The tournament held every four years to crown the world champions of baseball is back. In the World Baseball Classic, a combined 16 national teams play in four separate pools to earn bids in future rounds, all with hopes of vying against the most elite teams in order to earn the top title in the sport. Team Japan has won the first two titles, with the inaugural WBC being held back in 2006.
By local time standards, the worldwide tournament kicked off on Saturday, with Australia taking on Chinese Taipei in Taichung, Taiwan in Pool B action. Other teams in Pool B include Korea and the Netherlands. Games will continue through March 19th, when the finals are slated to be held in San Francisco, CA.
Pool A also begins on Saturday and features China, Brazil, Cuba and Japan. Those games are set to be played in Fukuoka, Japan.
Pool C, set to be played in San Juan, Puerto Rico beginning on Thursday, features, Spain, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and, of course, Puerto Rico.
Pool D, which will be played in Arizona beginning Thursday, will have the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Italy competing against one another.
Semifinal rounds are scheduled for Tokyo, Japan, with two teams each that advance from Pools A and B, and Miami, FL, with two teams each that advance from Pools C and D.
Team USA will include Phils shortstop Jimmy Rollins on the playing roster. Among the club’s coaches are former Phillies All-Star and manager Larry Bowa and former Phillie Dale Murphy, who will coach first base for the Americans. Former Phils outfielder Shane Victorino will also be on the U.S. roster.
Team Canada will feature plenty of Phillies, including outfielder Tyson Gillies, infielder Pete Orr, right-handed relief pitcher Phillippe Aumont and lefty hurler Jay Johnson. Additionally, catcher John Suomi, who has played with the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs in each of the past three seasons, was added to the Canadian roster this week as a replacement. Former Phillies pitcher Scott Mathieson is also with Team Canada.
The Australian team includes Phillies minor leaguer Tim Kennelly, who switched from utility man to pitcher last season, as well as former Phils infielder Brad Harman and outfielder Chris Snelling, who was once a member of the Phils as well.
Right-handed pitcher Rodrigo Lopez and catcher Sebastian Valle will be the Phillies that represent Mexico. And to wrap up the Phils playing in the WBC, veteran lefty hurler Cesar Jimenez will represent Venezuela, while 18-year-old infielder Lucas Rojo will play for Brazil.
Team Puerto Rico will feature former Phils pitchers J.C. Romero and Nelson Figueroa. Italy’s roster will include pitcher Jason Grilli, infielder Nick Punto and utility man Mike Costanzo, who all spent time in the Phils organization.
Phillies first base coach Juan Samuel, a three-time big league All-Star, is slated to join the Dominican team as a coach, while Phils minor league catching coordinator Ernie Whitt, who is a member of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, will manage Team Canada. Whitt had a 15-year big league career, playing with Baltimore, Boston, Toronto and Atlanta.
You can catch broadcasts of this year’s Classic on MLB Network as well as on ESPN Deportes.