WBC Takes Shape For 2013

Baseball, Softball team up for Olympic bid

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The third edition of the World Baseball Classic begins in September with four qualifying tournaments. The WBC's championship round will be held in California for the third time, continuing to move up the coast from San Diego in 2006 to Los Angeles in 2009 and now to San Francisco in 2013.

Dates were not announced but MLB announced other U.S. sites for WBC games. two first-round events will be played in Arizona, at the Diamondbacks' Salt River Fields spring-training complex as well as at their home park, Chase Field. Miami's new Marlins Park will play host to second-round games as well.

Other international venues have yet to be announced. The first-ever WBC qualifying round will start in September 2012 with 16 teams in four, four-team qualifiers being held in Jupiter, Fla.; Regensburg, Germany; Panama City, Panama; and Taipei, Taiwan.

France, Israel, South Africa and Spain will play for a WBC berth in Jupiter from Sept. 19-23. Canada, the Czech Republic and Great Britain join host Germany in Regensburg from Sept. 20-24, while host Panama will welcome neighboring Colombia as well as Brazil and Nicaragua from Nov. 14-18. The Taiwan dates have yet to be released; New Zealand, the Philippines and Thailand will play there.

IBAF, ISF Set Olympic Plan In Motion

In a letter to the International Olympic Committee, the International Baseball Federation and the International Softball Federation announced their intention to merge as a single sports federation, hoping it will aid the process of returning baseball and softball to the Olympics for 2020.

The two sports intend to apply as one sport with two disciplines, men's and women's, with a name for the united federation to be determined. IBAF president Riccardo Fraccari of Italy said in a press release, "We have learned a lot from being excluded from the Games, and we have spent a lot of time listening to the IOC. After much reflection internally but more importantly after having spoken to many, many friends in the Olympic Movement, we understood that merging out two IFs was in our best interests, not only for Olympic inclusion, but also and especially for our two sports in the long run."

More than 40 nations already have joint baseball-softball federations on a national level. This international merger still has many details to iron out but it's a long way from the acrimony of 2005, when the two sports were booted from the Olympic programme and when ISF president Don Porter blamed the exclusion on baseball's doping issues and lack of willingness to allow major leaguers play in the Olympics.

He told the Chicago Tribune in 2004,"We don't want to be typified as `women's baseball. We have to go on our own. Baseball has a lot more baggage than we do. We have never had a positive drug test." And in 2009 and 2011, Porter has declined a joint effort with baseball at reinstatement.

Now, softball apparently has decided it can't go it alone, and with no World Baseball Classic or Major League Baseball to develop softball internationally, it needs the Olympics much more than baseball does. Porter told Reuters, "We feel if we can work together it might be much more possible to regain Olympic status."

A joint IBAF/ISF plan for the Olympics would make the event go something like this: baseball teams participate in Opening Ceremonies, have a five-day, eight-team tournament, leave their rooms in the Olympic village to the softball players who come to the site, play their one-week tournament and then march in the closing ceremonies. The two sports would share one facility. The whole plan would be much less expensive and presumably increase the chances of big leaguers playing in the Games.