The World Baseball Classic organization recently announced that a team from Israel is invited to take part in the next World Baseball Classic. It will round out a roster of 16 teams — the others are from Brazil, Canada, Chinese Taipei, Colombia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Great Britain, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Philippines, South Africa, Spain and Thailand.
These teams will be divided into four “pools,” based on geographical location, competitive balance and regional rivalries, to play in a six-game double-elimination qualifying round in late 2012.
The winners from each qualifying pool will advance to the next World Baseball Classic tournament, scheduled for March 2013. Those four teams will compete against players from Australia, China, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Kingdom of the Netherlands, Puerto Rico, United States and Venezuela, all of which received automatic invitations based on their performance in the last tournament in 2009.
“Growing the game of baseball around the globe is the primary objective of the World Baseball Classic. By expanding the competitive field of the 2013 tournament, we are demonstrating our commitment to this goal and reinforcing that the World Baseball Classic is the premier showcase of baseball around the globe,” said Major League Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig.
Some of the key factors involved in team evaluation and selection included strength of native player base, number of professional players, International Baseball Federation international rankings, viability of domestic baseball programs and diverse global representation.
The Israel Baseball League started in 2007, featuring six teams: The Bet Shemesh Blue Sox, the Modi’in Miracle, the Netanya Tigers, the Petach Tikva Pioneers, the Ra’anana Express and the Tel Aviv Lightning.
The IBL has attracted some major-league managers, including veterans Art Shamsky, Ken Holtzman and Ron Blomberg. Dan Duquette, a former general manager of the Red Sox and the Expos, was the league’s director of player development.