Image credit: BCL commissioner Guillermo Ramírez González, Carlos Saenz Castillo and Yucatan Leones president Juan José Arellano spoke at a press conference on Aug. 23 that announced the schedule for the upcoming Baseball Champions League. (Photo Courtesy of the World Baseball Softball Confederation)
Just a little over a month from now, champions of the American Association, Mexican League, Cuba’s Serie Nacional and the Colombia Professional Baseball League will face off in the first-ever Baseball Champions League Americas tournament.
The tournament will run from Sept. 28 to Oct. 1 at Parque Kukulcan Alamo Stadium in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. The tournament, which is sanctioned by the World Baseball Softball Confederation, will be a unique one in international baseball.
International tournaments generally see national federations field the best teams they can from among all eligible players. That’s the case for the World Baseball Classic, every international World Cup, Premier12 and Olympic baseball (when it’s part of the Olympic program).
The Baseball Champions League will take a different approach. This is aimed to be a tournament of champions. To qualify for the tournament, a team has to have won its league title. It’s a chance for the champions of leagues in different countries to face off in a tournament to cap off the season.
The hope is that this will become a worldwide tournament in upcoming years. The goal for the BCL Americas tournament is to expand to eight teams for 2024. But that’s only part of the goal for expansion. The hope for the tournament organizers is that there will be four different BCL tournaments taking place worldwide over the next five years.
“In the past two years we have looked at a global scale. There will be Baseball Champions Asia, Ocealandia, Europe and Americas,” American Association commissioner Joshua Schaub said.
For the players, there is also a financial incentive. The WBSC is providing prize money that will go to the players of the championship team.
“The prize money is the key. It goes all to the players. They are very excited to play in this tournament. They were elated that there is something beyond our championship,” Schaub said.
There is a quirk because of the timing of the tournament. Because of the need to line up travel and scheduling well in advance, this tournament of champions will be filled with teams that are all 2022 champions.
The Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks (2022 American Association champions) will face off against Granma (2022 Serie Nacional champions), Barranquilla (2021-2022 Colombia league champs) and Yucatan (2022 Mexican League champions).
Even though the rosters have changed significantly since then, all teams are working to ensure they bring back as many players from their 2022 rosters as possible, although all teams can add players as needed to fill out the remaining spots.
“The host needs to have time to get it together. This may change in the future, but we felt this is best to get it off the ground,” Schaub said. “We want to keep to the spirit of the roster, but we will have flexibility to bring on current players and bring back some other players.
“We want to keep to the spirit of the roster, but we will have flexibility to bring on current players and bring back some other players.”
The tournament will be held in Mexico in 2023 and 2024.
“For me this is a groundbreaking moment for what was known as the independent leagues. It’s a huge leap from where we were in the past,” Schaub said.
2023 Baseball Champions League Americas Schedule
Sept. 28 (all times local)
1 p.m.: Fargo-Moorhead vs. Granma
8:30 p.m.: Barranquilla vs. Yucatan
1 p.m.: Granma vs. Barranquilla
8 p.m.: Yucatan vs. Fargo-Moorhead
1 p.m.: Barranquilla vs. Fargo-Moorhead
8 p.m.: Granma vs. Yucatan
4 p.m.: Championship Game