The World Baseball Classic is returning for the third time in 2013 and this time it will be a little different. They have opened up the field and allowed 12 teams that had never been in the tournament a chance play in the Classic. These teams played the four worst teams from the last Classic for the right of entrance in the 2013 tournament. A few Indians (minor league) players played for their home country in the qualifiers for six separate teams.
The first round took place in Florida with South Africa trying to keep their spot against France, Israel and Spain. The best Indian in this round, Eric Berger, won the first game against South Africa for Israel. He won the game against another Indian, 2012 draft pick Kieran Lovegrove, who allowed three runs for his home country. Lovegrove played for the Arizona League Indians last season and is the first South African to play for an American professional baseball team.
Kieran also faired poorly in his second game, taking the loss in South Africa's elimination game against Spain. He gave up four runs in 1.1 innings, giving him a 31.50 ERA for the round. Lovegrove was not the only pitcher to struggle in that game as the South Africans ended up giving up 13 runs to the Spaniards. Berger had a similar fate with Israel, giving up four runs in 3.1 innings (5.68 ERA) as his team was also defeated in their elimination game against Spain. Spain advanced to the first round of the WBC in March despite having a 2-1 record in the qualifier and going 1-1 against second place Israel, who was also 2-1.
The second group played in Germany and featured Canada fighting to stay in the Classic against new comers Great Britain, the Czech Republic, and the home team of Germany. The lone Indian in this round was Martin Cervenka for the Czech Republic. Cervenka was the third string catcher and was unable to make it into the two games his home country played as the Czech Republic were vastly outmatched by Germany and Great Britain (28 runs allowed to six runs scored). Canada handily won the round, sweeping their three games while scoring 38 runs and just allowing nine. Team Canada is one of the more advanced teams in the tournament and they won this round despite being without their two MVPs, Joey Votto and Justin Morneau.
The third round took place in Panama and featured the most Indians prospects of any qualifying round. The Indians new back-up catcher, Yan Gomes was a star for Brazil while Paulo Espino started for Panama and Geovanny Ushela played for Colombia. Nicaragua rounded out the teams as Panama looked to retain their spot in the tournament. Brazil swept their three games, with Gomes knocking in the sole run in the final game. He also had another RBI to go with his .333 batting average. Espino took the mound in the deciding third game for Panama against Brazil and threw 2.1 innings allowing a single earned run. Urshela had a great series, knocking in three runs and scoring twice for a very talented Columbian team. Columbia was upset in both their second and third games, only winning once against Nicaragua.
The fourth round featured no Indians although it did have recently former Indian Johnny Damon, one of the only Major Leaguers to play in this part of the tournament. Chinese Taipei was playing for their original place against Thailand, the Philippines and New Zealand in Taiwan. As was expected, New Zealand was destroyed and Chinese Taipei won the round.
Overall, Brazil and Spain were the only new teams to enter the Classic with both Canada and Chinese Taipei maintaining their places. Yan Gomes will be the only Indian moving on, but there is a chance for others to play in the tournament in March. Most likely are Shin-Soo Choo playing for his home country of South Korea and any of the Venezuelans or or Dominicans that feel like playing for their home team.
Team America is always a surprise as there is such a plethora of talent to choose from, but most of the players don't want to play. There is a lack of pride found in the Americans as they already believe that their country is the best at baseball and are more interested in helping the team that pays them to play win, following their money rather than their patriotism. If the best American players play for the national team, there will probably be no Indians, but if most of the players decline, there are quite a few players like Vinnie Pestano, Chris Perez and Jason Kipnis who could make the team. No rosters have been announced for the teams that haven't played yet, but we will keep you updated when they are.