Great Britain’s 2009 Baseball World Cup journey will now begin at a new destination. The International Baseball Federation (IBAF) announced yesterday that Croatia will replace Russia in the tournament and take over as the host of Pool D.
The move from Moscow to Zagreb has been confirmed less than two months before the tournament is scheduled to begin on 9 September.
Team GB were originally grouped with Russia, Japan and Nicaragua in a Moscow-based pool, one of five that make up the first round of the tournament. The prospect of playing in Russia added further excitement to an event that will see Great Britain sharing a ballfield with Japan for the first time in a major international tournament.
As well as the challenges on the field, Team GB’s General Manager Alan Smith told BaseballGB earlier in the year that the trip to Moscow posed its own administrative challenges too. “As our opening round games will be played in Moscow, I will have to obtain visas for each member of our squad. This is likely to be a time-consuming process and one which could further complicate our travel arrangements”, said Smith.
That planning process will now be changed. Zagreb is the new venue and all travel and hotel arrangements will have to be reconsidered. It’s undoubtedly something Smith could have done without, coming so closely to the team’s tournament opener against Japan on 10 September. However, rumours of the switch had been circulating on the internet for a while and it’s likely that new plans have already been taken forward behind the scenes.
No explanation has been given for Russia’s withdrawal from the tournament. The IBAF Secretary John Ostermeyer simply stated that the IBAF “are very appreciative of the Russian Federation for stepping aside and allowing the Croatian Baseball Federation to move in and take over as host of Pool D”. Why Russia would step aside from participating in and hosting a major baseball event remains unanswered. It can only be assumed that there were either financial problems in fielding a team or problems with the logistics of hosting the six-game pool in Moscow.
As for Team GB’s new opponents, Croatia are ranked 34th in the IBAF’s World Rankings and recent results suggest they are of a similar standard to Russia. They finished eighth (out of twelve) in the 2007 European Baseball Championships, earning wins against the Czech Republic, Austria and Ukraine and pushing Germany to a one-run loss (8-7). Heavy defeats came at the hands of Sweden (11-2) and the tournament winners the Netherlands, who gained a 13-0 ‘mercy’ victory after seven innings.
Information about the baseball facilities in Zagreb are not readily available; however the city is home to the reigning Croatian League champions, Baseball Club Zagreb, so a permanent baseball field is already in place. Ticketing arrangements for the other World Cup venues have already been released and it is expected that details for the six games in Zagreb will be announced shortly.
Great Britain’s Pool D schedule will now be as follows:
- Thursday 10 Sept. – GB vs Japan,
- Friday 11 Sept. – Nicaragua vs GB,
- Saturday 12 Sept. – Croatia vs GB.
Team GB on the official World Cup website
British baseball is currently enjoying some good publicity via the official Baseball World Cup website. As well as the Pool D venue change news, there are features from the BaseballSoftballUK website about the National Baseball League and the graduation of four new Level 3 baseball coaches in the UK, while our Q&A’s with Alan Smith and 2007 European Championship MVP Brant Ust have been reproduced.