The World Baseball Classic is under way. Players from all around the world have come together in empty stadiums to engage in the pleasures of sport. But while the fun and games are going on, there is a more important issue to address. You see, this WBC has created some confusion in regards to the title. It has been confused with another, more competitive, international baseball tournament; the Third World Baseball Classic.
Every year, the TWBC invites underdeveloped countries to compete for the title of “Best Underprivileged Baseball Squadron”. While the quality of baseball is significantly lower than that of the WBC, the TWBC has story lines that would make Putin cry. Players born without the ability to see, hear, or even play baseball thrive on an international stage in front of millions.
What makes the TWBC really unique is the resourcefulness present among the organizers. Instead of bats; teams use pipes and other assorted metal scraps lying around their respective dilapidated cities. Instead of real rubber bases, lines are drawn in the dirt to symbolize where bases would be. This causes an understandable number of delays after slides. Another charming quality of the TWBC is that the 7th inning stretch is actually the entire game because none of the stadiums have comfortable seats.
Spread the word about this tournament. While the World Baseball Classic is full of awesome talent and national pride, this month’s real gem is the Third World Baseball Classic which shines as a beacon for the underdeveloped across the world.
Pool A: Games played in Mogadishu Stadium — Mogadishu, Somalia
Somalia’s militia/middle infielders
Favorites: As a perennial poverty powerhouse playing on its home turf, Somalia has to be the head honcho in this pool. Whether or not the Trinidadian team can find a ride to Mogadishu will dictate whether or not they get out of this group.
Stadium Preview: Mogadishu Stadium
It’s not exactly in the best condition, and it’s a bit unclear where the bullpens, dugouts, bases, field, fences and pretty much everything will be. The photo on the right seems to indicate a pitcher’s park, with straightaway center field roughly about 500 feet away from home plate. As if that wasn’t enough, the half demolished press box is clearly in the hitter’s sight lines. And we know what effect that kind of thing has.The photo on the left indicates a wildlife presence, which most park factors don’t account for. Assuming the teams bring their automatic weapons, this shouldn’t be much of an issue. I’m curious to see how the slick Iraqi infielders handle grounders on this rugged surface. The outfielders should be in a fairly normal alignment, except of course when facing the strangely 100% left-handed Yemen squad. Very excited to see some baseball here.
Pool B: Games played in National Sports Stadium — Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
- Papa New Guinea
Genghis Khan: Mongolia’s Only Hall of Famer
Favorites: Afghanistan has dominated international competition since 2001, but have a weaker team this go round. That being said, they should get out of a relatively weak group. Tourney dark horse Mongolia should also be competitive. Not many people know about this team, who haven’t won anything significant since the 14th century.
Stadium Preview: National Sports Stadium
The picture on the left is a pretty clear shot of this beautiful facility. The picture on the right is a larger scale version of the majority of the results when you Google Image “National Sports Stadium Mongolia”. No, seriously. Anyway, this looks to be a more neutral park, with fairly deep gaps but short down the lines. These teams are much more fortunate to be playing on a field with actual grass and even in front of a few fans. Much like Oakland, there is plenty of foul territory. This should give the defensive wizard playing catcher for Team Tanzania a considerable advantage. I expect some low scoring affairs.
Pool C: Games played in the fields surrounding Osama Bin Laden’s Compound — Abbottabad, Pakistan
- Sierra Leone
Home-field Advantage Might Not Be Enough for Pakistan
Favorites: The Haitian team has true star potential. They left home on a raft two years ago to save travel costs and should arrive in Pakistan this week. Despite a strong home-field advantage, the Pakistanis won’t get out of this tough group whose last spot will go to whichever poor African country is in the news at that particular time.
Stadium Preview: Garden Outside Bin Laden’s Crib
This is the Coors Field of the TWBC; the offenses could really get going here. If the Haitian team’s pull hitters can start roping some line drives into the cracks of the wall and into the compound, we will most likely be seeing some inside-the-park home run records, as the compound is obviously completely off limits. It’s unclear if the men sitting against the wall in the distance are where the bullpen will be, but if it is, this might be a factor. The sheer distance that a reliever will have to run to get to the mound could have a huge effect, especially when we have no idea where the mound even is. It’s certainly a short fence, which should play well for Team Sierra Leone, who is notorious for their fly ball rate. This will be a very interesting pool to follow. I’m sticking with Haiti.
Pool D: Games played in Tropicana Field – Tampa, Florida
- Antarctica Scientific Research Base
Bangladesh: A Home For Color Blind Japanese People
Favorites: Stocked with Americans, the Antarctic research team should be a good bet to make it out of this group. Madagascar, another island team with travel problems, might have too much to overcome in this pool. The Ethiopian team has historically been weak because they approach baseball like food so they just sit down and play with the dirt the whole time. Also, Bangladesh.
Stadium Preview: Tropicana Field
Simply the worst of the worst. On the totem pole of disastrous baseball fields, this is clearly at the bottom. These teams will struggle to maintain their enthusiasm for the event, but hopefully they can get through it. The abysmal lighting, the horrendous roof…the artificial turf…these four unlucky teams just wish they were in Pool A, playing in the friendly confines of Mogadishu Stadium.