Saturday, February 28, 2009


The 2009 World Baseball Classic opens this week when Japan hosts China in a Pool A game at the Tokyo Dome. Defending champion Japan is the favorite going in, with ’06 WBC MVP Daisuke Matsuzaka heading the pitching staff and Ichiro Suzuki anchoring a strong offense.

South Korea will likely join Japan in the second round after reaching the WBC semis in 2006 and winning last summer’s Beijing Olympics. Many Olympians are on the Korean roster, including Cleveland outfielder Choo Shin-soo.

Taiwan will be a darkhorse in Pool A, a team with plenty of talent despite not having Yankee pitcher Wang Chien-ming on board. They still have nine players affiliated with MLB clubs, and can be a spoiler.

China figures to bring up the rear, although they did shock Taiwan at the Olympic last year.


Pool B will have a clear favorite this year. Cuba enters play at Mexico City’s Foro Sol with a veteran-laden team that lost to Japan in the ’06 WBC Final. Pedro Lazo, Cuba’s all-time leader in wins, heads a strong pitching staff; while infielder Yuliesky Gourriel is the best of a very strong batting order.

Mexico shocked the USA in the ’06 WBC, and should join Cuba in the second round this time. Padres All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez brings power to a lineup well-versed in fundamentals, and Royals closer Joakim Soria will finish games started by one of the deepest pitching staffs in the WBC.

Australia scored just four runs in the ’06 WBC, but with the likes of Chris Snelling, Justin Huber and Brad Harman, the Aussies are just good enough to be scary.

South Africa doesn’t figure to be a factor in Pool B competition.


When the dust settles on Pool C teams in Toronto’s Roger Centre, the United States and Venezuela are likely to be the last two teams standing. After a disappointing effort in 2006, the USA is relying on such players as Jimmy Rollins, Dustin Pedroia, Derek Jeter and Jake Peavy to at least reach the semifinals this time.

Venezuela has stars like Magglio Ordonez, Bobby Abreu and Miguel Cabrera to support a pitching staff with Carlos Zambrano, Francisco Rodriguez and Felix Hernandez, and should easily advance.

Canada has some decent talent like Russell Martin, Jason Bay and Matt Stairs, but not enough to get past Pool play.

Italy has familiar faces like versatile Frank Catalanotto and infielder Nick Punto, but it would be a shocker if they beat anyone but Canada…and even that might be a stretch.


Like the other three first round groups, Pool D in San Juan will have two teams that are expected to go to the second round. Host Puerto Rico figures to be one of them, with 23 major leaguers on the roster, including Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran and Ivan Rodriguez. They could go deep in the WBC.

So could the Dominican Republic, whose entire roster is stocked with big leaguers like Alex Rodriguez, Hanley Ramirez and free agent pitcher Pedro Martinez, who has something to prove to MLB teams.

The Netherlands are Europe’s strongest baseball country, with players like Sidney Ponson, Andruw Jones and Mexican League star Sharnol Adriana, but don’t have anything to match Puerto Rico or the Dominicans in firepower.

Panama has little after Carlos Lee or Ramiro Mendoza, and is not likely to contend for a second round berth.

Friday, February 27, 2009


Although all 30 Major League Baseball teams began playing exhibition games in Florida and Arizona last Wednesday, the spotlight was clearly on New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez.

Having already caused an uproar by admitting to past steroid use, A-Rod created another stir when he was chauffered to the Yanks spring opener in Tampa by cousin Yuri Sucart, whom Rodriguez claims injected him with performance-enhancing drugs between 2001-03.

After homering in Wednesday’s game, A-Rod was advised by Yanks general manager Brian Cashman to find another driver.


While many Americans are out of work and struggling with the lagging domestic economy, free agent outfielder Manny Ramirez is apparently not too concerned about finding a job.

Ramirez and his agent Scott Boras last week turned down a two-year offer to remain with the Los Angeles Dodgers for $45 million. Ramirez came to Los Angeles last year after all but forcing his way out of Boston with sporadic and erratic play in the field with the Red Sox, then hit .398 with 17 homers and 53 RBIs for the Dodgers the rest of the season, earning National League Player of the Month honors in August.

This marks the fourth time the Dodgers have been rejected by Ramirez and Boras, claiming other teams are interested. Dodgers owner Frank McCourt says, “When his agent finds those ‘serious offers’ from other clubs, we’ll be happy to restart the negotiations.”


It’s a good thing Tim Lincecum led baseball in strikeouts while winning the National League’s Cy Young Award in 2008. Otherwise, he might have been asked to take a pay cut.

On the heels of an 18-4 season with a 2.62 ERA and 265 strikeouts over 227 innings with San Francisco, the 24-year-old righty agreed to a one-year, $650,000 contract with the Giants, well below the average major league salary of $3.15 million.

Despite being only 5’10” and 170 pounds, Lincecum can throw nearly 100 miles per hour using a unique delivery that made him a bit of a drawing card for the Giants. He was the tenth player taken in the 2006 draft after winning the Golden Spikes Award as college baseball’s top player at the University of Washington.

Lincecum will be eligible for salary arbitration after this season.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


World Baseball Today is urging its listeners and readers to join in an effort to help build baseball in Cambodia. Alabama resident Joe Cook, a native Cambodian living in America since escaping the Khmer Rouge regime that murdered over a million Cambodians (including members of his own family), has been operating his Baseball Cambodia non-profit organization in an attempt to bring baseball to his home country of 14 million people.

Cook’s efforts have led to the building of a baseball diamond in the Cambodian town of Baribo, the formation of a Cambodian National Team that competed in the most recent Southeast Asian Games, and an upcoming series against a team from Vietnam in March that will mark the first time Cambodia has ever hosted an international baseball game.

However, donations of money and equipment are very much needed, and no donation is considered too small. World Baseball Today has donated a box of new Rawlings Senior League baseballs that will be used in the Cambodia-Vietnam series next month. Visit the website for details.


Mainland China’s World Baseball Classic team is practicing at the Detroit Tigers’ spring training complex in Lakeland, Florida this month. The Chinese considered both St. Petersburg and the former Dodgers camp site in Vero Beach before settling on sharing quarters with Detroit players at the Tigertown complex in the small central Florida city.

Former major league skipper Terry Collins, a Michigan native who grew up in Michigan, is managing China in 2009, replacing China’s 2006 WBC manager, Jim Lefebvre. Collins said last week, “We called the Tigers knowing that people have come here before, and they said, ‘Yeah, we have an opening.’ So here we are.”

“We” include players from a country in which baseball is a minor sport, despite large crowds in last summer’s Beijing Olympics. While baseball can trace its roots in China back to 1861, the two Wukesong ballparks used last summer are already on a demolition list to make way for a shopping mall despite being less than two years old.

