The 2011 IBAF Baseball World Cup in Panama starts on Saturday evening with the opening match between Panama and one of the four European teams in the tournament, Greece. The Netherlands, Italy and Germany are also making the trip to Central America.
The Netherlands have been in Panama for a couple of days, playing successfully in a pre-tournament exhibition series against Panama (6-5 win), Venezuela (10-6 and 12-11 wins) and Chinese Taipei (6-2 win). They are set for Group 1, playing in Panama City and Aguadulce against Panama, Team USA, Greece, Canada, Puerto Rico, Japan and Chinese Taipei. First goal is the qualification for the final round, but if the Dutch team of manager Brian Farley gets on a roll they can battle the top teams for a podium finish.
Italy is coming to Panama as the reigning European champion. They held a training camp in Vero Beach, Florida and will again have Mike Piazza on the coaching staff of Marco Mazzieri. They also played a series of four exhibition games against Instructional League teams, finishing with an even 2-2 record against the Florida Marlins and Washington Nationals. They will be in Chitre and Santiago, playing in Group 2 in the preliminary phase. They will square off with the Dominican Republic, Germany, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Korea and Australia.
Germany finished in third place in the 2010 European Championship and impressed this summer in the World Port Tournament in Rotterdam. It is going to be the third consecutive Baseball World Cup participation for the team of head coach Greg Frady. However they basically had no preparation phase before the tournament and due to problems with their flight from Frankfurt to Amsterdam on Friday afternoon they now will fly in three groups of players on Saturday, arriving in Panama City sometime in the evening. Together with Italy they will be based in Chitre and Santiago, hoping to surprise some of the favorites with their roster strengthened with pro players Kai Gronauer, Donald Lutz, Max Kepler-Rozycki, Markus Solbach and Martin Dewald.
Greece, as usual, is the big unknown team. They again will be managed by former major leaguer Jim Essian and will be right in the spotlight in the beginning, as they will open the IBAF Baseball World Cup after the opening ceremony on Saturday evening against Panama in front of a sellout crowd at Rod Carew Stadium. They will be with the Netherlands in Group 1, splitting time between the capital and Aguadulce.
Mister-Baseball.com will be doing game recaps of all the European games and of all the matches in the final round. You can also go to www.ibaf.org for extensive coverage during the tournament, including live play by play or you can pay up and pay $15 for 24 hours or $40 for the whole BWC at Live.IBAF.tv to watch 50 games via a live stream.