AUSTRALIA’S Filipino community families could find themselves “torn apart” when the Philippine national baseball team steps up to the plate against Australia at 7:30pm on Thursday, February 11, for the opening day of the 2016 World Baseball Classic (WBC) Qualifier at Blacktown International Sportspark’s Blue Sox Stadium.
Households will understandably have older members of the family barracking for the Pinoys while the young ’uns go for the local home team from Oz.
The game will be the bottom end of a double-header: New Zealand goes up against South Africa for the opener at 1pm.
Tim Hulett, who also serves as manager of America’s Texas Rangers affiliate, Spokane Indians, heads the Philippines’ national baseball team for the country’s second appearance in a World Baseball Classic Qualifier.
The Philippines made its WBC debut during the 2013 qualifying round and went 1loss and 2wins, the victory coming from an 8-2 victory over Thailand.
The team boasts two players signed to America’s Major League Baseball teams: catcher Brad Haynal (Miami Marlins) and infielder Angelo Songco (Los Angeles Dodgers).
Australia will be led by manager Jon Deeble, who will serve in this capacity for the fourth time during WBC play.
In the three previous instalments of the event, Australia has combined to go 1-8, with the lone win coming from a 17-7 defeat of Mexico in 2009.
Its 28-man roster features nine players affiliated with America’s Major League Baseball clubs: right-handed pitchers Sam Gibbons (Minnesota Twins), Peter Moylan (Kansas City Royals), Warwick Saupold (Detroit Tigers) and Todd Van Steensel (Minnesota Twins); left-handed pitcher Steven Kent (Atlanta Brave); catcher Matt Kennelly (Atlanta Braves); infielders James Beresford (Minnesota Twins) and Logan Wade (Minnesota Twins); and outfielder Aaron Whitefield (Minnesota Twins).
New Zealand will be managed by former Major League infielder Chris Woodward, who served as a base coach for the team during the qualifying round of the 2013 WBC.
New Zealand went 2-2 during the 2013 qualifier, which marked the country’s debut in the WBC, and was defeated by Chinese Taipei in the pool’s final game.
South Africa will be skippered by Alan Phillips, who was the team’s bench coach during the 2013 Qualifier.
Phillips was a pitcher for the South African national baseball team during the 1998 Baseball World Cup in Italy and the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney.
South Africa, which defeated France, 5-2 in 11 innings during the 2013 Qualifier, has combined to go 1-7 in three WBC appearances, including 0-5 in the main tournament.
The South African team will feature three affiliated players, including right-handed pitchers Callan Pearce (MIN) and Dylan Unsworth (SEA); and outfielder Rowan Ebersohn (MIN).
Following the Sydney Qualifier, additional Qualifiers will be held at Estadio B Air in Mexicali, Mexico on March 17-20 (Mexico, Czech Republic, Germany, Nicaragua); Rod Carew Stadium in Panama City, Panama on March 17-20 (Colombia, France, Panama, Spain); and MCU Park in Brooklyn, New York on September 22-25 (Brazil, Great Britain, Israel, Pakistan).
The Qualifiers will feature a six-game, modified double-elimination format. The composition of the pools was determined after venues were selected, with consideration given to competitive balance, existing rivalries and each national team’s geographic location.
Winners from each Qualifier will advance to the World Baseball Classic tournament, scheduled for March 2017. The four teams will join 12 more from countries – Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Italy, Japan, Korea, Kingdom of the Netherlands, Puerto Rico, United States and Venezuela – that received automatic invitations based on their performance in the 2013 tournament.
The Qualifiers were originally introduced before the 2013 World Baseball Classic, when qualifiers were held in Panama City; Regensburg, Germany; Jupiter, Florida; and Taipei, Taiwan during the fall of 2012.
The inaugural World Baseball Classic was held in 2006 prior to ensuing editions in 2009 and 2013.
ABOUT THE WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC
The World Baseball Classic is the premier international baseball tournament, sanctioned by the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC), as the sport’s official National Team World Championship, and features the best players in the world competing for their home countries and territories. More than 2.4 million fans from all over the world have attended the tournament games, held in March 2006, March 2009 and March 2013. Team Dominican Republic is the reigning World Baseball Classic Champion after going undefeated during its 2013 championship run. The upcoming World Baseball Classic will be played in March 2017 and will again feature the greatest baseball-playing nations in the world. The tournament will be held every four years.