China was winless in three WBC games in 2006, and went 1-7 in the 2008 Olympics.


Sports Illustrated magazine’s continuing investigation into signing bonuses given players from Latin American countries has once again spotlighted the Washington Nationals, particularly Nats general manager Jim Bowden.

According to the magazine's website, a federal investigation into the skimming of signing bonuses given to Latino players is examining Bowden’s role in the practice with both the Nationals and his former team, the Cincinnati Reds. Bowden was GM of the Reds from 1992 through 2003 before moving to Washington.

Sports Illustrated says both Bowden and special assistant, ex-pitcher Jose Rijo, were investigated last summer by both MLB and federal investigators on their alleged involvement with pocketing bonus money earmarked for Dominican prospects. Both Bowden and Rijo have said they are innocent, although Rijo recently took a leave of absence and returned to his native Dominican Republic so he can be with his ailing mother, he said.

The report also says former Latin American scot Jorge Oquendo claims former Chicago White Sox senior director of player personnel David Wilder also took player bonus money. Oquendo has scouted Latin countries for both Bowden and Wilder.


After signing two Dominican players with major league experience, Danesi Nettuno made it a trio last week with the signing of 37-year-old infielder Manny Alexander to a one-year contract. Alexander joins pitcher Giovanni Carrara and outfielder Abraham Nunez on the Nettuno roster for 2009.

A native of San Pedro de Macoris, the Dominican “cradle of shortstops,” Alexander played 539 major league games with six teams after debuting with Baltimore in 1992. He batted .231 in big league ball, and hit .265 in minor league baseball between 1988 and 2007. He played in Italy for Telemarket Rimini last summer, leading Rimini with a .331 average.

Alexander is slated to play shortstop this year in Nettuno.


After falling behind 3-0 early in the game, the Dutch National Team rallied to score two runs in the third and another counter in the fifth to finish with 3-3 tie against the Korea Baseball Association’s Heroes team last Sunday in Bradenton, Florida. The Dutch team is training in the USA prior to next month’s World Baseball Classic.

The Netherlands fell behind after Dutch starter Juan Carlos Sulbaran allowed three Heroes runs on seven hit in the first two innings. However, Danny Rombley’s two-run single in the fourth brought the Dutchmen to within 3-2, and ex-major leaguer Randall Simon drove in fellow former MLBer Eugene Kingsale with the game-tying run one inning later. The exhibition game was called after nine frames with the score still knotted up at 3-3.

The Netherlands and Italy are home to Europe’s only fully professional baseball leagues, and are the only two European nations in the WBC. Holland will play in Group A with the United States, Canada and the Dominican Republic at Toronto’s domed Rogers Centre in March.

Friday, February 20, 2009


The Australian National Team won three of four games against their counterparts from Taiwan this week in a pre-World Baseball Classic series Down Under. While both teams are still far from set for the WBC, the series win shows the Aussies shouldn’t be lightly regarded when they begin Pool B play next month in Mexico City along with teams from Cuba, Mexico and South Africa.

Australia won the first game Monday, 9-3, thanks to homers by Brett Roneberg, Daniel Berg and Justin Huber. Taiwan evened the series Tuesday with a 5-4 win despite Chris Snelling’s two-run shot for the home side, but Australia came back to win the last two games by scores of 9-3 and 7-6. Taiwan will play in WBC Pool A with Japan, South Korea and China.


In a truly remarkable story, Cambodia’s National Baseball Team will host a squad from neighboring Vietnam in a series March 10-14 in the Kompong Chhnang province town of Baribor. Cambodia’s first baseball field was carved from a rice paddy in this remote village in 2005, with dignitaries from Major League Baseball, Cambodia’s National Olympic Committee and the country’s U.S. Embassy were on hand, but the star of the show was Joe Cook.

Cook escaped Cambodia at age 12 in 1978 during the bloody reign of Pol Pot and landed in Tennessee, where he discovered baseball. He reunited with his sister in 2002 on a visit to Cambodia, and began collecting equipment to teach baseball to kids there. Cook has since become a central figure in Cambodian baseball despite residing in Alabama, and coached the National Team to an 0-5 record at the 2007 Southeast Asian Games in Thailand.

Cook says “Cambodia’s Cooperstown is Baribor,” but it’s unlikely a game at Doubleday Field has ever been interrupted by roaming water buffalo.


Although it was assumed throughout the offseason that star shortstop Chris Beck would not be back with the German League’s Solingen Alligators in 2009, Beck has agreed to return to the Northern Division team this year.

The 23-year-old Beck led the German League in nine offensive categories in 2008, batting .531 with 45 runs scored, 31 RBIs and 18 stolen bases as the Alligators’ leadoff hitter in 23 games. He also struck out just three times in 96 at-bats. Beck may move down in the order to accommodate newcomer David Hissey, who hit .365 with 136 runs and 76 stolen bases in 130 games playing collegiately at Atlanta’s Emory University. Beck is a product of the University of North Carolina-Pembroke, where he batted .326 as a senior in 2007.

Solingen had a league-best record of 27-1 last season, but fell to eventual German champion Regensburg, 3 games to 1, in the Northern Division finals.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Future Hall of Fame outfielder Ken Griffey, Junior has agreed to return to the team he began his major league career with by signing a one-year contract with the Seattle Mariners for a reported $2 million plus incentives. Griffey is fifth on the all-time list with 611 homers, including 14 last year.

Griffey broke into the majors with Seattle as a 19-year-old in 1989. However, after eleven seasons with the Mariners, Griffey forced his way out of Seattle by demanding a trade to his hometown Cincinnati Reds after the 1999 season. He has since spent nine injury-plagued years with the Reds.

Griffey’s contract includes attendance incentives.


Austin Powers has been supplanted as the “international man of mystery” by Washington Nationals prospect Esmailyn Gonzalez…or is that Carlos Alvarado Daniel Lugo? An article on Sports Illustrated’s website claims four sources say the 19-year-old Gonzalez is really the 23-year-old Lugo.

Gonzalez signed with the Nationals in 2006 for a $1.4 million bonus, the largest the team has ever paid for an international player. However, it appears that Gonzalez’ records were falsified to make him appear younger, not uncommon among players older than a typical prospect. Negotiations for Gonzalez were handled by Dominican Basilio Vizcaino, who grooms young players in hopes of collecting a percentage of signing bonuses as an “agent.”

Gonzalez hit .342 for the Nationals' Gulf Coast Rookie League team last year.


The Swedish National Team will be coming to America in May for three exhibition games against Northwoods League teams. The Swedes will play college summer baseball clubs in LaCrosse and Madison, Wisconsin as well as Brainerd, Minnesota as tuneups for the upcoming Baseball World Cup in September.

