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Great Britain heading to Croatia for Baseball World Cup

by Matt Smith
Great Britain Baseball

Great Britain Baseball

Great Britain’s 2009 Baseball World Cup journey will now begin at a new destination.  The International Baseball Federation (IBAF) announced yesterday that Croatia will replace Russia in the tournament and take over as the host of Pool D. 

The move from Moscow to Zagreb has been confirmed less than two months before the tournament is scheduled to begin on 9 September.    

Team GB were originally grouped with Russia, Japan and Nicaragua in a Moscow-based pool, one of five that make up the first round of the tournament.  The prospect of playing in Russia added further excitement to an event that will see Great Britain sharing a ballfield with Japan for the first time in a major international tournament. 

As well as the challenges on the field, Team GB’s General Manager Alan Smith told BaseballGB earlier in the year that the trip to Moscow posed its own administrative challenges too. “As our opening round games will be played in Moscow, I will have to obtain visas for each member of our squad. This is likely to be a time-consuming process and one which could further complicate our travel arrangements”, said Smith.

That planning process will now be changed.  Zagreb is the new venue and all travel and hotel arrangements will have to be reconsidered.  It’s undoubtedly something Smith could have done without, coming so closely to the team’s tournament opener against Japan on 10 September.  However, rumours of the switch had been circulating on the internet for a while and it’s likely that new plans have already been taken forward behind the scenes.

No explanation has been given for Russia’s withdrawal from the tournament.  The IBAF Secretary John Ostermeyer simply stated that the IBAF “are very appreciative of the Russian Federation for stepping aside and allowing the Croatian Baseball Federation to move in and take over as host of Pool D”.  Why Russia would step aside from participating in and hosting a major baseball event remains unanswered.  It can only be assumed that there were either financial problems in fielding a team or problems with the logistics of hosting the six-game pool in Moscow.  

As for Team GB’s new opponents, Croatia are ranked 34th in the IBAF’s World Rankings and recent results suggest they are of a similar standard to Russia.  They finished eighth (out of twelve) in the 2007 European Baseball Championships, earning wins against the Czech Republic, Austria and Ukraine and pushing Germany to a one-run loss (8-7).  Heavy defeats came at the hands of Sweden (11-2) and the tournament winners the Netherlands, who gained a 13-0 ‘mercy’ victory after seven innings.

Information about the baseball facilities in Zagreb are not readily available; however the city is home to the reigning Croatian League champions, Baseball Club Zagreb, so a permanent baseball field is already in place.  Ticketing arrangements for the other World Cup venues have already been released and it is expected that details for the six games in Zagreb will be announced shortly.

Great Britain’s Pool D schedule will now be as follows:

  • Thursday 10 Sept. – GB vs Japan,
  • Friday 11 Sept. – Nicaragua vs GB,
  • Saturday 12 Sept. – Croatia vs GB.

Team GB on the official World Cup website

British baseball is currently enjoying some good publicity via the official Baseball World Cup website.  As well as the Pool D venue change news, there are features from the BaseballSoftballUK website about the National Baseball League and the graduation of four new Level 3 baseball coaches in the UK, while our Q&A’s with Alan Smith and 2007 European Championship MVP Brant Ust have been reproduced.

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Matthew Crawshaw July 18, 2009 - 11:04 am

Is the World Cup going to be televised? Did I hear it right that it will be on Eurosport?

Matt Smith July 18, 2009 - 12:36 pm

Hi Matthew. An official announcement hasn’t been made just yet, but yes Eurosport are going to broadcast games from the event (probably on Eurosport2).

We don’t know how many games will be shown though. It’s possible that they might only join the competition when it enters the 2nd round stage in the Netherlands and Italy. Hopefully details will be available in the near future.

Matt Smith July 19, 2009 - 9:40 am

The excellent Dutch site http://www.honkbalsite.com has a few more details on Russia’s demotion. As I guessed, reportedly it was because of difficulties in providing adequate facilities, with the IBAF ultimately getting fed up and going elsewhere.

The article also includes a decent photo of the ground in Zagreb. Judging by that, it looks a perfectly adequate little ballpark.


Owen July 21, 2009 - 1:32 am

Any idea who the GB imports this year will be from America? Any names from the minors and indy leagues?


Tim July 21, 2009 - 12:37 pm

Great Britain will be announcing its roster in the coming weeks and likely providing a background to its players like it did prior to the 2007 European Championship.

As well as British-eligible players from the US and Canadian indy leagues and British/European leagues, GB named three minor-leaguers in the ’07 squad: Brant Ust (Seattle Mariners), Mike Nickeas (New York Mets) and Aeden McQueary-Ennis (San Diego Padres).

Owen July 21, 2009 - 7:32 pm

From the 2nd stage onwards I believe GB will need bigger names than those 3. Def need gd pitching. Most countries will be stacked with minor league guys or players of a similar level. Hope funding is not an issue.

Tim July 22, 2009 - 5:41 pm

Thinking realistically and considering this is the first time GB has qualified for the World Championship since it won the first one back in 1938, to progress past the first stage would be a significant achievement. Especially given the minuscule funds available for preparation and player recruitment/travel. Given the way second round qualification works and GB’s relatively moderate first round opposition, progress to stage two is feasible.

It would then put GB into the ‘meat’ of the tournament where it’s going to feel more like a major event, there’s going to be more publicity and it’ll give them at least seven more games. But I would expect it to be a struggle to go beyond this.

Matt Smith July 22, 2009 - 10:01 pm

Have to agree with you there, Tim. We’ve done well to qualify for the tournament (via the ’07 Euros) and it definitely looks like making the second round is achievable. It will be very tough from there, but the Dutch showed in the World Baseball Classic that upsets can happen.

It should be a great experience for Team GB at the very least.


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