The 2009 Baseball World Cup is nearly upon us and, after an exciting end to the British National Baseball League season, our attention now turns to Team GB’s international adventure.
Great Britain’s first game in Group D will be against Japan on 10 September in Zagreb, Croatia. This exciting clash with the reigning World Baseball Classic champions is fast approaching, which means it’s a good time to provide an update on funding issues surrounding the team, their preparations for the tournament and what TV coverage we can expect of the World Cup as a whole.
More funding struggles for Team GB
Great Britain released their provisional 40-man roster for the World Cup at the beginning of August. This will be reduced to a final roster of twenty-four, but that process may not just be based on sporting considerations. Bob Fromer recently wrote an impassioned article about the success of GB baseball and softball teams in the face of limited funding and sadly those funding issues have cropped up once again.
Great Britain’s brilliant second-placed finish in the 2007 European Baseball Championships was a great success in itself, but it also gave the team an opportunity to achieve even more as they qualified for the March 2008 Final Olympic Qualifier and the 2009 Baseball World Cup.
That first opportunity went by the wayside as Team GB had to withdraw from the event after being unable to raise an extra £40,000 to fund the trip to Taiwan. Now it looks as though they may not be able to take full advantage of the second opportunity either.
While Team GB will not be withdrawing from the World Cup, the strength of the roster and quality of preparations are likely to be affected by a shortfall of £30,000 which they have so far not been able to fill. A press release issued to interested parties noted:
“Without funding, GB Baseball will have to leave behind some of its best overseas-based players because of the extra cost of flying them to Zagreb, Croatia, for their opening game against current world champions Japan on 10 September. The team will also have to save money by flying to Croatia later than planned and cutting back on their pre-tournament training period”.
Great Britain’s General Manger Alan Smith added that “we will be up against some of the world’s best baseball teams and taking anything short of our strongest squad will leave us with a mountain to climb”. Hopefully there’s enough money in the pot for some hiking boots, ropes and harnesses then.
Team GB struggles financially because it cannot draw on the two main sources of funding available: UK Sport (effectively dedicated to Olympic sports) and Sport England (which focuses on activities that encourage mass participation). That leaves the sport fighting for itself, trying to attract money via sponsorship and fund-raising activities in a tough financial climate.
It will be a real shame if Great Britain cannot put together a full strength roster, but the silver lining to the cloud would be that a few more home-based players would get a chance to take part in the event. No doubt the final roster will be released in the very near future.
Great Britain head to Germany for World Cup preparations
Mister-Baseball.com passed on the news that Team GB’s World Cup preparations will include a three-game exhibition series against Germany, which presumably will go ahead regardless of the limited funds. The games will take place over the coming weekend (4-6 September), with the first staged in Stuttgart and the other two in Heidenheim.
Germany has been a favourite pre-tournament destination for Great Britain of late. They competed in two events held in the country prior to the 2007 European Baseball Championships: the Eifel Cup on 26-28 May and the German Baseball Open on 27 August-2 September. More details on those events can be found in the Year-by-Year history in the official archive for the Great Britain national baseball team at gbbsa.org.uk.
The Euros were the most recent occasion when GB and Germany locked horns. Germany won that encounter and Great Britain don’t have a great record against them historically. They have won just six of the seventeen games played between the two over the years, (including games against West Germany). However, don’t forget that despite their defeat to Germany, GB did go on to win the silver medal in 2007, qualifying for this World Cup in the process.
BaseballGermany.com has a few more details about the games, including a rundown of the British players who have already visited the two ballparks this year while playing in the Baseball-Bundesliga.
TV broadcast details confirmed
The International Baseball Federation confirmed back in August that Eurosport2 had signed up to broadcast the Baseball World Cup. However, we will be relying on Team GB qualifying for the second round if they are to be featured at all.
Eurosport2 has backed the sport in the recent past, showing games from the 2007 European Baseball Championship and even televising the final of the European Cup Championship in June earlier this year. Such support from a channel that reaches millions of homes (36 million according to the press release) throughout the continent is greatly welcome. TV companies in Europe aren’t exactly falling over themselves to give baseball a chance at the moment, as we know all too well.
The IBAF stated in their initial press release that forty games would be shown, although the recently released TV schedule suggests that it will be twenty-eight instead. Still, that’s a decent percentage of the 106 games. It ensures that baseball fans should be able to see many of the teams involved. It also means sports fans not currently interested in baseball will have lots of opportunities to stumble across the tournament.
BaseballSoftballUK optimistically hoped that “GB’s opening game against World Baseball Classic champions Japan [would be] a likely contest for the cameras”, but that isn’t going to be the case. In fact, none of the games from Group D are listed on the TV schedule, possibly due to its late switch from Moscow to Zagreb. Eurosport2’s first round coverage will concentrate on the four games from Regensburg, Germany and the game between Korea and Sweden from Sundbyberg.
Whether Team GB are featured in the second round depends firstly on whether we qualify for that stage and secondly on how we qualify. Should we produce an upset and win the group ahead of Japan, two of our Round Two games from the Netherlands would be on Eurosport2. If we finish second then we’ll be out of luck, as just one game from the Italian side of the second round is on the channel. If we qualify as the first, second or fourth best third-placed team, then we would be on at least twice.
The best news overall is that all of the semi-final and final round games will be on Eurosport2, so everyone with access to the channel can fully enjoy the climax to the tournament. It would be a real shock if Great Britain made it that far, but the games should be well worth watching in any case.