The World Baseball Classic, a 16-team tournament sanctioned by the International Baseball Federation (IBAF), will feature many of the best players in the world competing for their home countries and territories for the first time ever. The 16 teams invited to participate in the event have been divided into four pools of four teams for the first round of play. San Juan will host one of four Round 1 pools (six games), with the remaining first round games scheduled to be played at venues to be determined in Asia and the United States. The following teams are tentatively scheduled to participate in the Round 1 San Juan pool: Cuba, The Netherlands, Panama, and Puerto Rico.
Round 2 will feature the top two teams from each of the four Round 1 pools divided into two pools of four teams. One of the Round 2 pools (six games) will be played at Hiram Bithorn Stadium, with the other scheduled to be played at a venue to be determined in the United States. PETCO Park, home of the San Diego Padres, will serve as the host venue for the semi-finals and final game of the tournament.
"I am extremely pleased that the city of San Juan is hosting two rounds of the inaugural World Baseball Classic," said Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig. "Baseball is entwined in the culture of Puerto Rico and the festive, enthusiastic crowds that Major League Baseball has experienced in past games at Hiram Bithorn Stadium will provide the perfect environment for this world baseball tournament."
"The Players Association is delighted that Puerto Rico will be hosting not one, but two rounds of the inaugural World Baseball Classic," said Major League Players Association Executive Director Donald M. Fehr. "Time and time again the people of Puerto Rico have shown both an enthusiasm for baseball and a respect for those able to play it at the highest level. As the greatest players from around the world gather to play in this historic event, those who play in Puerto Rico will enjoy an experience they will not forget."
Founded in 2003, MB Sports Inc. launched one of Major League Baseball's largest international initiatives - 22 regular season home games for the Montreal Expos in San Juan, PR. Attracting over 382,000 fans to Hiram Bithorn Stadium, the games were hailed a success and defined MB Sports as a major event producer in the market. In 2004, MLB continued its relationship with MB Sports becoming once again the official promoter of the games in San Juan.
"For the past three years, we have brought to Puerto Rico the best baseball there is. We are very proud to once again be the producers of another historic event, the World Baseball Classic," said Antonio Munoz, MB Sports Chairman of the Board. Hiram Bithorn Stadium is the home of the Santurce Cangrejeros of the Puerto Rico Professional Baseball League. In addition to the 22 regular season games in both 2003 and 2004, the venue was the site for the 2001 Major League Baseball season opener between the Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers. The Stadium is also a frequent host of the Caribbean Series.
Located next to the Roberto Clemente Coliseum, Hiram Bithorm Stadium has a seating capacity of 19,000. The facility has Fieldturf, private air conditioned boxes as well as fully-equipped booths for media coverage, ample parking, and built-in concessions. Hiram Bithorn Stadium was named after the first Puerto Rican-born player to play in the Major Leagues, "Hi" Bithorn. After making his Major League debut on April 15, 1942, Bithorn, a right-handed pitcher, played three years for the Chicago Cubs and one season for the Chicago White Sox.