was crowned as the first ever WBC champion by defeating Cuba in a thrilling finale. This year’s competition promises to be just as exciting. Teams are divided into four groups – or pools – consisting of four countries each. The top two teams of each pool advance to the second round. Pool A’s Asian teams kick-start the action on March 5th while the rest of the groups begin play 2 days later. For a schedule of the games and their venues click here. San Juan’s Hiram Bithorn Stadium, home of the Santurce Crabbers of the Puerto Rico Baseball League, will once again feature first-round games, this time hosting Pool D’s matchups from Saturday, March 7th to Wednesday, March 11th. The upstart Panamanian and Dutch teams will try to upset the Puerto
Rican(PR) and Dominican (DR) powerhouses – overwhelming favorites to win Pool D and reach the quarterfinals. Historical rivals since the 1970′s – when the Caribbean Series restarted – “quisqueyanos” and “boricuas” take their baseball very seriously. No doubt that a first-round matchup between the two would be a sold-out spectacle, the cheering evenly divided between Puerto Rican fans and the sizable Dominican population that resides on the island.
Led by superstars Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran, Puerto Rico’s national team will feature some new faces and some old favorites ready to step-up and contribute. Meanwhile, the Dominican team is without reigning National League Most Valuable Player Albert Pujols but is sure to field an impressive lineup with popular favorite David Ortiz and the newest addition to the squad, third baseman Alex Rodriguez.Pools B & C will play their games in Mexico City and Toronto, respectively, allowing home town fans the opportunity to watch their favorite players compete in the name of their countries. Among the heavily favored nations competing in the tournament are USA, Venezuela, Japan, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. Puerto Rico, Mexico, Korea and Canada are dark horses that could surprise with strong showings. Regardless of who comes out on top, the game of baseball will benefit greatly from the international exposure as the game continues to grow and gain fans from across the globe. For tickets to Pool D games in San Juan, and other venues, click here.