Preparations for the upcoming World Baseball Classic and the future of the island’s leading sport in the Summer Olympic Games were discussed by Cuban sports experts on Monday’s edition of The Round Table broadcast nationally on radio and television program.
The strategy to be followed to prepare Cuba’s sixty-man preliminary roster for the Classic was outlined on the show.
The players will begin training on Wednesday, February 15, at two stadiums located in the City of Havana. By March 3, five days before their first game, the island must announce its final 30-man roster. Sports officials said the criteria for the final decision, will include performance as well as the discipline shown by the players during the comprehensive preparation for the world event.
The Cuban Baseball League adjourned play until March 24 to allow players to prepare for the Classic. Those not on the roster will be resting until February 23, when they will begin practice drills.
Carlos Rodriguez, President of the Cuban Baseball Federation, explained that 21 coaches will be taking part in the training of the players at the “Changa Mederos” and “Latinoamericano” stadiums.
Rodriguez said that Cuba’s pitchers have no problems with the special rules that will be enforced during the World Championship. The Cuban baseball executive provided details about the characteristics of the tournament that will be played on synthetic fields and under rules adjusted to professional baseball standards.
The WBC is organized by Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association, with the support of the International Baseball Association. The participating teams will be split into four groups of four teams each for the opening round of play.
Paul Archey, vice president of MLB, spoke to the Round Table in a telephone interview. He stated that he was pleased by the response from the WBC participants, adding that he expects a large attendance of baseball fans at the games. The US baseball official expressed his hope that the Classic take place every four years.
China, Taipei, Japan, and South Korea will be playing in Tokyo in Group A; The United States, Mexico, Canada and South Africa will play in Phoenix, Arizona forming group B; The Netherlands, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Panama will play in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in group C, while The Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Italy and Australia will be competing in Orlando, Florida.
Each team will be formed by 30 players and the first two positions in each group will move forward to the second round of play. Both the semi-finals on March 18 and the finals on March 20 will take place in the San Diego, California, stated Pedro Cabrera, the media director of the Cuban National Sports, Physical Education and Recreation Institute (INDER).
The other subject discussed on the Round Table was the future of baseball in the Olympics.
Although baseball will be present during the upcoming Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, the game was left out of the schedule of the London 2012 Olympics, something that brought a very strong reaction from the nations where this sport is deeply rooted.
Cabrera noted that baseball is played in 122 countries on five continents, and it first joined the Summer Olympics Games schedule at Barcelona 1992. He explained to the audience that the exclusion of baseball from the Olympics has surprised both fans and experts.
The Cuban sports official said that during the recent meeting of the International Olympic Committee, (IOC), there really wasn’t any analysis about baseball, but instead what took place was a discussion about the possibility of modifying the Olympic Charter, so that later the topic could be dealt with. This proposal was turned down on a 46-43 vote by delegates present at the meeting, not country votes, and a de facto intention of excluding baseball was imposed.
Granma sports writer Sigfredo Barrios pointed out that it is clearly evident that the IOC is under a very strong European influence. He noted how the favored sports in Europe have been included in the Olympics.
Cuban TV sports commentator Hector Rodriguez said that some 600 million fans
follow baseball around the world, and that the IOC ignored the interests of those fans. He noted that other sports with much less backing by fans are kept on the list of the Olympic Games.
Aldo Notari, president of the International Baseball Federation declared to the Round Table from Italy by telephone, that the decision taken by the IOC is difficult to understand, leaving only 26 sports to compete at the London 2012 games, while the Olympic Charter admits up to 28 .
Notari added that in recent times, baseball has complied with all the requirements of the Olympics, and voiced the opinion that this effort must be recognized.
Carlos Rodriguez, recalled that since the time baseball was included in the Olympics, the sport developed in new countries, making the most recent decision by the IOC a setback, except in Cuba, where, he affirmed baseball will continue to advance in every possible way.
Rodriguez, added that a major effort will be made to try to include baseball in the 2009 IOC debates, when the sports disciplines to be included in the 2016 Olympics are expected to take place.