The World Baseball Classic built up some cache during its inaugural playing in 2006, and the sport’s great international enterprise will need to deliver an even better product this time to cement the gains from three years ago.
Among Canadians in the game there is tremendous support for the World Baseball Classic, even though they won’t field their best team when Pool C play begins Saturday afternoon at the Rogers Centre against the United States.
Injuries or health concerns kept star pitchers Rich Harden, Jeff Francis, Erik Bedard and Shawn Hill from taking part. But it was the decision of Ryan Dempster, who decided against playing after re-signing with the Chicago Cubs for $52 million US, that is more symbolic of the obstacles the tournament faces.
For countries who aren’t as deep in talent as the United States, Dominican Republic and Japan, it is particularly troubling since they need younger players who aren’t established in the big leagues to suit up in the Classic.
Canadians Russ Martin and Mark Teahen both passed on the last Classic because they needed to be in camp with their teams. This time around both are playing because they know they have roster spots secured.
“You get in tough spots with trying to make a team or trying to prove yourself,” said Teahen. “At the same time, it’s a neat thing. I think it’s great for baseball increasing its popularity around the world.”
USA vs. Canada
The strategy is to compete hard in the game against the Americans, but Canada will likely save its new ace, Scott Richmond, for an elimination game against either Venezuela or a second shot at the U.S.
Playing at the Rogers Centre is a big plus, especially for the underdog pitching staff that needs to step up with the performances of its lives. Unsung Canadians have done it before. Italy plays Venezuela at 8 p.m. in the nightcap, where Raptors star Andrea Bargnani will throw out the first pitch.
– Torstar News Service