Second World Baseball Classic Qualifier to open Friday in Panama City

Second World Baseball Classic Qualifier to open Friday in Panama City
World No. 13 Panama, No. 15 Nicaragua, No. 25 Brazil, No. 27 Argentina, No. 31 Pakistan and No. 46 New Zealand will compete for two tickets.

The second World Baseball Classic Qualifier opens in Panama City on Friday, 30 September. Six National Teams will compete for two spots in the tournament, scheduled for March 2023.

The participants are hosts and world No. 13 Panama, No. 15 Nicaragua, No. 25 Brazil, No. 27 Argentina, No. 31 Pakistan and No. 46 New Zealand.

The tournament opens at Rod Carew Stadium with two games (all times are local):

New Zealand-Brazil 12 pm
Pakistan Argentina 7 pm

On Saturday, 1 October, the winner of Game 1 will face Nicaragua at noon, while the Game 2 winner will play Panama at 7 pm.

Panamian singer and songwriter Boza, a Latin Grammy Awards nominee, will throw the ceremonial first pitch before Panama's debut in the Qualifier.

The schedule of this second World Baseball Classic Qualifier will follow the double-elimination format of the first Qualifier, played in Regensburg, Germany, earlier in September.

The qualification games are scheduled for Tuesday, 4 October and Wednesday, 5 October

Panama and Nicaragua are the clear favourites.

Manager Luis Martinez believes Panama has a roster that mixes youth and experience, including former Major League Baseball (MLB) players such as pitchers Randall Delgado, Enrique Burgos, Alberto Baldonado, outfielder Allen Cordoba and infielders Rubén Tejada and Jonathan Araúz.

Former Major Leaguer Cheslor Cuthbert is the best-known player on Nicaragua's roster. Shortstop Brandon Leyton made it to Triple-A in the Cincinnati Reds organization during the 2022 season. Center fielder Isaac Benard hit 23 home runs in the independent Frontier League. Former Major Leaguer J.C. Ramirez will start the first game.

The Nicaragua Baseball Federation (FENIBA) announced that manager and former MLB star Marvin Benard won't be able to be with the team at the start of the tournament due to family reasons. Coach Sandor Guido will take the interim role.

Former MLB World Series winner and All-Star outfielder Steve Finley will manage Brazil. Veteran right-hander Andre Rienzo has three years of MLB experience and currently plays in the Mexican League. Outfielder Paulo Orlando has appeared in 278 MLB games. Infielder Christian Lopez made his MLB debut for the Oakland A's before being released in August. Catchers Daniel Molinari (minor leagues), Eddy Arteaga (college) and infielder Damian Goulart (college, minor leagues) have also playing experience in the US.

New Zealand, despite being the lowest ranked programme, count on three minor leaguers: pitcher Elliot Johnstone (New York Mets) and infielders Jason Matthews (Chicago White Sox) and Nikau Pouaka-Grego (Philadelphia Phillies).

Argentina's roster features pitchers Carlos Gimenez, Jose Mendoza, Juan Mujica, Luis Jimenez, Samuel Hidalgo, and Yaferson Lopez who have professional experience.

Pakistan's manager Syed Fakhar Ali Shah will count on a couple of pitchers who play collegiate baseball in North America, such as Adam Khan and Amaan Khan.

The games will stream live on MLB YouTube and Facebook pages, on MLB TV and on the World Baseball Classic official site.