Two weeks and counting until the first pitch of the IBAF World Cup and Pan American Games Qualifying Tournament and a schedule has now been released for first round games. The event will be staged in Puerto Rico from October 1 through October 12 and full coverage (largely from the perspective of Team Cuba) will be provided daily through www.BaseballdeCuba.com. I will be down in San Juan, Carolina and Ponce for first hand reports and those interested are invited to follow the action on our special tournament webpage at: http://www.baseballdecuba.com/panamericano2010/index.html.
After several earlier changes in group assignments and resulting schedules, the 13-team field has now been finally divided into two divisions as follows:
Group A: Puerto Rico, USA, Dominican Republic, Aruba, Colombia, and Panama
Group B: Cuba, Canada, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Mexico, Argentina, and Dutch Antilles
The tournament structure has teams playing within groups during Round One and then across divisions for round two. The two group winners will eventually meet in a best-of-three playoff for the gold and silver medals, while group runnerups meet in a single contest for the bronze medellion. Opening round venues will include Ponce’s Paquito Montaner Stadium, Carolina’s Roberto Clemente Stadiun (San Juan), and the Isidoro Garcia Stadium in Mayaguez. The full opening around schedule is now available on our website at: http://www.baseballdecuba.com/panamericano2010/calendar.html
Cuba will sent a strong team nearly identical to the roster that earned the silver medal prize at last September’s European World Cup matches. The preliminary Cuban roster of 39 was cut to 33 earlier this week and is currently training in Havana before taking on Nicaragua’s entry in a six-game exhibition series this coming week. The preliminary Cuban roster was earlier discussed in my recent article at: http://www.baseballdecuba.com/panamericano2010/peter_001.html. The Team USA final roster for this event (comprised of AAA and AA minor leaguers) is also available on our tournament website page.
While ultimate victory is always in the minds of all top contenders (those being Cuba, the Americans, host Puerto Rico and possibly Venezuela), this tournament is only a qualifier for next fall’s World Cup (likely to be held in either Venezuela or Puerto Rico) and also next summer’s Pan American Games tournament in Guadalajara. The top six finishers will represent the Americas in the former event, while the top seven clubs from Puerto Rico will move into the latter tournament in Mexico.