Six managers named for Classic
Oh, Lefebvre, Sojo among familiar names to lead teams
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
Sadaharu Oh, the legendary home run hitter, will captain the Japanese team at the WBC. (Kyodo News)
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MILWAUKEE -- Major League Baseball said on Tuesday that six managers already have been selected to head some of the 16 teams that are participating in next year's inaugural World Baseball Classic, the first international hardball tournament ever to include Major League players. The games are scheduled to be played from March 3-20 in Japan, the United States and Puerto Rico.
The list is headed by legendary home run hitter Sadaharu Oh, who will manage the Japanese squad. Former Major Leaguer Jim Lefebvre leads the budding Chinese national team and has done so since it was formulated two years ago with an eye toward the 2008 Bejing Summer Olympics.
Former Yankees coach and player Luis Sojo will guide the Venezuelan team. Former Major Leaguer Roberto Kelly will head his native Panama. Francisco Estrada is Mexico's manager. And Manny Acta, the Mets third base coach, was announced on Monday to lead the Dominican Republic, replacing Tony Pena, who recently signed a contract with the Yankees to be their first base coach next season.
"I feel grateful and happy that the Mets ... are giving me the opportunity to manage for my country," Acta told The Associated Press during a telephone interview from his home in Kissimmee, Fla.
All the managers and their respective coaching staffs are expected to be rolled out in Dallas during a Dec. 5 press conference at this year's annual Winter Meetings. At that time, the names of many of the participating players will be made public, said Bob Watson, MLB's vice president of on-field baseball operations and general manager of Team USA.
"We should have about 15 names from the roster to announce that day," Watson said when reached via telephone in Phoenix, where the U.S. Olympic qualifying team was getting ready to play Mexico in its second game of the tournament.
Meanwhile, the search for a manager for Team USA is moving forward, and could be concluded on Friday during a conference call that includes MLB and USA Baseball officials.
Buck Martinez, Lou Piniella, Tom Kelly, Don Baylor and Davey Johnson, all former Major League Baseball managers, are being considered. Johnson is the manager of the U.S. team that's competing this week in Phoenix.
"That's my short list," Watson said. "You never know who else might fall out of the sky. But we'll know more after the conference call on Friday."
As far as the WBC is concerned, the U.S., Japan, Korea, Chinese Taipei, China, Canada, South Africa, the Netherlands, Italy, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Panama, and Australia have all accepted invitations. Though Cuba is expected to participate, logistical considerations still haven't been ironed out, Bob DuPuy, MLB's president and chief operating officer, said on Wednesday.
"We need to make sure that Cuba is committed," he said. "We believe that Cuba is prepared to join. We've been waiting for a license from the State Dept. and a final OK from [President] Fidel Castro and his son. We expect that to be forthcoming."
MLB has committed to an estimated 270 Major League affiliated players for the tournament, and is in the process of determining how many players will come from the 25-man rosters or expanded 40-man rosters of the 30 Major League teams.
A technical committee, to be chaired by Sandy Alderson, MLB's former vice president of baseball operations and the current chief executive of the Padres, will meet for the first time next Tuesday in New York.
The committee will determine and then enforce during the games such elements as pitch counts and "limitations of position players to the extent that there are any," Alderson said.
The approximately nine-person committee will be composed of officials from MLB, the Players Association, the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) and other baseball playing federations around the world, Alderson said.