World Baseball Classic Venues Set for March 2009

Bigcubawin3I have recently received a tip from reliable sources at MLB that the venues have now been fixed for games of the second World Baseball Classic, to be staged in March 2009. All first round contests will reportedly be played outside of the United States (thus avoiding any eroding of fan attendance at MLB spring training games in both Florida and Arizona), while all second round and third round action (semifinals-finals) will be staged on American soil. The tentative schedule has opening round action pegged for the following four venues: Toronto (Rogers Center), Mexico City, Tokyo (Tokyo Dome), and San Juan (Hiram Bithorn Stadium). While no specific pairings have yet been announced, it is being reported that Team USA and Team Canada will both appear in opening round action in Toronto; the four Asian teams would logically be based in Tokyo; Puerto and the Dominican Republic (probably along with Italy and Holland) would perform in San Juan; and Mexico and Cuba (perhaps also Venezuela) would be housed in Mexico City. Sending the Cuban squad to Mexico would avoid two potential first round negatives: the move would clearly avoid an undesirable USA-Cuba matchup in the opening round (rather than gambling on a marketing bonanza with a dream Cuba-USA TV match-up during the "final four" weekend) and would also block the likely efforts of the Obama or McCain administrations to deny visas to the Cuban delegation (if they were slated to play on USA soil in San Juan). The current plan also has all second round action staged in North American MLB ballparks–at San Diego and Anaheim. The finals (including semifinals) will then be played at Dodger Stadium (Los Angeles). The primary thrust of this dollar-conscious schedule is to avoid any unwanted competition for fan attendance between WBC contests and spring training exhibitions in Florida and Arizona (as happened in March 2006). An official announcement of these tentative plans (along with the final team assignments/matchups) is scheduled for the middle of next month.

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