Mariners pitching prospect Christian Staehely and Phillies farmhand Adam Sorgi, a second baseman, are on the Swedish roster. The Swedes, who will host World Cup first round games in a new ballpark near Stockholm, are hoping to advance to the second round of the tourney.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


The Minnesota Twins have spent a lot of time and effort scouting Australian baseball prospects, and nowhere is that more evident than in the Twins’ spring training facility in Florida. Seven Australians who are on their home country’s 45-man provision World Baseball Classic roster are training with Minnesota this month.

Most prominent among them is power-hitting infield prospect Luke Hughes, who hit .319 with 15 homers and 45 RBI in 70 games with New Britain of the Class AA Eastern League last season. Hughes played in both the Eastern League All-Star Game and the All-Star Futures Game in 2008, putting on a tremendous display in the Home Run Derby at the latter. A .273 hitter over six injury-plagued minor league seasons, Hughes is on the Twins’ 40-man roster this spring. The Twins would like to see Hughes get some quality playing time in the WBC before returning to camp in Fort Myers.

Joining Hughes from Down Under in the Twins’ camp are infielders James Beresford and Daniel Berg, catcher Allan de San Miguel and pitchers Liam Hendriks, Bradley Tippett and Matthew Williams.


The mercurial career of pitcher Kim Byung-hyun took another strange twist recently when the sidearming reliever claimed to have lost his passport that would have allowed him to travel outside South Korea for the upcoming World Baseball Classic. In turn, the Koreans have dropped the 30-year-old Kim from their WBC roster.

After a stellar amateur career in Korea, Kim broke into the major leagues with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 1999, and went on to spend seven seasons in the bigs. Although he has pitched for two World Series champions and in one All-Star Game, Kim has had his share of controversy over the years. He allowed two game-tying homers in the 2001 World Series, gave booing Boston fans the finger when he was pitching for the Red Sox, and responding to Colorado manager Clint Hurdle’s decision to move him to the bullpen in 2007 by hiring Scott Boras as his agent and demanding to be traded. Kim didn’t play last year.

Korean manager Kim In-sik told reporters last weekend that since his team had to submit their final WBC roster on February 22, it was decided to drop the erstwhile pitcher instead of waiting for him to get a new passport.


Danesi Nettuno of the Italian League has signed a pair of former major leaguers to play for them in 2009. Outfielder Abraham Nunez and pitcher Giovanni Carrara will be in uniform when Nettuno opens the season against DeAngelis Godo on April 10.

Nunez, who just turned 32, broke into the majors with the Florida Marlins in 2002, and went on to play 136 big league games with the Marlins and Kansas City, batting .209 with six homers and 42 runs scored. His last MLB season was in 2004, when he played 117 times for the Royals. After batting .268 with 134 homers over 12 minor league seasons, Nunez spent last year with the Chinatrust Whales of Taiwan’s Chinese Professional Baseball League.

Carrara will be spending his third season with Nettuno in 2009. The 40-year-old veteran spent parts of ten seasons in the majors with five teams, going 29-18 with a 4.69 ERA. His best year was in 2004 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, for whom he was 5-2 with two saves and a 2.18 ERA. Carrara was 8-2 in 14 games for Nettuno last year before posting a 3-3 mark for Lara of the Venezuelan League over the winter.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Japan officially began their quest for a second consecutive World Baseball Classic title Monday when they opened training sessions in front of 37,000 fans at Sun Marine Stadium in the city of Miyazaki. The camp was scheduled to last one week, leading to Japan’s first WBC game on March 5 at the Tokyo Dome when they face China in the tournament’s first contest.

Japan’s WBC roster presently has 33 players listed, including Seattle Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki and Boston Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka. Suzuki raised eyebrows back in Seattle when he said he’d love to try pitching in the WBC. However, the response from the Mariners to Suzuki’s desire to pitch can be summed up in two words: Forget it.

Japanese manager Tatsunori Hara will release his final 28-man roster next weekend prior to playing two exhibition games against Australia before the WBC opener.


Seven Mexican League teams opened training camp Monday in preparation for the Liga’s 85th season. The other members of the 16-team league will begin spring training over the next several days. The last club to open camp will be the Yucatan Leones, who will begin preseason workouts February 26 in Merida.

The Mexican League’s regular season will open March 24 when the Mexico City Diablos Rojos host Monterrey at Foro Sol in a rematch of last season’s LMB championship series. The Diablos beat the Sultanes, 4 games to 1, to cop their 15th Mexican League pennant.

Saltillo’s Kit Pellow won the Triple Crown in 2008 by batting .385 with 34 homers and 107 RBIs, easily winning MVP honors for the season.


When import pitcher Kenshin Kawakami worked out for the first time with the Atlanta Braves last weekend in Florida, he received a lot of attention from onlookers, and at least one important observer was reasonably impressed. Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said Kawakami “has outstanding control. He doesn’t walk anybody.”

The 33-year-old right-hander did uncork a wild pitch that sailed out of the bullpen in front of about 20 members of the Japanese media, but Cox didn’t seem concerned. “If he’s as good as the videotape,” he said, “we’ve got a real pitcher. They never got a ball out of the infield.” When asked who created the video, Cox smiled and said, “His agent.”

In Japan, Kawakami was the Central League Rookie of the Year in 1998 pitching for Chunichi. He went 17-7 in 2004 for the pennant-winning Dragons, earning the Central League’s MVP honors and the Sawamura Award as Japan’s best pitcher. He went 9-5 with a 2.30 ERA for Chunichi last year before signing a three-year deal for the Braves in January as a free agent.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Spring training camps for Major League Baseball’s 30 teams are opening this weekend in Florida and Arizona. The Cleveland Indians were the first team to open camp in Arizona last Thursday at their new digs in Goodyear (near Phoenix). Meanwhile, the Boston Red Sox were getting things going the same day at their Fort Myers, Florida spring home.

The westward exodus among MLB teams continues this spring. The Los Angeles Dodgers have moved from their decades-long training home of Vero Beach, Florida to the Phoenix suburb of Glendale, while the Indians also moved from Florida to Arizona, which is now the spring home of 14 MLB teams as franchises leave the iffy southeastern climate for the warm and arid southwest.


A tough stretch for baseball on the steroids front: New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez last week admitted during an ESPN interview that he used steroids between 2001 and 2003 after his name was linked as one of 104 Major League Baseball players who tested positive in 2003.

Houston Astros shortstop Miguel Tejada added fuel to the fire during the week when he admitted lying to U.S. congressional investigators in 2005 about a conversation he had with former Oakland teammate Adam Piatt about steroids and human growth hormones.

