Just in time to compete with the MLB postseason, the 2011 Baseball World Cup opened Saturday in Panama City, Panama, with the host nation rallying from a 3-0 deficit to beat Greece 8-3.
The game was proceeded by a 90-minute opening ceremony at Rod Carew Stadium, and a sellout crowd officially listed at 20,000 watched as Astros slugger Carlos Lee threw out the first pitch. They then saw Greece's team of ex-minor league and ex-big league Greek-Americans take a lead in the second inning off righthander Paolo Espino (Indians), who reached Triple-A this season. The key hit for Greece was a two-run single to right by Gus Panagotacos, who played college ball at California in the late 1990s and is a lawyer who is a key organizer of the Greek team.
Panama rallied to tie the score in the bottom of the second off lefthander Mel Melehes, a former Frontier Leaguer, and the game stayed tied until a four-run Panamanian rally in the bottom of the seventh. Espino wound up striking out eight in six innings to keep the home fans happy.
The rest of the tournament starts in earnest Sunday, with marquee matchups including Team USA vs. Japan and Cuba vs. Australia. Fans who want to watch the games online can subscribe and follow online at www.ibaf.livesport.tv/home or follow the tournament at IBAF's official website.