World Baseball Classic | “We’re going to the title” – Kingdom team with high expectations for the unofficial baseball World Cup
So expectations are high. “We want to win the WBC”, says national coach Hensley Bam-Bam Mullens of the team’s ambitions as they travel to Taiwan. “We are going with only one goal, even if it is a difficult task, to win the competition. .”
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Past performance warrants confidence. Twice, the Kingdom team finished in the top four, an unprecedented feat for a small baseball nation. Repeating that final ranking seems difficult this time around, but they certainly weren’t self-evident in the past.
Not too long ago, you would surely have ranked Cuba, the Netherlands’ first opponent in Taiwan, on the list of superpowers, but they have seen their talent transition to the promised professional baseball in America in recent years. Those players are now ready to represent the country of their birth.
Now that relations between the United States and the Caribbean island have improved somewhat, this tournament is the first time. However, many of Cuba’s leading players believed they had left the island for a reason and rejected the offer of a national federation.
If Cuba didn’t really benefit from the arrival of the Major League, we can tell it from the Italians. Every professional with Italian roots was approached and many players heeded the call. Italy have the necessary talent, but lack the real stars that the Kingdom have in their squad.
Like the Netherlands, they have a national coach with plenty of experience in Mike Piazza. The former catcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets was even accepted into the Hall of Fame.
The Pool A matches will be played at the Taichung Stadium in Taiwan. The home nation, which has always had to play baseball in the long shadow of giants like Japan and South Korea, hopes to capitalize on this.
With the exception of a few, Taiwanese players are active on their home continent, but that doesn’t mean the team should be underestimated. They are the defending Asian champions.
In addition, the Asian style of the game – known as ‘small ball’ because, unlike North and South American baseball, it focuses less on long hits and more on collecting points – has proven very successful internationally.
The last team in Group A is Panama. Like the Taiwanese, these are mainly players from outside the North American professional leagues, and therefore the biggest foreigner to make it to the next round.
The top two teams in Pool A will qualify for the next round. A conflict with South Korea or Japan awaits. The two countries are favorites to finish first and second in B, which includes Australia, China and the Czech Republic.
Depending on the final result of the group stage, the Kingdom will play their quarter-final on Wednesday 15 March or Thursday 16 March (if second placed).
In the past, not all major players were keen to travel around the world for BC just before the start of the US tournament, but the stature of the competition has grown in recent years – perhaps the US’s success in the last edition played a role in 2017. In this – now all the stars are appearing in this unofficial World Cup.
For example, US national coach Mike DeRosa has three MVPs in Paul Goldschmidt, Mookie Betts and most notably Mike Trout (3x), Japan (Shohei Ohtani) and Canada (Freddie Freeman).
The USA, Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic teams in particular benefit from this, as do the visitors at home. Expect top-notch baseball from March 8 to 21.
Program Kingdom Team
- Netherlands v Cuba (8 March)
- Netherlands v Panama (March 9)
- Netherlands v Taiwan (March 11)
- Netherlands v Italy (March 12)
- Quarter Final (March 15 or 16)
- Semi Final (March 19 or 20)
- Final (March 21)
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