great Britain and the potential route to an Olympic appearance for European teams.

The first challenge is to finish in the top 5 of the European Baseball Championships. Those teams will go on to an Africa/Europe qualifier alongside the winner of the African Baseball Championship/Qualifier 2019.  The winner of that six-team event will qualify for the Olympics.

The runner-up will go into a six-team Intercontinental Qualifier alongside the 2nd and 3rd Place finishers from the Americas Qualifier, the top two finishers from the Asian Championship 2019 (not including nations already qualified for Tokyo 2020) and the winner of Oceania Qualifier 2019.

So that’s the route the European teams will need to navigate to get to Tokyo 2020.  If we look at the standings from the last five European Championships we’ll see who the favourites to get through to the Africa/Euro Qualifier will be.

1Netherlands1Netherlands1Italy1Italy1 Netherlands
2Spain2Italy2Netherlands2Netherlands2 Great Britain
3Italy3Spain3Spain3Germany3 Spain
4Germany4Czech Republic4Germany4Greece4 Germany
5Czech Republic5Germany5Czech Republic5Sweden5 France
6Belgium6France6Sweden6France6 Sweden
7France7Belgium7Greece7Czech Republic7 Italy
8Sweden8Russia8France8Great Britain8 Croatia
9Great Britain9Great Britain9Belgium9Belgium9 Ukraine
10Croatia10Greece10Croatia9Spain10 Russia
11Greece11Sweden11Great Britain11Croatia11 Austria
12Russia12Croatia12Russia11Ukraine12 Czech Republic

The same five teams have been in the top five in the past three Euros: Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Germany and the Czech Republic.  Something disastrous would have to happen for the first two not to make it.  Spain had a blip in 2010, but you would expect them to at least be best of the rest and Germany haven’t been out of the top five during that period.  The Czech Republic have really raised their levels over the past 10-15 years and they’ve got three consecutive top five finishes against their name.

All of which shows the rest of the teams are going to have to go some to knock the existing top five out of Olympic contention.

Great Britain haven’t been too close to the top five in recent years so there is plenty of work to do, yet the outstanding silver medal from 2007 shows that it is possible for a team to have a great tournament and upset the odds.  Liam Carroll’s team will be aiming to do just that in Germany next year.

Will the World Baseball Classic be a Classic we can’t watch?

The World Baseball Classic begins on Monday morning.

The tournament opener comes from Seoul where South Korea will host Israel. The latter defeated Great Britain in the final of their qualifying tournament last September to reach this stage, so British fans might be forgiven for not wanting to watch what might have been.

However, as things stand, they won’t have to make that choice.

Currently there appears to be no coverage of the WBC on UK television and, as MLB.TV’s coverage is exclusively available to U.S. customers, no other way to watch the event.

The distribution rights for the tournament are held by a company called MP & Silva. Two deals were announced on Thursday regarding coverage in Latin America and Australia, but not details have been forthcoming in regard to Europe.

The 2013 event was shown in the UK on ESPN (now part of the BT Sport stable of channels), with the semi-finals and final also shown on Eurosport the day after they took place. BT Sport would be the realistic home for the WBC as the holder of MLB rights; however no WBC games are on their own TV guide schedule for the next week at time of writing and looking a bit further ahead on other TV schedule sites (Radio Times etc) doesn’t offer any hope either.

It may be that BT Sport and/or Eurosport will show the tail-end of the tournament, but even that is not guaranteed right now.

All of which is a real blow for baseball fans in the UK. None of us would expect there to be a fierce bidding war for baseball rights here, and perhaps Great Britain making it through to the main event would have changed things, yet failing to get the tournament on British TV would be a real negative at a time when MLB is actively seeking to bring games to these shores in the near future.

The MLB.TV blackout is especially frustrating in this context. If we can’t watch the games on TV (nor perhaps baseball fans in other countries), why not allow MLB.TV subscribers to watch them via this method instead?

Maybe there will be a solution from somewhere. Perhaps a deal will be concluded and TV coverage will be available (although that doesn’t look likely, at least for the majority of the event) or maybe once the tournament begins we’ll find that those of us in non-TV coverage territories will be able to watch it online (streamed on YouTube for free etc)?

Or maybe we’ll just be left reading stories and watching post-game highlights?

Considering the WBC is designed to be MLB’s big event to raise global exposure of the sport outside of the States, that would be a huge disappointment for us all.

To bastardize a well-known saying, if the baseball-promoting World Baseball Classic isn’t available for us to watch, does it really promote baseball at all?

Great Britain make solid start to Euro qualifier

British Baseball Beat is taking a break for this week, but I can’t let things pass without adding onto my Twitter comments here by highlighting Great Britain’s current involvement in the European Championship B-Level qualifying tournament.

