World Baseball Classic berth on line in Brooklyn
Send a link to a friend
[September 22, 2016]
By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Playoff baseball
comes to Brooklyn this week as the last spot in next year's World
Baseball Classic (WBC) field of 16 nations will be decided in a
tournament between Brazil, Israel, Britain and Pakistan.
The tournament opens on Thursday with favorites Brazil, managed by
Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, playing an afternoon game against
Pakistan before Israel meets Britain in the second game of a
day-night doubleheader at MCU Stadium.
The winner of Sunday's final in the round-robin qualifying event in
Coney Island will travel to Seoul in March to join hosts South
Korea, the Netherlands and Taiwan in Pool B of the premier
Other WBC first-round games will be played in Tokyo, Miami and
Guadalajara. The final will be staged in Los Angeles.
Larkin led Brazil into the main draw of the 2013 championship with a
qualifying tournament win in Panama before they were eliminated in
the first round.
The former Cincinnati Reds shortstop says the WBC drove up interest
in the game in Brazil, as well as in other participating countries
hoping to develop in baseball.
"This tournament has a lot to do with the growth of baseball in
Brazil," Larkin told reporters at the 7,000-seat stadium set on the
edge of the Coney Island amusement park with the boardwalk and
Atlantic Ocean beyond as its backdrop.
"The amount of attention we received down in Panama during the
qualifier was incredible, amazing. The reception the players got
when we returned back to Brazil was fantastic."
That success was further fueled by native Brazilians making it to
Major League Baseball in Yan Gomes (Indians) and Paulo Orlando, who
was on the Kansas City Royals team that won the 2015 World Series.
"I think kids now see there is an opportunity other than football or
soccer, another way to get out of the favelas," Larkin said of
Brazil's urban slums.
[to top of second column]
Brazil's manager Barry Larkin (C) in Fukuoka, southern Japan March
3, 2013. REUTERS/Toru Hanai
Big baseball powers including defending champions Dominican
Republic, the United States, Japan, Cuba and Venezuela already
booked berths in the fourth edition of the championship that debuted
in 2006, based on their finish in the 2013 competition.
Brazil, Britain and Israel come with rosters featuring current or
former professional players.
Israel has the most recognizable names on its roster in former big
leaguers Jason Marquis, who is expected to pitch on Thursday, Ike
Davis and lefty reliever Craig Breslow.
Britain has National League all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman,
whose mother, Mikki, is English, as their bullpen coach.
Pakistan is the only country without any professional players but
manager Syed Fakhar Ali Shah is undaunted, saying their youth
programs will pave the way for a bright future.
"Pakistan (has been) a cricket champion, world champions," he told
Reuters, noting that many of his players now are former cricketers.
"In the future, we're going to make it very good."
(Editing by Mark Lamport Stokes)
[© 2016 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2016 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.