World Baseball Classic Qualifier scheduled for Blacktown
18 September 2015
Australia will host New Zealand, Philippines and South Africa during February 2016 in a bid to qualify for the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
The four-team series at Blacktown International Sportspark will be played in a double elimination format, with the winning nation progressing to the prestigious classic – effectively the baseball world championship – that will be conducted for the fourth time in 2017.
Finishing last of its pool in 2013, Australia will have the advantage of playing on home soil although it can expect tough opposition as all sides draw upon the best possible talent available to them.
Sixteen nations will contest the 2017 World Baseball Classic, comprising twelve who receive automatic inclusion after the 2013 event and another four from qualifying series held during 2016. First cab off the rank, the Blacktown qualifier will be followed by further series in Mexico (March), Panama (March) and New York (September).
Among the nations selected for the qualifying rounds are Australia, Brazil, Mexico and Spain – all of whom finished last of their pool in 2013 but have drawn in separate groups for this event, which has taken into account geographic location and anticipated competitiveness of the various nations.
All four qualifying series will feature a six-game, modified double elimination format in which two losses will put a side out of contention. The four winners will advance to the World Baseball Classic, where they will be pitted against Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, Puerto Rico, United States and Venezuela.
“Having the qualifier in Sydney is exciting news, for sure,” Baseball Australia High Performance Manager Glenn Williams told Australian Baseball Alumni.
“We only found out a few days ago. It is a big announcement that is going to feature very prominently – especially in New South Wales, as well as through Baseball Australia and the Australian Baseball League.”
“The World Baseball Classic is a huge event that showcases many of the best ball players in the world, and getting the nod to hold this qualifier in Sydney required plenty of funding,” he said.
“Destination New South Wales is backing the event, which they expect will draw over 1000 international visitors – and plenty from interstate – before and during the course of the series.”
With games scheduled from 11-14 February, the World Baseball Classic Qualifier comes just days after the completion of the Australian Baseball League season.
“It will be advantageous for us to be coming off an ABL season,” Glenn Williams said. “Two ABL teams will be playing right up until WBC training camp and the four others would have only finished their seasons two weeks prior, so we will have plenty of game time under our belt.”
Notwithstanding our disappointing finish at the 2013 Classic, Australia will be well prepared and will be primed for a strong showing with a substantial reward on offer for the successful nation – namely, inclusion in the fourth World Baseball Classic scheduled for March 2017.
“After the last WBC we knew we were in a position where we would have to qualify this time around. It is something that the players and staff have been aware of and preparing for in the background,” Williams said.
This will be the first time that any World Baseball Classic event has been held in Australia, following on from the extremely successful outing of our senior national team on home soil in exhibition games against Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers in 2014.
“We are definitely excited to be able to compete for a chance to qualify for the WBC on our own turf,” Williams said. “Our national team doesn't get the chance to play on home soil very often – in fact rarely - so the players will be thrilled to have the opportunity to do this.”
“I am sure there will be plenty of support from the baseball community.”
While South Africa and the Philippines enjoy a relatively low profile on the world baseball stage, New Zealand is a progressive and emerging baseball nation that has been diligently preparing for the qualifier over recent months.
Glenn Williams expects spirited opposition from all three nations.
“New Zealand will definitely be challenging,” he said. “They have done a great job of scouring the world for anyone who has NZ heritage to add to their potential roster. They will be a tough opponent especially when the set-up of the tournament essentially comes down to a one-game playoff to see who qualifies.”
“The WBC brand generally brings any country’s best players out of the woodwork to compete in such a prestigious event – wherever they might be playing in the world. So even though South Africa and Philippines aren't recognised world baseball superpowers, they will be sure to have their best available talent.”
“We won’t be taking anything for granted,” he said.
The Sydney World Baseball Classic Qualifier will be held at Blacktown International Sportspark from 11-14 February 2016. Information on coaching and management positions will be provided by Baseball Australia over coming months.