Venezuela proposes hosting Classic
MLB, however, has not formally heard plan
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
A top Venezuelan baseball official floated the possibility on Wednesday that his country could host a round or two of next year's inaugural World Baseball Classic so that Cuba could participate. But a Major League Baseball official said the idea has not be conveyed formally to WBC, Inc., which continues to hope that the U.S. Treasury Dept. will reverse course and approve a license for Cuba to play in the 16-team tournament that is scheduled at the moment from March 3-20 in the U.S., Japan and Puerto Rico. "These are all options, but we continue to follow the course of having Cuba participate in the tournament," said Pat Courtney, an MLB spokesman. The Venezuelan baseball official suggested that his country host Pool C , which includes Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Netherlands and Panama, and is now scheduled for San Juan, Puerto Rico, on March 8-11. Not only that, he added that the semifinals and finals be moved to Canada to accommodate a possible Cuba ascension to that plateau. "We hope that the United States' government changes its position," Edwin Zerpa, president of the government-run Venezuelan Baseball Federation, told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "But, if not, we propose that Group C play in Caracas. We don't approve of Cuba's exclusion." The semifinals and finals are scheduled for March 18-20 at San Diego's PETCO Park and 80 percent of the tickets for those games already have been sold. Aside from hosting the first round, Puerto Rico also is slated to host one of the two second-round sets from March 13-16. The other is scheduled for Angel Stadium in Anaheim on the same dates. If Cuba were to play and move on to the second round, those games would also be in Puerto Rico. Venezuela is scheduled to play in Group D at Orlando, Fla., with Australia, Italy and the Dominican Republic. Puerto Rico's amateur baseball federation sent a letter last week to the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) declining to host any WBC games if Cuba is precluded by the U.S. from playing in the tournament.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.