Team GB had a disappointing time of things in last year’s European Championships, finishing 13th out of the 14 teams and effectively relegating them out of the A-group of teams. This means that they need to get through a qualifying tournament to make it back to the Euros next year.

The competitors in the group are Bulgaria, Poland, Slovenia, Switzerland and the Ukraine and Team GB are seen as favourites, but we all know that easy games in international competition are rare and if you’re not fully on the case, an inspired day on the mound by your opponent’s pitcher could see you in trouble.

The event started on Monday and so far it’s all going to plan with Great Britain unbeaten after three games. The host nation Switzerland put up a real fight in the opening game and only trailed by a single run, 5-4, before Team GB put together a six-run eighth inning to eventually ease away to a 15-4 win.

Game Two against Poland was ended early after seven innings with GB leading 13-3 and Wednesday brought another ‘mercy-rule’ win, this time a 12-0 victory over Slovenia.

The Slovenia success was especially notable as the team included five players who had competed for the Great Britain 23-U team last year, something coach Liam Carroll was justifiably proud to celebrate:

It’s great to see the hard work put in by the players and their families, coaches and volunteers being rewarded with well-deserved call-ups to the senior team.

Add on the impressive Farnham Park facility now being up and running and there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic for the future of the game here in Britain.

Here’s hoping there will plenty of people sitting in those seats cheering on Team GB for many years to come.

World Baseball Classic: Semi-final and Final coverage

The final three games of the 2013 World Baseball Classic will be broadcast live on ESPN America. Eurosport will also be showing repeats of the games during the daytime.

Semi-final 1: Puerto Rico v Japan.

First pitch is scheduled for just after 1 a.m. in the early hours of Monday 18th U.K. time (just after 6 p.m. on Sunday 17th local time in San Francisco). Right-hander Kenta Maeda is slated to take the mound for Japan with Mario Santiago starting for Puerto Rico. The game can be watched again from 6 a.m. on ESPN America on Monday, or from 8.30 a.m. on British Eurosport 2.

Semi-final 2: Netherlands v Dominican Republic.

First pitch is scheduled for just after 1 a.m. in the early hours of Tuesday 19th (just after 6 p.m. on Monday 18th local time in San Francisco). The Dutch are continuing to fly the flag for European baseball and will face a tough test against a Dominican team that has yet to be beaten so far in the tournament. ESPN America will be showing the game live, whilst it will be repeated on British Eurosport 2 on Tuesday morning from 8.30.

The Final.

The 2013 WBC Final will begin at just after midnight in the early hours of Wednesday 20th (5 p.m. on Tuesday 19th local time). Once again, ESPN America will show the game live and they and British Eurosport 2 will then show a replay over Wednesday lunchtime (ESPN America starting at midday, Eurosport at 12.30 p.m.)

World Baseball Classic this weekend

The World Baseball Classic has started with a bang, especially for two of the European teams.

The Netherlands looked impressive as they made their way through their First Round Pool in Taiwan earlier in the week and they started their Second Round Pool in the early hours of Friday morning, U.K. time, with a great win against Cuba.

It will be called a “shock” by some, a “surprise upset” by others, but the Dutch should get more credit than that considering how they performed in the 2009 event and their World Cup triumph in 2011. They’ve got a good team and although going all the way will be very difficult, don’t casually dismiss their chances of doing just that.

Meanwhile Italy came from behind to beat Mexico on Thursday evening, scoring 2 runs in the top of the ninth inning for a 6-5 victory. They will still need to earn a win against either the U.S. or Canada to progress into Round 2, and that will be a tall order, but they’ve given themselves a great chance and probably also ensured qualification for the 2017 tournament.

ESPN America is providing plenty of live coverage of the WBC this weekend, with British Eurosport 2 scheduled to show a couple of games too.

Friday 8

19.30 – Canada v Italy *ESPN America

22.30 – Spain v Puerto Rico *ESPN America, *British Eurosport2 (from 23.00)

Saturday 9

02.00 – Mexico v USA *ESPN America

10.00 – Pool 1 Gm 3 *ESPN America

Sunday 10

10.00 – Pool 1 Gm 4 *ESPN America

16.30 – Spain v Venezuela *ESPN America (Eurosport 2?)

20.00 – U.S. v Canada *ESPN America

23.30 – Dominican Republic v Puerto Rico *ESPN America

Note that there is a game listed as starting on Eurosport2 at 18.00 on Sunday. It will probably be the Spain game, either joining whilst it’s in progress or showing it on a time delay.

Sadly there has been no change on’s policy of providing no online coverage of games via MLB.TV, except for MLB Network U.S.-based subscribers.

