Premier 12,’ baseball’s World Cup, to sweep Asia

12-nation tourney up to bat Saturday . . . 

The second edition of ‘Premier 12,’ an international baseball tournament organized by the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC), takes place November 2-to-17. Often compared to FIFA’s World Cup, Premier 12 has the top 12 WBSC-ranked nations competing against each other every four years. This year’s hosts are Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Mexico. Premier 12 in 2015 was co-hosted by Taiwan and Japan, and South Korea was the inaugural tournament champion. Canada is scheduled to co-host the 2027 tournament with the U.S. The competition was first organized to support the re-entry of baseball into the Olympics, where it was removed following the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The campaign was successful, and this year’s Premier 12 will be used as a qualifying tournament for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Asia-centred competition . . .

Baseball is one of the most popular sports in East Asia. The professional leagues in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan are highly competitive, and they all feature strong national teams. Australia will also be participating in this year’s Premier 12, which brings the total number of participating nations from the Asia Pacific region to four. Japan (#1), South Korea (#3), and Taiwan (#4) are all placed high in WBSC rankings, and have announced rosters that feature their best professional players. The competition, however, has had difficulties drawing support from Major League Baseball (MLB) in the U.S. MLB and its players have shown little interest in supporting or participating in the tournament. Further, the timing of the competition makes it difficult for Australian and Central American professional players to participate, as they typically have their league games scheduled in November.

How will Canada fare this time?

Canada, which is ranked 10th by the WBSC, will play South Korea, Australia, and Cuba in the group round in Seoul. Canada’s 28-men roster features Michael Saunders, who was selected as an all-star in 2016. In 2015, Canada had an impressive 5-0 streak in the group stage, but lost to Mexico in the playoffs. In the two-game exhibition series against Japan, Canada won 6-5 on Thursday, but lost 0-3 today. Team Canada will now travel to Seoul to play its first tournament game against Cuba on Sunday.