Finally, former pitcher Roger Clemens drew the ire of ex-Congressman Chris Shays of Connecticut, who told the New York Daily News he believes Clemens lied to Congress during his testimony last year on his alleged use of steroids, adding that “he was incredibly arrogant about it.”

And how was your week?


Former Montreal Expos and Colorado Rockies star Larry Walker’s pending induction into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame cements the British Columbia native’s reputation as the best everyday player Canada has ever produced.

In 17 big league seasons, Walker batted .313 with 383 homers and 230 stolen bases. A five-time All-Star, Walker was the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 1997 after smacking 49 homers and driving in 130 runs for the Colorado Rockies that season. The 42-year-old Walker will be a coach for Canada’s World Baseball Classic team next month.

He’ll be joined in the Canadian Hall by former Toronto Blue Jays catcher Ernie Whitt, ex-Baseball Canada VP Bernie Soulliere and early-1900’s pro ballplayer Roy “Doc” Miller.


Former Los Angeles Dodgers closer Takashi Saito is hoping that he’ll be able to shake problems with his right elbow and have a good year for the Boston Red Sox. After saving 69 games for the Dodgers from 2006-07, he fell to 18 saves for Los Angeles last season before becoming a free agent. The 39-year-old Saito signed a one-year deal with Boston for $1.5 million.

Saito is one of four Japanese pitchers on the Sox roster, joining Daisuke Matsuzaka, Hideki Okajima and Junichi Tazawa. With elite closer Jonathan Papelbon on the scene, Boston manager Terry Francona is likely to use Saito as a setup man out of the bullpen.


After initial political repercussions were smoothed over, Korea Baseball Association club presidents have again nominated Korea Sports Council vice chairman You Young-koo as Commissioner of the KBO. You was first nominated December 16, but withdrew his candidacy six days later after some pressure from Korean politicians whose feathers were ruffled because they weren’t consulted first.

Things appear to be going smoother this time around. The 62-year-old You was unanimously nominated by KBO presidents last week to the post, and was the only named placed in the pot of candidates. You has accepted the nomination, and will require only six of the eight owners’ votes later this month to be placed in the Commissioner’s office. He will get no annual salary from the KBO, receiving only compensation for monthly expenses.

You will become the tenth Commissioner since the KBO’s inception in 1982.


Baseball’s all-time home run king was in Taiwan recently to receive an award for his contributions to the sport and for fostering friendship between Japanese and Taiwanese people. Sadaharu Oh, who belted 868 homers in 22 Japanese seasons with the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants, stepped down as manager of the Softbank Hawks following last season after a bout with stomach cancer. He plans to spend his retirement promoting baseball among Asian youths.

While in Taipei, Oh received the Order of the Brilliant Star from Taiwan president Ma Ying-jeou, followed by a luncheon at the Presidential Office. Oh also visited longtime friend Wu Po-hsiung, who chairs Taiwan’s ruling Kuomintang Party. The son of a Chinese father and Japanese mother, Oh plans to visit the island nation again in May.


Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame member Kazuhiro Yamauchi has died of liver failure in Tokyo at the age of 76. He has been a member of the Hall since 2002.

During his playing career, the 5’9” Yamauchi led the Pacific League in RBIs four times between 1954 and 1961, topping the circuit in homers twice and collecting one batting title. He was a lifetime .295 hitter with 396 homers and 1,286 RBIs in 19 seasons for three teams between 1952 through 1970, becoming the first Japanese player to hit 300 homers in the process. Yamauchi was the Pacific League MVP in 1960 after leading the league with 32 homers and 103 RBIs for the pennant-winning Daimei Orions.

Yamauchi later managed the Lotte Orions and Chunichi Dragons before ending his baseball career in 1998 after one season coaching Taiwan’s Chinatrust Whales.


The Perth Heat came away with the Claxton Shield after winning Australia’s national championship last weekend in their Grand Final series against the New South Wales Patriots.

After the Patriots won Game One, Perth came back to win two in a row to take the Final, 2 games to 1. Heat starter Daniel Schmidt was impressive in Game Three, shutting out New South Wales on two hits over 6.2 innings as Perth went on to a 3-2 win in the clincher.

Perth’s Nick Kimpton was named Offensive Champion while teammate Luke Hughes was the Finals MVP. Tim Cox of New South Wales was selected as Pitching Champion.


Shortly after the pitching-dominated Caribbean Series concluded, reliever Francisco Butto of the champion Aragua Tigres was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Butto saved four games in as many opportunities for the Tigres, striking out six batters in 3.1 innings. He allowed no hits or runs until Aragua’s final inning of the Series.

A former Phillies and Yankees farmhand, Butto was 3-0 with seven saves and a 3.20 ERA in 57 appearances for both Oaxaca and Mexico City of the Mexican League in 2008.  A Venezuela native, he has pitched a number of winters for Aragua, who won their first Caribbean Series title by winning five of six games in Mexicali against teams from Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.


Just a month before the second World Baseball Classic opens with pool play in four cities, Cuba has finally announced who will manage their team. Higinio Velez, who managed Cuba to the championship game against Japan in the first WBC in 2006, will be the team’s skipper in March when they are joined in Mexico City by South Africa, Australia and Pool B host Mexico.

Shortly after Cuba was defeated by Japan in the WBC title game three years ago, Velez was replaced by Rey Anglada, manager of the Cuban National Series’ Industriales Leones. Other men considered to run Cuba’s WBC team were Antonio Pacheco, who led Cuba to a silver medal in the Beijing Olympics, and former Cuban National Team manager Jorge Fuentes. In the end, the nod went to Velez, who has been serving both as president of the Cuban Baseball Federation and commissioner of the National Series the past year and a half.

Cuba will take on South Africa on March 8 at Foro Sol in Mexico City in the opening game of Pool B play. The MLB Network will televise all WBC games from Mexico City.


Representatives from the International Baseball Federation met with leaders from various European cities tabbed to host the 2009 Baseball Cup. The meeting took place earlier this month in Frankfurt, Germany. In all, World Cup games will take place in 27 venues across seven nations.

The meeting was largely to finalize plans and schedules for the September tournament, and to assure the IBAF that all the host countries are on track to host the 22-nation event. First round games are scheduled to be played in Moscow, Prague, Barcelona, Stockholm and Regensburg, Germany. Organizers in Regensburg report over 10,000 tickets have been sold for World Cup games at their ballpark.

The second round will be split between venues in Italy and The Netherlands, considered the top two baseball countries in Europe, while the World Cup final is set for September 27 in Italy.


