The 38th IBAF Baseball World Cup ended a week ago with Team USA beating Cuba 10-5 in the finals for their fourth title. On Tuesday we already looked at the big issue attendance. Today we’re trying to do a short review on all aspects of the tournament. We are going to do it in a bullet point format looking first at the positives and then on things, which might not worked out that well.
- The Baseball World Cup started with crowded ballparks in round one, highlighted by the 38,000 people, who watched the six games in Regensburg, Germany. But also the interest in Prague, Sundbyberg, Barcelona and Zagreb was nice to see.
- While many games of the 2007 Baseball World Cup were shown on stadeo.tv and local television in Taiwan, the coverage in 2009 was still impressive in comparison to other international baseball events. Eurosport2 broadcasted the bulk of the games. European TV stations in the Netherlands and the Czech Republic also showed the Baseball World Cup, as well as many other around the World. The IBAF noted that 150 million people were able to see games. Even MLB Network picked up three games in the tournament.
- One of the highlights also was the live play by play, which was much better than two years ago in Taiwan. CBS Sports’ Gametracker was a great tool for people, who were not able to watch the games live.
- After not much news before the start of the tournament, the official website 2009BaseballWorldCup.com picked up the pace later on and had updates mostly just minutes after the games ended. They also offered live streams of the games. However there is always room for improvement. In the end IBAF.org and 2009BaseballWorldCup.com saw as many visitors during the three weeks than ever before.
- All 24 venues of the 2009 Baseball World Cup saw renovations of the fields and ballparks to get the approval to host professional players. Sweden built a completely new ballpark in Sundbyberg. Regensburg’s Armin Wolf Arena also saw major renovations and now is one of the best parks in Europe. Even though there were differences how much work actually was done, all used ballparks got better thanks to the World Cup.
- Never before the Baseball World Cup had that many Major League experienced players in the tournament. Only players from active big league rosters were not allowed to play. Especially the teams from North, Central and South America stacked their teams with professional players and the quality of play was probably better than ever before.
- The format of the third round certainly had its flaws, but in the end the two best teams in the tournament reached the finals, as luck didn’t play that much of a role thanks to the longer schedule. The first tiebreaker ‘runs allowed’ probably is not that fair, but it is much easier to understand for the public.
- The Netherlands once again proved to be the best team in Europe and this by far. They finished the second round with an impressive 6-1 record despite might playing in the tougher pool. They even had a shot to reach the championship game going to Italy, but Australia, Canada and the US beat them with the finals on the line. But the Dutch team wasn’t the lone European participant in round two. Spain handed Venezuela the first loss in the tournament in round number two and made a good impression. Great Britain also showed promising signs despite not having the best available roster on hand. Italy had its share of problems in the second round, but still managed wins against Japan and the Netherlands Antilles.
Things, which didn’t went well
- We already talked in length about the poor attendance in round two and three of the Baseball World Cup. One new point to this subject though: The local organizers in Italy and the Netherlands apparently even handed out free tickets to fill the ballparks. Baseball.it reports that they gave out 400 tickets each for the games in Nettuno on September 24th and 25th.
- Italy decided to use a combined 16 ballparks in round two and three to host the games. This was way too much. While these venues probably all profit from the Baseball World Cup, the tournament itself was too much scattered due to this. Teams and the few non-Italian visitors had to fight with travel problems; an example is described by Marco Stoovelaar on his website. BWC in Italy probably felt like a long road trip for the players. Not much of a green event after all.
- The third-round format might have lifted the two best teams into the finals, but the excitement level was pretty low due to the round robin, creating lots of meaningless games in the end. A single- or even a double-elimination third-round would be much better.
- Given the circumstances of seven countries hosting the Baseball World Cup, it was clear that the field had to be expanded. But 22 teams were too much. The first round featured eleven lopsided games, which ended due to mercy rule, three even because of the 15-run rule after five, respective six innings. The difference between the good and not so good teams was pretty big in the first phase. However with the start of the second round this problem was solved with the elimination of six teams.
- In the months prior the start of the Baseball World Cup in Europe, little information was available. Most of the organizers made a good job to promote the event locally, but outside of the Baseball community probably not many knew that there will be a World Baseball championship in Europe in September. The IBAF also didn’t offer enough information regarding the format and several other detailed aspects of the tournament. The venue situation in Moscow and the replacement Zagreb should have been solved several months earlier and not just in July. And the back and forth of a potential championship game in Rome also wasn’t the best way to get attention for the BWC, especially since this project never was realistic.
- While the ‘official’ coverage of the Baseball World Cup was ok, it was a pity that the major news outlets around the world mostly ignored the tournament. The fact that the World Baseball Classic was played in the same year took away some of the importance of the BWC and probably didn’t help.
Do we miss a point? Feel free to add your impressions in the comment section.