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World Baseball Classic Qualifiers in March

by Matt Smith

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 MLB.com. 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 MLB.com, 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.

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