Miami’s LoanDepot Park, home of the Marlins, will make history during next year’s World Baseball Classic, and local fans are thrilled.
The international baseball showcase, traditionally held during the spring training months for Major League Baseball teams, will be held in March 2023 in several locations. LoanDepot Park will be the lone venue — and first in tournament history — to host games in all three rounds.
While games will also be held in Phoenix, as well as Japan and Taiwan, loanDepot Park will host the first round’s group stage for Pool D on March 11-15, the quarterfinal round, featuring Pool C and D from March 17-18, and ultimately, the championship semifinals and finals on March 19-21.
Miami’s Romulo Sanchez, a Venezuelan baseball enthusiast, is already making plans.
“I am glad that my home country, Venezuela, is going to play here. I have never had the chance to see the national team play in person,” he said. “Last Classic, they were playing in Mexico, and sadly, they did not qualify for the next round that year. At least now, I will see at least one game for sure.”
Pool D will indeed feature Venezuela, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Israel and a to-be-determined team that must get through qualifiers to advance to Miami.
Team USA is in Pool C and will need to advance past its group stage in Phoenix to book a trip to loanDepot Park. Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout has been named captain for the American club.
Miami, known for its diversity of Latin cultures, overwhelming population and pleasant temperatures in March, should draw sizable crowds for clubs like Venezuela, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
But two sure-fire Baseball Hall of Famers took part in a news conference before last week’s All-Star Game in Los Angeles and stayed humble about their availability. While St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols (Dominican Republic) and Detroit Tigers icon Miguel Cabrera (Venezuela) would certainly bring star power to Miami, they simply hope to watch from afar, and instead let the game’s brightest new stars take over.
“The Dominican Republic has so much talent right now,” Pujols said, “and I don’t want to take the spot of one of those young guys who have to develop.”
“I wouldn’t like to take the spot of a young player,” he said, “who might be able to do a better job.”
Team USA will enter the WBC as the defending champion after shutting out Puerto Rico, 8-0, in the 2017 title game. Chicago Cubs pitcher Marcus Stroman was named tournament MVP. During that last WBC, the Marlins’ stadium had its first sellout when the Americans took on the Dominican Republic in the group stage.