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Updated: September 26, 2012
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Copyright © 1997-2012
Grand Slam/Marco Stoovelaar

Compiled and Copyright © 1997-2012 by Marco Stoovelaar

Dutch Team opens WBC in Taiwan
SAN FRANCISCO, California (USA) - The Dutch National Baseball Team will play the first round of the third edition of the World Baseball Classic next year March in Taiwan. On Tuesday, the international venues as well as pool alignments and tournament format were announced at AT&T Park in San Francisco, which will be the site for the semi-finals and final of the tournament in which Major League-players are available to participate. Earlier, the playig sites in the USA were already announced. As mentioned, AT&T Park, the stadium of the San Francisco Giants, will be the site for the semi-finals and final, while Phoenix (Arizona) and Miami (Florida) were named as sites for the first and second round.

The field of participants has been expanded as opposed to the previous two editions. In 2006 and 2009, sixteen countries participated, this time, the total is 28 due to the additional four Qualification Tournaments in which sixteen countries participate. The top-12 of the 2009 tournament automatically qualified for the main event and that includes the Netherlands, which then reached the second round after winning twice against the Dominican Republic.

Last weekend, the first two Qualifying Tournaments were played in Regensburg (Germany) and Jupiter (Florida, USA). These events, which were played according to the double elimination format, were won respectively by Canada and Spain. Canada convincingly won 11-1 vs. Germany, while Spain defeated Israel in extra innings. The Israeli squad, which was compiled entirely of active professional (American) players, defeated Spain in the preliminary round, but this time lost to the bronze team of the recent European Championship. In 10 innings, Spain won 9-7 to become the first team to qualify for the Classic, the next day Canada became the second team to qualify in this new set-up.

On November 15-19, the next two Qualifying Tournament are scheduled to be played in Panama City (Panama) and Taipei (Taiwan). Playing in Panama are Brazil, Colombia, Nicaragua and Panama. Playing in Taiwan are New Zealand, Philippines, Taiwan (Chinese Taipei) and Thailand.

As in the previous two tournaments, the first round of the World Baseball Classic has four pools with four teams each, who play their games on one location. The pools are made based on ''competitive balance, geography and fan interest'', said Paul Archey, MLB's senior vice president of international business operations. Phoenix (USA), Fukuoka (Japan), Taichung (Taiwan) and San Juan (Puerto Rico) are the playing sites for the first round.

The Netherlands will form in Pool B with Korea and Australia, playing their games on March 2-5 in the Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium in Taichung (Taiwan). Pool A, which is based in Fukuoka, exists of China, Cuba and Japan, playing their games on March 2-6. In Pool C (March 7-10), to be played in San Juan, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela will meet each other. Phoenix in Arizona is the playing site for Pool D (March 7-10) which has Italy, Mexico and the USA as participants. The fourth country in each pool will be announced in November after completion of the Qualifying Tournaments.

For the Netherlands, Taichung is not new. In both 2006 and 2010, the team played the Intercontinental Cup there, reaching the final against Cuba in both years.

The top-two teams in each pool will qualify for the second round and will form two new groups of four teams each. The games in the second round will be played in Tokyo (Japan) and Miami (USA). The games in Tokyo will be played March 8-12, while the dates for Miami are March 12-16.

The semi-finals and finals are then scheduled to be played in San Francisco on March 17-19.

Besides the addition of the Qualifying Tournaments, the tournament also will have a new format. The first round of the WBC will be a round-robin, while the second round will be double-elimination. To secure that the event will not conflict with the preparations of the Major League-season, more double-headers will be scheduled, making it a shorter period in which the WBC-games will be played. Also, teams now have to hand in their final 28-man roster early December. The deadline for the first two events was early February.

(September 26)

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