World Baseball Classic 2013 Preview

The 2013 World Baseball Classic begins in the early hours of Saturday 2 March, U.K. time. It promises to bring the same levels of excitement, drama, colour and passion that the previous events have delighted us with.

This is the third staging of the marquee tournament. It was first held in 2006, less than a year after the International Olympic Committee announced that baseball and softball would be dropped for the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Japan won the inaugural competition and then successfully defended their title three years later. They will be aiming to complete the hat-trick this time around as the tournament now settles into its schedule of being held once every four years.

2013 qualification

Sixteen teams were selected to compete in the first two WBC’s; however 12 additional nations were given the opportunity to qualify for the 2013 tournament. They competed across four, four-team groups in the second half of last year with each group containing one of the four teams that failed to win a game in the 2009 WBC.

Great Britain were one of the teams that entered the qualifying stage, but unfortunately Canada, the previous WBC entrant in the group, proved to be too strong for Team GB, Germany and the Czech Republic.

The qualifying stage did result in another European team being added to the traditional powerhouse duo of Italy and the Netherlands though. Spain got the better of France, South Africa and Israel in their qualifying group to make it into the WBC for the first time.

The teams and venues

This year’s WBC will take place in four countries: Japan, Taiwan, Puerto Rico and America (Miami, Arizona and San Francisco).

Between 2 March and 6 March, the WBC heads to Asia for two of the four First-Round groups. Japan will host China, Brazil and Cuba (the dominant force in international baseball for years, although going through a lean spell of late) in Pool A, with Taiwan (Chinese Taipei) hosting Australia, the Netherlands and South Korea in Pool B. The Korean team are sure to be desperate for success having lost out to Japan in the 2009 WBC Final after winning the 2008 Olympic Tournament.

The top two teams from Pools A and B will compete in Tokyo in a Second Round Pool (8-12 March) where the top two teams will earn a place in the Semi-Finals to be held at the San Francisco Giants’ AT&T Park on March 17-18.

Between 7-10 March the First Round action heads to Puerto Rico and the U.S.  Puerto Rico will host the Dominican Republic, Spain and Venezuela, whilst the U.S. National Team will compete in Arizona against Canada, Mexico and Italy.  The U.S. are seeking their first appearance in the WBC Final after losing a semi-final against Japan in 2009 and being knocked out in the Second Round stage back in 2006.

The top two teams from those two groups will then head on to Marlins Park, Miami, to compete for two spots in the Semi-Final stage. The Final takes place on 19 March.

The games

The full schedule of games is available on the Official WBC website. I’ve created an Excel version that lists all of the times of first pitch in U.K. time. The sheet includes a column stating the local (to the host venue) start date just to avoid confusion in case games are referred to in that way elsewhere.

[ilink url=”” style=”download”]2013 World Baseball Classic schedule[/ilink]

One quirk to note is that four of the U.K. time and dates have an asterisk next to them. There are two games on 9 Saturday U.K. time (3 a.m. and 10 a.m.) from 2nd Round Pool 1 and precisely which teams will play in which game will depend on whether the hosts Japan are involved. If they are, their game will be the later of the two.

It’s the same situation for two 2nd Round Pool 2 games (both Tuesday 12 in the States, although the second game begins at midnight U.K. time so technically is played on Wed 13 from our perspective). The U.S.’s game will be the later of the two if they are one of the four teams involved.

U.K. coverage

ESPN America will be showing live games throughout the WBC and judging by the first weekend’s schedule they will be bringing us a good proportion of the games.

Eurosport2 will also be broadcasting some games over the weekend beginning 8 March. There has been a bit of confusion as to whether these would be available in the UK or not, but it does now appear as though they will be. That’s a nice bonus for anyone who doesn’t have access to ESPN America but can get Eurosport.

It was expected that live coverage of games would be streamed on, potentially to 2013 MLB.TV subscribers or courtesy of a specific paid-for WBC subscription. Disappointingly, that does not appear to be the case. The official WBC App can be downloaded from iTunes and allows U.S. based fans with an MLB Network subscription to watch the games online, yet there are no details for those of us outside the States and moderator comments on the official MLB.TV forum imply that only MLB Network subscribers will be able to watch.

It’s strange, to say the very least, that would not give fans around the world an option to watch their premier international tournament online.

Let the games begin

The WBC really is a unique event. It’s the only international baseball tournament that includes current MLB players, allowing seasoned international players the chance to test themselves against Major Leagues and giving MLB players a rare opportunity to represent their country. Add in the special atmosphere generated by the passionate fans and it makes for a great mix.

Despite the disappointment of the potential lack of online coverage, the 2013 tournament is sure to be a wonderful addition to the baseball season once again.