The son of baseball’s all-time hits leader is talking with a team about playing across the Atlantic this season. Pete Rose, Junior was reported close to signing a contract with the DeAngelis Godo club, which finished seventh in the Italian Serie A1 standings in 2008.

The well-traveled Rose began his professional career in 1989 as a 19-year-old infielder with the Erie Orioles of the Class A New York-Penn League. Since then, he has bounced around the minor leagues, appearing briefly for his hometown Cincinnati Red in 1997 (batting .143 in eleven games). Last season, Rose batted .289 with 15 homers and 95 RBIs in 129 games for the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


The Aragua Tigres of Venezuela have won their first Caribbean Series championship after going 5-1 in the week-long tournament in Mexicali, Mexico. The Tigres reeled off five straight wins out the gate at the Series, clinching the title Friday night with a 5-3 win over Mexico’s Mazatlan Venados for Venezuela’s seventh CS crown.
Third baseman Luis Maza led the Tigres regulars with a .300 batting average as the team hit just .235. Aragua had only one homer in the Series, but it was a big one. Hector Gimenez’ bomb gave the Tigres a 1-0 win in 11 innings over Mazatlan Tuesday. The pitching was better, as Tim Harikkala shut out Mazatlan over six innings in his only start, and closer Francisco Butto had four saves in as many chances for manager Buddy Bailey’s team.


It was the Gonzalez Brothers Show at the Caribbean Series for the Mazatlan Venados, who finished second at 3-3. Adrian Gonzalez, a National League All-Star for San Diego in 2008, led all batters with three homers and eight RBIs. All three homers came Wednesday night against Licey in a wild 12-9 Venados win. Edgar Gonzalez, who hit .274 in 111 games playing next to his brother in San Diego last year, won the CS batting race with a .457 mark. Mazatlan shortstop Heber Gomez added a solid .400 average to the Mexican lineup.
Among Mazatlan pitchers, Mexican veteran Walter Silva was outstanding Monday night against Ponce, shutting out the Lions on three hits over seven innings. Although Silva lost the Series finale to Licey Saturday, he ended up with a 2.25 ERA and 13 Ks in 12 frames.


The Ponce Leones finished the Caribbean Series with a pair of wins after combining with past Puerto Rico League champions to lose eleven straight games dating back to 2006. Ponce scored just six runs over their first four games this year, all losses, before notching three against Licey on Friday and nine more against Aragua on Saturday to end up at 2-4.
Luis Figueroa batted .389, Carlos Rivera hit .360 and Andy Gonzalez finished at .333, but Puerto Rico League MVP Jorge Padilla batted just .182 while MLB veteran catcher Raul Casanova hit .091 (going 1 for 11). Pitcher Josue Matos hurled five shutout innings in Ponce’s 3-0 whitewashing of Licey Friday, while Giancarlo Alvarado won Saturday’s game over Aragua. Alvarado struck out 16 batters in 11.2 innings for manager Eduardo Perez’ club.


The Godess of Fortune has finally stopped smiling upon the Licey Tigres. One year after the Tigres won the Caribbean Series after being the number two team from the host Dominican Republic due to no winterball in Puerto Rico, Licey barely slipped in the Dominican League playoffs this winter before winning their 20th pennant in the posteason.
Things went sour early for the defending champs, as the Tigres lost four of their first five games and were never in contention. Licey was not without some good performances, however. Catcher Ronny Paulino led Dominican batters by hitting .381 with two homers and five RBIs. Pitcher Alfredo Simon pitched shutout ball over seven innings to win his only start.


San Diego Padres owner John Moores has signed a contract to sell the National League team to former player agent Jeff Moorad. Moorad is currently a general partner in the Arizona Diamondbacks MLB team.
According to Moores, Moorad and his partnership group will have five years to buy out controlling interest in the Padres. Until then, Moores will retain control of the San Diego franchise. He bought the team in late 1994 for $82 million. Last year, Forbes Magazine valued the Padres at $385 million, 19th among the 30 Major League teams.
According to MLB rules, no person can own more than five percent in two franchises. Moorad owns about 12 percent in the Diamondbacks, and thus will have to divest himself of most of his holdings in the Phoenix club.


The Los Angeles Dodgers will become the first MLB team to host a regular season Mexican League game in its home ballpark this season. Dodger Stadium will be the scene of a May 16 game between the Mexico City Diablos Rojos and Monterrey Sultanes. The game is being staged with support from the Los Angeles Angels, Minor League Baseball and both the Mexican and California Leagues.
Former Dodgers ace Fernando Valenzuela was in Mexicali Thursday for a press conference announcing “La Serie Azul,” as was Jaime Jarrin, the 1998 Ford Frick Award winner who has announced Dodgers games in Spanish on the radio since 1959. Valenzuela is one of 17 Mexican natives to have suited up for the Dodgers over the years. The team has long had ties to baseball south of the border, having played exhibition games in both Mexico City and Monterrey (including a two-game series against the Diablos Rojos in 1964).


Longtime Hiroshima Carp pitcher Ken Takahashi has signed a one-year minor league contract with the Toronto Blue Jays. The deal includes an invitation for Takahashi to attend the Jays’ major league spring training camp later this month.
The 39-year-old left-hander was 8-5 with a 3.50 ERA over 31 appearances in Japan’s Central League last season for Hiroshima. Takahashi broke in with the Carp in 1995 and went on to compile a career record of 66-87 with a 4.23 ERA over 14 seasons. He racked up 1.049 strikeouts in 1,429 innings. Takahashi’s best year was in 2001, when he went 10-8 with 132 whiffs in 173 innings.


Asia is becoming more and more attractive in the never-ending search for baseball prospects, especially South Korea. The country’s surge in recent years to baseball power status has big league organizations taking a closer look at young Korean players, including the Chicago Cubs.
The Cubs will have four Koreans in camp when spring training opens this month in Arizona. One of them, pitcher Rhee Dae-Eun, was 4-1 with a 1.80 ERA in ten starts last year for Chicago’s Class A affiliate in Peoria. Rhee will be joined by fellow pitcher Jung Su-Min, infielder Lee Hak-Ju and outfielder Ha Jae-Hoon.
Cubs director of international scouting Paul Weaver says one trait stands out: “They’ll go out and do plyometrics for one hour before they start practice. The Koreans work hard.”


