THE CATCHER’S MITT: World Baseball Classic, International Stage for MLB…Global Opportunity for MiLB
Last season, signs of baseball emerged in late February with the reporting of pitchers and catchers, but if you were to head over to a Spring Training facility today, you would already see pitchers and catchers in full routine almost two weeks early. That’s because games are starting about a week and a half earlier than they normally do. Why? The World Baseball Classic.
In case you aren’t familiar with the WBC, it is the comparable event to the Olympics since baseball was removed in 2005. Although it takes place on an international stage and the winner is crowned the World Champion with over 28 countries participating, it hasn’t caught on like expected.
Many of baseball’s biggest names have turned down the tournament this year, mostly for Team USA. Yes, Justin Verlander, Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Buster Posey, and Clayton Kershaw have all received plenty of rants and raves concerning their decision. As expected, players coming off injuries will be spending their Spring Training with their designated teams rehabbing, but other healthy stars have declined participation, perhaps most in part due to fear of injury. Some argue that this is wrong and the United States needs to be better represented as the main pinnacle of baseball. Others will claim that because of the United States’s clear supremacy, internationally for professional baseball, there is nothing to prove, even with lack of participation leading to no championships for the U.S. Either way, this lack of participation leaves a lot of open roster spots on the international stage for Minor League baseball players.
MiLB baseball players may not be as highly recognized right now as MLB players are, but some will one day surpass all expectations. It seems as though minor leaguers do have a high interest for participating in the classic and represent several countries. With common overshadowing by the fact that many MLB fans only see minor leaguers in the Futures Game, which takes place every season before the All Star Game, or the Rising Stars game, which takes place during the Arizona Fall League, this opportunity is a great way for minor leaguers to be shown off to the world on a global stage.
Qualifying rounds of the 2013 WBC began back in September and lead up to the First Round of play beginning in early March. You will be able to check out some of baseball’s top prospects representing their respective countries in a few weeks when play begins. Some recognizable names include Xander Bogaerts (Red Sox), Jonathan Schoop (Orioles), Jameson Taillon (Pirates), Phillipe Aumont (Phillies), and Adriene Rienzo (White Sox).
In case you won’t be in Japan, Taiwan, or Puerto Rico and are making the trip out to Spring Training this year in Arizona, you can check out some first-round WBC play at Salt River Fields or Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, as well as some unofficial games that take place against MLB teams at Camelback Ranch-Glendale. Second-round matches will be held in Japan and Miami, Fla., with the championship game taking place at AT&T Park in San Francisco, home to last year’s MLB World Series Champion San Francisco Giants.
Be sure to tune in to the World Baseball Classic all throughout March for a unique experience to watch Minor League Baseball prospects compete with MLB players, as well as players from other professional leagues across the world.
(Photo Credit: Screen Cap.)