Spring Training, World Baseball Classic Will Provide Wide Array Of Options For Fans In Four Locations

Pitchers and catchers report next week. That’s the good news.

But the bad news is that baseball spring training will be disrupted, disappointing thousands of fans who flock to points south and west to catch early previews of their favorite teams.

In 2020, the Covid-19 outbreak stopped exhibition play in its tracks, sending players and fans home for months before a “regular season” shortened to 60 games instead of 162 – and preceded by Spring Training 2.0 in July.

A year later, with the contagious coronavirus still raging, spring training seating was severely limited, with fans sitting in roped-off pods designed to prevent the spread of the disease. Many regular spring spectators simply stayed home.

In 2022, a 99-day lockout started by the owners in December drifted right into March, chopping off the front part of the exhibition schedule, before the warring parties came to terms.

Now it’s the World Baseball Classic, a tournament involving 20 international squads with rosters loaded with All-Stars from the major leagues. It starts March 11 after three days of practice games against what’s left on major-league rosters.

Top players will split from their usual clubs to don shirts that say Japan, Mexico, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, United States, and about a dozen more.

USA, for example, should feature former MVPs Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Mookie Betts, and Paul Goldschmidt, plus All-Stars Trea Turner, J.T. Realmuto, Kyle Schwarber, Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, and Tim Anderson. Official rosters will be announced Feb. 9 on MLB Network.

Two-way star Shohei Ohtani, another former MVP, is expected to make one start for the Los Angeles Angels before returning to his native Japan for the WBC. Yu Darvish will join him in Tokyo.

The Dominican roster will be rich with sluggers, including Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., Juan Soto, Manny Machado, and American League Rookie of the Year Julio Rodríguez, while former MVPs José Altuve and Miguel Cabrera headline the Venezuela squad.

Also expected to play in the tournament are Xander Bogaerts (the Netherlands); Yoán Moncada (Cuba); Julio Urías, Alex Verdugo, and Rowdy Tellez (Mexico); and Francisco Lindor, Javier Báez, and José Berríos (Puerto Rico).

Tellez, with an American Jewish mother but a father with Mexican roots, was actually recruited by three different teams: the U.S., Mexico, and Israel.

And let’s not forget Brandon Nimmo, whose Italian heritage allowed him to play for Italy, and Joc Pederson, a Jewish American who will play for Israel.

Many of the WBC squads will share MLB spring training sites with current clubs.

Team Nicaragua will even activate a defunct training facility, the Jackie Robinson Training Complex in Vero Beach, formerly the Florida spring home of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Down the road in Jupiter, Roger Dean Stadium will be especially active this spring, with the St. Louis Cardinals, Miami Marlins, and Team Israel all getting ready at the same time.

Because of a Covid-19 cancellation in 2021, the WBC has not been played since 2017. But its economic impact was obvious.

“It’s been a real big success,” said Derrick Hall, CEO of the Arizona Diamondbacks, “with an economic impact where you can lift $30-35 million and place it into the city of Phoenix when it comes to lodging, food, cars, and dining.”

Chase Field, domed home of the Diamondbacks, will host five teams, including Team USA, from March 11-15. More than 100,000 fans attended the four games at the downtown Phoenix venue in 2013, with 44,200 turning out for a game between Mexico and the United States.

After WBC teams finish a slate of 21 exhibition games against big-league competition, the actual tournament will begin, with Phoenix, Miami, Tokyo, and Taichung the host cities. Pool play starts March 8 in Taiwan and ends with the championship game at loanDepot Park in Miami March 21.

Because the United States won the World Baseball Classic, it is considered the defending champion. There are 20 international teams, up from 16 in the last tournament.

The top two teams from each of four pools will move to the quarter-finals, scheduled for the Tokyo Dome and loanDepot Park. The Miami ballpark will also host the semi-finals and finals, from March 19-21.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/danschlossberg/2023/02/09/spring-training-world-baseball-classic-will-provide-wide-array-of-options-for-fans-in-four-locations/