Baseball season starts earlier in Japan than in the USA. While American big leaguers are still making plans and packing their gear for spring training in Arizona or Florida, camp is already underway in the Land of the Rising Sun. Training camp opened February 1 for all 12 Japanese teams and, like spring anywhere, people are concentrating on different things.
Among managers, Seibu Lions skipper Hisanobu Watanabe is hoping for an encore of last year’s Japan Series title, Yomiuri manager Tatsunori Hara will be splitting his attention between the Giants and managing Japan’s World Baseball Classic team next month, and rookie manager Koji Akiyama is taking over the Softbank Hawks after the legendary Sadaharu Oh stepped down for health reasons after last season.
Among the players, Nippon Ham pitcher Yu Darvish started spring training by throwing 125 pitches in the Fighters’ bullpen, Hanshin Tigers first baseman Takahiro Arai took indoor batting practice for an hour, and Lotte Marines second baseman Tadahito Iguchi marked his return to Japanese baseball after four MLB seasons by doing some extra weight training.
Exhibition games in Japan begin February 28, with the regular season starting April 3.


The defending Chinese Professional Baseball League champion Uni-President Lions have signed first baseman Kao Kuo-ching to a one-year contract that will make him one of the highest-paid hitters in Taiwan. Kao will make the equivalent of $10,400US per month.
The 30-year-old Kao batted .332 with seven homers for the Lions last season following a 2007 campaign in which he was named the league’s Most Valuable Player after hitting .358 with 20 homers and 89 RBIs. He helped lead the Lions to a first place finish in the regular season with a 67-33 record before defeating the Brother Elephants in the Taiwan Series.


Minor league veteran infielder Eduardo Rios is joining Telemarket Rimini of the Italian League this year. Rios spent four seasons in the Los Angeles Dodgers system before embarking on a long stint in the Mexican League. He led the Liga in homers with 33 in 2006. Rios also spent some time playing in Korea.
In 2008, Rios split the season between the Lincoln Saltdogs and Brockton Rox of the, with a combined .275 average, 11 homers and 52 RBIs. He spent this winter in his native Venezuela playing for the Lara Cardenales, batting .244. The 36-year-old first baseman is expected to add power to a Rimini lineup that only managed 18 homers as a team in 2007.


The Barranquilla Caimanes defeated the Monteria Leones in seven games to win the Colombian League Championship Series for their second straight pennant. Barranquilla trailed 3 games to 2 in the series before winning Games Six and Seven by scores of 9-2 and 10-7, respectively.

Barranquilla, Monteria and the Cartagena Tigres all had 4-4 records in the opening stage round-robin, but the Tigres were bounced from the finals because they finished third behind the Caimanes and Leones in the regular season.

Monteria’s Reynaldo Rodriguez won the Colombian batting title with a .378 average, while Caratgena pitcher Ryan Knippschild led the league with five wins and a 2.30 ERA.

CARIBBEAN SERIES: Day Six (Feb. 7, 2009)

Aragua finally defeated as Ponce pounds Tigres, 9-1
After clinching the Caribbean Series title Friday night, Venezuela’s Aragua Tigres might be forgiven if they were off their game Saturday afternoon. Puerto Rico League MVP Jorge Padilla smashed a three-run homer in a nine-run third inning for Ponce in the Leones’ 9-1 rout of the Tigres. It was Puerto Rico’s second straight Caribbean Series win after losing eleven straight games dating to 2007.
Aragua starter Brad Knox was rocked for eight runs in 2.2 frames. The loss was Venezuela’s first of the CS as the Tigres finished 5-1. Ponce ended at 2-4.

Licey ends Series with win over Mazatlan
Salvador Paniagua cracked a two-run homer and Ronny Paulino added a solo blast to lead the Licey Tigres to a 4-2 win over the Mazatlan Venados in the Series-ending game Saturday night in Mexicali. Christian Quintero drove in both Mexican runs. Mazatlan finished second with a 3-3 record, while Licey was 2-4.
Mazatlan played without brothers Edgar and Adrian Gonzalez in the lineup. Edgar led the CS with a .458 average, while Adrian led all batters with three homers and eight RBIs.

Final Standings
Aragua (DR) Tigres 5-1, Mazatlan (MX) Venados 3-3, Ponce (PR) Leones 2-4, Licey (DR) Tigres 2-4.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

CARIBBEAN SERIES: Day Five (Feb. 6, 2009)

Venezuela's Aragua Tigres defeated the Mazatlan Venados, 5-3, Friday night to clinch the 2009 Caribbean Series championship.  This is Aragua's first CS titles in eight trips to the series.  Ponce won their first game of the CS Friday afternoon, shutting out Licey, 3-0.  Even with the win, the Leones have scored just nine runs in five ballgames this week.

Venezuelans clinch CS title with win over Mazatlan
Aragua’s Luis Maza led off the top of the seventh inning with a double, and later scored to break a 2-2 tie as the Venezuelans went on to beat Mazatlan, 5-3, Friday night in Mexicali to clinch the 2009 Caribbean Series title. Francisco Butto earned his fourth save for the Tigres, who are now 5-0 with one game left.
Adrian Gonzalez doubled in one run and singled in another for the Mexicans, who fell to 3-2 in the series.

Leadoff homer propels Ponce’s first CS win
Ponce’s Jesus Feliciano led off Friday afternoon’s game with a homer, and that would be all the scoring the Leones needed in a 3-0 win over the Licey Tigres. Andy Gonzalez added a sixth-inning solo shot off Licey starter Julio Mateo as Ponce won their first game in five tries this week.
Leones starter Josue Matos allowed two Licey hits while walking six batters in five-plus innings to collect the win.

Saturday’s CS schedule
On Saturday, Ponce and Aragua open the final day of play at 2PM ET, while Licey and Mazatlan wrap things up at 6PM ET.

Aragua (VZ) Tigres 5-0, Mazatlan (MX) Venados 3-2, Ponce (PR) Leones 1-4, Licey (DR) Tigres 1-4.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

CARIBBEAN SERIES: Day Four (Feb. 5, 2009)

The Aragua Tigres beat defending Caribbean Series champion Licey Thursday to eliminate the Domincans from a chance to repeat last year's title. The Venezuelan pennant winners will now square off Friday night against the Mazatlan Venados of Mexico, who were stretched 12 innings before handing pesky Ponce of Puerto Rico their fourth loss in as many games in the CS.

Aragua still perfect, eliminates Licey from CS contention
Venezuela’s Aragua Tigres ran their record to 4-0 with a 3-2 win over Licey Thursday afternoon in Mexicali. The Dominican champions took a 2-0 first inning lead on catcher Ronny Paulino’s two-run homer with two out, but Aragua came back with three runs in the third, two of them on a Selwyn Langaigne single.
Francisco Butto recorded his third series save for Aragua as Licey fell to 1-3 and were mathematically eliminated from repeating their 2008 Caribbean title.

