(Story by Marco Stoovelaar)
Final Olympic Qualifier moved to June due to coronavirus
TAIPEI (Taiwan) / LAUSANNE (Switzerland) -
The World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) announced on Monday (March 2) that the WBSC Baseball Final Olympic Qualifier, which was to take place in April 1-5 in Taiwan, has been postponed due to concerns of the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
After consulting with medical and government authorities, the WBSC and the Local Organizing Committee together decided to move the event to June 17-21.
The games in Taiwan will be played in Taichung City and Douliu City.
Scheduled to participate in the event are Australia, China, Chinese Taipei, the Netherlands and the second and third best team of the WBSC Americas Baseball Qualifier.
That tournament will be held March 22-26 in Surprise and Tempe in Arizona (USA) with the winner advancing to the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
In the same period, the two World Baseball Classic Qualifiers are scheduled to be played in Tucson, Arizona.
The first tournament will take place March 12-17, the second will be played March 20-25.
In the meantime, Major League Spring Training is also going on in Arizona.
The winner of the Final Olympic Qualifier in Taiwan will become the sixth and final participant in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, which will be held July 24-August 9 in Tokyo (Japan).
Already qualified for the Olympic Games are host Japan, Israel (winner Africa/Europe Qualifier), Mexico and South Korea (both via Premier12).
As mentioned, the fifth team comes from the Americas Qualifier later this month.
In recent days, there already circulated some reports about a possible postponement or relocation of the Final Qualifier.
Today, the WBSC said in a published statement:
,,The World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC), together with host Chinese Taipei Baseball Association (CTBA) and the Chinese Taipei Professional Baseball League (CPBL), today announced that the WBSC Baseball Final Qualification Event for the Games of the XXXII Olympiad Tokyo 2020, scheduled to take place in Taichung and Dou Liu, TPE, from 1-5 April, has been postponed postponed to 17-21 June due to player, personnel and spectator health and safety measures against the spread of the coronavirus.
After consulting with medical and governmental authorities, a joint decision by the WBSC and the Local Organising Committee was taken to postpone the event.''
For the Netherlands, the postponement of the Final Qualifier to June 17-21 means that the schedule of the regular season in the Dutch big league has to be adjusted.
At the moment, National Team-players were conducting practice-sessions to prepare for the tournament in Taiwan.
It is expected that the team again will be compiled from players who are active professionally in the American Minor Leagues plus players from the Dutch big league.
Active Minor League-players would be available for the Olympic Qualifiers in Arizona and Taiwan, as well as the World Baseball Classic Qualifiers.
Last week, it was reported that players who were not on the 26-man Major League-rosters could be available for the Olympic Qualifying-events.
During the Premier12 in November, only players who were not on 40-man rosters were eligible.
However, now that the Final Qualifier has moved to June, it is not clear whether or not professional players will or can be available, since they are in mid-season with their respective clubs.
As always, the organization the player is associated with has the final say.
In order to make room for the players of the Dutch league to be able to play for the National Team, two playing rounds (24 games, June 11-14 and June 18-21) will have to be moved to another date.
These games might be re-scheduled on weekday-evenings or the entire season will be lenghtened with two more weeks.
As of now, the regular season is scheduled to end on Sunday, August 30.
Four days later, the second half of the season opens with the top-four playing for the two spots in the Holland Series and the bottom-four playing for staying in the big league of having to play a Promotion/Relegation Series.
The Holland Series opens on Thursday, September 24 and ends (when seven games are needed) on Sunday, October 11.
The best-of-five Promotion/Regelation Series begins on Saturday, September 26 and ends on Saturday, October 10.
Besides that, there are also two international events in June.
The European Champions Cup will be held in Ostrava (Czech Republic) June 2-7 with the participation of Dutch champion L&D Amsterdam Pirates and runner-up Curaçao Neptunus.
On June 26, the 30th edition of the bi-annual international Haarlem Baseball Week opens in Haarlem (Netherlands) and will end on Sunday, July 5.
This event also covers two weekends.
When the Netherlands qualfies for the Olympics, another interruption will follow, as the Olympic Baseball Tournament begins five weeks after the Final Qualifier and three weeks after conclusion of the Haarlem Baseball Week.
However, in the Olympic period only three regular season-games are scheduled, being the ones between Amsterdam Pirates and Neptunus.
These games already were moved beforehand from the week that they participate in the European Champions Cup.
The six other teams in the big league have no games scheduled during the Olympics.
So, the schedule-makers of the Dutch Assocation have to solve some puzzles.