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Sports & Play

World Baseball Classic in Toronto

Posted by Joshua / March 4, 2009

Rogers CentreThe World Baseball Classic, the biggest sporting event of the year spring in commissioner of baseball Bud Selig's mind takes to the fake turf this weekend right here in Toronto, giving Team Canada the chance to play in front of their fellow countrymen. The Rogers Centre will play host to Teams Canada, USA, Venezuela and Italy starting Saturday afternoon, with the final game of round one set to play out Wednesday evening. But something tells me the Canadians won't have quite the home field advantage the hockey juniors did several weeks ago.

As somebody who grew up in Chicago, not Toronto, my first sporting love was and always will be baseball. I have come to terms with the minority position that puts me in here in Toronto. So while Jason Bay & co. may not go deaf from cheering fans, I was happy (and unsurprised) that it was easy for me to get tickets.

And despite the fairly low appeal of the tournament in North America, some great players and potentially some very good games are coming to town.

It all kicks off 2pm on Saturday with the marquee matchup USA vs. Canada. It's been hard to pick out the compelling storyline, though. The latest is the return of Corey Koskie to competition after 31 months out of baseball. Earlier, Toronto fans were looking forward to seeing Blue Jay Vernon Wells on Team USA facing off against Canuck Ryan Dempster or Rich Harden. But thanks to injury or excessive precaution, none of those guys are on the rosters. In fact, of the 28 guys on the Team Canada roster, a mere 10 are in the big leagues, although of those some impressive offensive contributors should give opposing pitching a few headaches. It's the pitching, or lack thereof, that will force the Canadians to grab some bench by Round 2.


By comparison, every American player on their roster is in the big leagues, although tournament organizers and promoters must be disappointed about all the big names who chose not to play. Still, seeing Derek Jeter suit up in something other than Yankee pinstripes will be nice (even though he'll make 10 appearances here this summer anyway), and there's enough talent overall that the team could put on a very good show. There's no doubt they're favoured to win - or at worst take second in - the group.

Venezuela is a pretty well stacked team and should dispatch with Italy Saturday night without too much trouble. Sadly, even if Italy should somehow prevail, nobody on College, St. Clair or up in Woodbridge will notice.

So I'll predict that the US and Venezuela win their first games meaning they'll face off on Monday. I think Venezuela wins that one, forcing the Americans to beat the Canadians a second time (since they'll have beaten Italy), and then the Americans will overcome Venezuela the second time around, winning the group.

Beyond the tournament, though, this is spring training for most of the guys, some of whom have something to prove to their major league clubs. That means some of these guys will be playing for a full time job this summer by competing in Toronto, and that might just mean some darn good baseball for those of us in the stands.

Photo by sjgardiner, member of the blogTO flickr pool. Bracket by Major League Baseball.



Brady / March 4, 2009 at 12:21 pm
Nice article. USA Today is reporting that 40,000 tickets have been sold for this first game.

I've been dying to see what the Rogers Center looks like when people actually show up to watch a baseball game.
o_O / March 4, 2009 at 12:50 pm
Brady, Opening Day has been near sold out pretty much every season so you could take a look then. Or you could see 40,000+ at virtually any weekend game with Boston, New York and, occasionally, Detroit (if they're having a good year).
Mando / March 4, 2009 at 01:11 pm
I agree with you Josh, USA and Venezuela will come out of that group. Although, this time around, I like the US team more than I like the Venezuelan team. I'm sure you're in for a treat; the WBC is catching up and will feature some really good games. That is, of course, if the players play the game right and not swing for the fences. It was pretty easy to get tickets to the WBC, but tickets for the games at Dodger stadium are really darn expensive. We decided to hold off on buying tickets until the semifinals are set. I think the US will win this thing, but Japan is still the team to beat. My heart is with Mexico, though. And I hope they have a positive outcome as they did the previous WBC; which was eliminate the US :)
Brady / March 4, 2009 at 01:12 pm
I've heard opening day is often sold out, but I never seem to be in town for it. I went to a couple of Boston games last year (just out of curiosity, I'm not a Boston fan) and found that most of the people there weren't Toronto fans. Kind of takes the fun out of going to a packed home game only to find out it's mostly visiting fans.

I guess that's how some teams feel when the leafs come to town...
Joseph / March 4, 2009 at 01:21 pm
Thanks for the post Josh, looking forward to the tournament and really glad baseball is continuing with it!
Justin / March 4, 2009 at 02:04 pm
This is going to be cool. I love the idea of a baseball game at Rogers Centre not involving the Jays, or even MLB. It'll give it that slight touch of otherworldly...ness... that will make it a unique experience.
Justin / March 4, 2009 at 02:05 pm
Whoops, I wanted to believe it wasn't, but it's MLB all the way. Still cool.
Parkdalian / March 4, 2009 at 02:11 pm
Ahhhhhh baseball.. the worlds most slowest game.

Good to see the Skydome's(*no corporate name here) used for something during the winter months at least.

Too bad A-Rod isn't here though, i'd have paid money to toss garbage at him.
Ryan replying to a comment from Parkdalian / March 4, 2009 at 05:22 pm
A-Roid will be in Toronto plenty this summer. If he's not at the Skydome, you'll be able to find him at the Brass Rail.
Teena in Toronto / March 4, 2009 at 08:07 pm
We'll be there!
SCREWFACE / March 5, 2009 at 12:19 am
The BEST baseball you will see played in Toronto this season.

Yes, that was a shot at the Blue Jays. And it's funny that the Blue Jays are still the best team in this city. Yes that was a shot at the Leaves and Raptors and the FC.
SCREWFACE replying to a comment from Parkdalian / March 5, 2009 at 12:22 am
I hope your not a hipster using the name Parkdalian
Parkdalian replying to a comment from SCREWFACE / March 5, 2009 at 10:46 am
Haha.. and i HOPE you're not a "screwface" with a name like Screwface(*my lord)

BTW, i've not heard of a Screwface neighbourhood name. What part of town might that be in?
KowZ / March 5, 2009 at 11:04 am
Steph / March 5, 2009 at 11:04 am
Wow big event. Gonna tell my uncle who is a big fan.
Erin Bury / March 5, 2009 at 11:04 am
Tell me I win the tix... :)
serah-marie / March 5, 2009 at 11:04 am
parkdalian is funny.
Sarah / March 5, 2009 at 11:04 am
At least baseball makes me have hope for warmer weather...
sd / March 5, 2009 at 11:05 am
do i win?

Roy Blumenthal / March 5, 2009 at 11:06 am
Did I win? Yay!
Varun Mathur / March 5, 2009 at 11:06 am
Go Team Canada! (I win ? :P)
theconcertaholic / March 5, 2009 at 11:08 am
That is a fabulous photo
Jerrold / March 5, 2009 at 11:13 am
Winner (despite shortest "comment" ever) is KowZ! Check your Twitter direct messages, and enjoy the game courtesy of blogTO reader NTario (who had tix and couldn't go)!
karim kanji / March 5, 2009 at 12:03 pm
Seriously I hope you guys go out and buy tickets! This is gonna be an awesome tourney! Go Team Canada!!!!
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