Venados beat Ponce to remain in hunt for CS crown
Mexico’s Mazatlan Venados broke up a 1-1 ballgame with four runs on three hits in the top of the twelfth inning, including a two-run single by Freddy Sandoval, and went on to beat Puerto Rico’s champion Ponce Leones, 5-1. The loss wasted a great effort by starter Bill Pulsipher of Ponce, who allowed one run on six hits with seven strikeouts in 6.1 innings.
The Venados are now 3-1 in the Series while Ponce dropped to 0-4.

Friday’s CS schedule
On Friday, Ponce will take on Licey at 5PM ET, while Aragua meets Mazatlan at 9PM ET with first place on the line. Both games will be televised live on the MLB Network.

Aragua (VZ) Tigres 4-0, Mazatlan (MX) Venados 3-1, Licey (DR) Tigres 1-3, Ponce (PR) Leones 0-4

CARIBBEAN SERIES: Day Three (Feb. 4, 2009)

Finally, the bats wake up. After Aragua lifted their record to 3-0 Wednesday afternoon with a win over Ponce, Adrian Gonzalez crushed three homers as Mazatlan held on to beat Licey, 12-9. It wasn't pretty, but it WAS entertaining.

Venezuelans go to 3-0 with win over Ponce
The bottom of the order carried the Aragua Tigres to a 5-2 win over Ponce Wednesday afternoon in Mexicali. Number eight hitter Alex Delgado had two hits and two RBIs, while number nine batsman Ramon Castro whacked a two-out, two-run single in the second. Starter Horacio Estrada got the win for Aragua.
Ponce first baseman Raul Gonzalez singled and doubled and went on to score both runs for the Puerto Ricans.

Lights Out: Gonzalez crushes 3 HRs as Mazatlan tops Licey
Adrian Gonzalez blasted three homers and drove in four runs to key a 16-hit outburst as the Mazatlan Venados outlasted defending Caribbean Series champion Licey, 12-9, Wednesday night. Jose Bautista belted a two-run homer in a four-run third inning for the Tigres, but the Dominicans committed five errors in the field.
The game was delayed by a long power outage following the fifth inning. Gonzalez drilled his second homer of the game shortly after play resumed.

Thursday’s CS schedule
On Thursday, Licey (1-2) will take on Ponce (0-3) at 5PM ET, while Mazatlan (2-1) meets Aragua (3-0) at 9PM ET.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

CARIBBEAN SERIES: Day Two (Feb. 3, 2009)

Two more pitching duels in Mexicali on Tuesday, but both games were decided by dramatic home runs...

Pinch-hit homer helps Licey down Ponce, 2-1

A pinch-hit seventh-inning two-run homer by Fernando Martinez gave the Licey Tigres all the runs they needed in a 2-1 win over Ponce in Tuesday’s opener. With two out, Martinez drilled a 1-1 pitch off reliever Jose Vaquedano into the right field bleachers.
Licey starting pitcher Alfredo Simon combined with three relievers to limit the Leones to seven hits.

Gimenez homer in 11th gives Aragua 1-0 win over Mazatlan
A two-out solo homer by first baseman Hector Gimenez gave the Aragua Tigres an 11-inning 1-0 win over Mazatlan Tuesday. Gimenez clouted a towering shot to right off reliever Jose Cobos to end yet another pitching duel. A total of 14 runs have been scored in four Caribbean Series games thus far.
Venados starter Edgar Gonzalez was superb, blanking Aragua on two hits with nine strikeouts and no walks through seven innings.

Wednesday’s CS schedule
On Wednesday, Aragua (2-0) will take on Ponce (0-2) at 5PM ET, while Mazatlan (1-1) meets Licey (1-1) at 9PM ET.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

CARIBBEAN SERIES: Day One (Feb. 2, 2009)

Champions from Venezuela and Mexico both opened the 2009 Caribbean Series with 3-2 wins Monday in Mexico.

Maza collects 4 hits in 3-2 Aragua win over Licey
Shortstop Luis Maza went 4-for-5 at the plate with two RBIs and starter Brad Knox allowed no hits in 6.1 innings as Venezuela’s Aragua Tigres slipped by Dominican champion Licey, 3-2, in the opening game in Mexicali.
Maza’s ninth-inning single off Licey’s Victor Marte drove in Ramon Castro to break a 2-2 tie. Ronnie Belliard whacked a homer for the Tigres.

Silva sharp on hill as Mazatlan tops Ponce, 3-2
Mazatlan starter Walter Silva scattered three hits and struck out 11 Ponce batters as the Venados held off the Leones, 3-2, in the first day nightcap. Brothers Adrian and Edgar Gonzalez combined to drive in all three Mazatlan runs.
Ponce’s Giancarlo Alvarado struck out 11 Mazatlan batsmen on the hill before being pulled with two outs in the sixth.

Tuesday’s CS schedule
On Tuesday, Licey will take on Ponce at 5PM ET, while Mazatlan meets Aragua at 9PM ET. Both games will be televised live on the MLB Network.

Mazatlan Venados (MX) 1-0, Aragua Tigres (VZ) 1-0, Licey Tigres (DR) 0-1, Ponce Leones (PR) 0-1.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


The 2009 Caribbean Series will get underway Monday with the first of six scheduled doubleheaders at Estadio Casas GEO, home of the Mexican Pacific League’s Mexicali Aguilas. The first game will take place at 2PM local time when defending Caribbean Series champion Licey of the Dominican Republic takes on Venezuelan Series champs Aragua. Monday’s 7PM nightcap will feature Mexican titlist Mazatlan in a battle with Puerto Rican kingpin Ponce.

Teams will face each other twice over six doubleheaders. World Baseball Today will provide daily Caribbean Series updates at 8:30AM ET on WRMI radio in Miami.


A four-run outburst in the second inning of Game Seven highlighted the Aragua Tigres’ 7-3 win over the Caracas Leones in the deciding contest of the Venezuelan Series. The two teams entered Friday’s game with three wins apiece in the best-of-7 set, but Aragua third baseman Matt Tolbert’s three-run homer keyed the Tigres’ big second frame en route to winning their eighth Venezuelan League pennant, five under current manager Buddy Bailey.

Six Aragua pitchers combined to spread out three Caracas runs on seven hits. Starter Jeff Farnsworth pitched two perfect innings to earn the win for the Tigres, while the Leones’ Juan Gutierrez gave up those four runs in his four frames on the mound for the loss.


The Licey Tigres topped the Cibao Gigantes, 4-3, in 12 innings to complete the Tigres’ five-game sweep over Cibao in the best-of-9 Dominican Series last week. Anderson Hernandez drove in Ronnie Belliard with the winning run by stroking a single to left.

Ervin Santana pitched five strong innings for the Tigres in Game Five, tossing five scoreless innings. Erick Aybar was 3-for-4 with three walk for Licey, scoring one run and driving in another. The Tigres have now won 20 Dominican League pennants.


