Mister-Baseball.com is counting down with short team-by-team previews until the World Baseball Classic starts on March 5th.
After looking at China, we are today taking on another underdog with the South African team. They will have one of the toughest opening matches, as they face Cuba.
South Africa is in group B of the World Baseball Classic, playing in Foro Sol Stadium in Mexico City. They face Cuba in the opener on Sunday, March 8th. In game two they will likely play against the loser of Australia versus Mexico, which already could mean the end due to the double elimination format.
Recent Tournament History
The South African team didn’t play in the Beijing Olympics last August after finishing with a 0-7 record in eight place at the Olympic Qualifier in Taiwan last March. In the Baseball World Cup in November 2007 at the same venue, South Africa also lost all seven games.
In the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006 the team nearly upset Canada in the opener, leading 8-7 in the top of the ninth inning, losing 8-10. In games two and three they lost 4-10, respective 0-17 against Mexico and Team USA.
They are currently ranked 20th in the IBAF World Rankings.
Wednesday, February 4th:
South Africa – Los Angeles Angels
Thursday, March 5th:
South Africa – Oakland Athletics
South Africa trains at the Oakland Athletics facilities in Phoenix, Arizona.
No South African player has reached the MLB in the past, but there are six Minor Leaguers on the current roster. Barry Armitage, who pitched six years in the Kansas City Royals organization, leads the team. Current under contract with MLB organizations are pitchers Alessio Angelucci (SD), Justin Erasmus (BOS), Dylan Lindsay (KC) and Hein Robb (MIN), infielders Anthony Phillips (SEA) and Gift Ngoepe (PIT). Robb, Lindsay and Ngoepe went through the MLB Academy camp in Tirrenia, Italy last summer and signed with their clubs afterwards.
Infielder Justin Lazarus had ten hits in 21 at-bats for the German Baseball-Bundesliga club MANNHEIM TORNADOS last season.
The 61-year-old former third baseman Rick Magnante (for the Reno Silver Sox) is once again the manager of the South African team at the 2009 WBC. He coached the team at all major tournaments since the 2006 edition of the Classic. In 1990 he was the head coach of Novara in the Italian Baseball League. Magnante managed in the Appalachian League and the NY-Penn League for the Detroit Tigers between 1987 and 1989. Since 2006 he is the manager of the Northwest League affiliate of the Oakland Athletics in Vancouver. Between 1996 and 2005 he was an area scout for the Athletics. In 1996 he played the Giants’ third base coach in the movie “The Fan”, featuring Robert DeNiro and Wesley Snipes.
They are more than just an underdog in the World Baseball Classic. South Africa will be heavily overmatched in game one against Cuba. It will also be difficult to beat Australia or Mexico in the second match. However the 2006 opener against Canada showed that the three other teams need to stay focused.
Photo: (c) IBAF, www.ibaf.org