The Mazatlan Venados won their third Mexican Pacific League championship in five winters by sweeping the Los Mochis Caneros, including a 3-2 win in Game Four of the series.

Former Atlanta farmhand Sergio Valenzuela came out of the bullpen for the Venados with 3.1 innings of perfect relief in the clincher for the win. Christian Quintero put Mazatlan on the board with a first-inning solo homer, while Miguel Ojeda and Jon Weber registered RBI singles in the fourth and seventh frames, respectively.


The Ponce Leones rode the shutout pitching of Hector Mercado and two relievers to an 8-0 win over the Arecibo Lobos last week, completing a four-game sweep of the Lobos in the Puerto Rican Series. Mercado scattered three hits over 6.2 innings for the Leones.

Reggie Abercrombie’s two-run homer, Marlins farmhand Andy Gonzalez’ solo bomb, and two doubles and a triple for Rays prospect Gabriel Martinez led the Leones attack as the Game Four shutout handed Ponce their eleventh Puerto Rican League pennant.


While baseball’s longtime claim as “America’s National Pastime” has come under question over the past few decades, Major League Baseball came in a strong second to the National Football League in a recent Harris Interactive poll among American sports fans.

The NFL remained the most popular sport in the USA, topping the list with 31 percent. MLB came in second at 16 percent, ahead of NCAA college football (12%), NASCAR auto racing (8%), the National Basketball Association (6%) and the National Hockey League (5%).

Though the most recent poll has baseball in a fairly strong position, there’s some work to be done. Since Harris Interactive began asking the question in 1985, the NFL’s popularity has increased by seven points in the intervening years, while MLB has dropped seven points over the same period. The most recent survey was conducted in December among nearly 2,400 USA adults, during the peak of the NFL season and MLB’s offseason.


It’s nothing new when a tell-all book about the New York Yankees appears on the shelves. However, when the person doing the telling is former Yanks manager Joe Torre, fans in New York and elsewhere take notice. Torre’s new book, “The Yankee Years,” is due in bookstores this Tuesday, but excerpts that appeared in New York newspapers last weekend have already raised hackles among Yankee fans.

In the 477-page book, co-written by Tom Verducci, Torre takes aim at Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and third baseman Alex Rodriguez. Cashman is depicted as someone who betrayed Torre on a number of fronts, while Rodriguez (who Torre says was called “A-Fraud” by teammates) is shown as obsessed with fellow Yanks infielder Derek Jeter.

Torre managed the Yankees to four World Series titles and six American League pennants in 12 years, but left the team after the 2007 season in a salary dispute. He then signed a three-year, $13 million contract to manage the Los Angeles Dodgers. Torre led the Dodgers to 84 wins and the National League Championship Series in 2008.


Pittsburgh Pirates team president Frank Coonelly traveled to the Dominican Republic in January to visit the team’s baseball training complex under construction in the municipality of El Toro. Coonelly also toured other similar major league facilities for further ideas.

Coonelly reported that the El Toro complex construction is on time, and that it will be ready before the Pirates’ Dominican Summer League team starts play in late May. The academy is being built to house and train young Dominican ballplayers. Dorm rooms, offices, clubhouse and training areas have been built, playing fields are being sodded, and the team is working on food services for their young players housed at El Toro.


The Cleveland Indians have signed 17-year-old catcher Martin Cervenka from the Czech Republic to a standard seven-year minor league contract. Cervenka becomes the first European baseball player in the Cleveland organization.

Cervenka played most of last season with Kotlarka of the Czech Second Division, but also made some appearances with the Prague Tegolta Titans of the Extraleague, batting .214 over six games. Cervenka’s contract with the Indians allows him to continue playing with Kotlarka in 2009.


With first place in both the Occidental and Oriental Divisions in firm control of La Habana and Villa Clara, respectively, attention in the Cuban National Series is turning to which teams will finish in second.

La Habana is 30-15, good enough for a seven-game lead over Pinar del Rio in the Occidental Division. Pinar is 23-22, and sit 1.5 games ahead of 22-24 Metropolitanos after Pinar got by Sancti Spiritus, 5-3, Tuesday night at home. Pinar starter Vlaidimir Banos won his fifth game of the season by pitching all nine innings and allowing two earned runs. Pinar catcher Yosvani Peraza cracked a two-run homer in the fourth, his 13th of the year.

Villa Clara’s 34-11 record is the best in Cuban baseball, and they lead 29-17 Ciego de Avila by 5.5 games in the Oriental Division. Santiago de Cuba is right behind in third at 28-17 following their 4-3 win over Villa Clara Tuesday night. Santiago’s Reutilio Hurtado whacked a two-run double in the sixth, then scored the game-winning run from third base in the ninth when Villa Clara first baseman Yuniet Flores dropped Ronnier Mustelier’s pop fly.


The New South Wales Patriots have advanced to Australia’s Claxton Shield finals after defeating the Victoria Aces in the semifinal round last weekend.

The Patriots shut out Victoria, 5-0, in Game Three to win the series, 2 games to 1. After winning the first game, the Aces were shut out over the last 22 innings of the semis as New South Wales dominated Game Two, 9-0, before clinching the series one day later. New South Wales’ Shannon Pender drilled a three-run homer in Game Two, followed by a two-run shot in Game Three. Starter Craig Anderson went seven innings in the deciding game for the Patriots, scattering four Victoria hits and striking out six batsmen.

New South Wales will now meet regular season champion Perth in a best-of-3 Claxton Shield final next weekend. This is the 75th year of Claxton Shield competition in Australia.


The sport of baseball has popped up in some unusual places over the years, but few may seem as unlikely as Vietnam. Some 35 years after the final pullout of American troops from the Southeast Asian nation, a very American game is beginning to take hold. It hasn’t been easy, but a dedicated group of ballplayers are trying to spark the fire.

Vietnam’s first baseball club formed six months ago in Hanoi, and still has only one bat and a few balls and gloves. According to 25-year-old Bui Hai, the club does not have any formal coaching or instruction, so members who have learned what they know about baseball largely from the internet played the game on a trial-and-error basis to better understand the intricacies of the sport. Said Bui, “At the beginning, we debated all the time because none of us knew deeply about the rules. We learned knowledge about this sport via cartoons and the internet. We had been playing a long time before we realized we had been playing wrong.”

Since then, other similar teams have formed in Vietnam, with weekly friendly matches the norm. American lawyer and baseball coach Thomas Treutler has opened a free baseball training course for children in Hanoi. Treutler tells the VietnamNet website that nowhere did people play baseball in deprivation like these youngsters, adding, “One day, if baseball develops in Vietnam, they may be your first generation of coaches.”