VI WBSC U-12 Baseball World Cup set to open in Tainan, multiple teams have realistic chance to win it all

VI WBSC U-12 Baseball World Cup set to open in Tainan, multiple teams have realistic chance to win it all
Multiple National Team managers are aiming for their team to become the U-12 World Champions.

The city of Tainan hosted the VI WBSC U-12 Baseball World Cup pre-tournament press conference on Thursday, 28 July, the eve of the tournament's Opening Day.

World No. 2 Chinese Taipei are the defending champions of the WBSC U-12 Baseball World Cup.

"We will try our best to defend the world title and keep the trophy in Taiwan," commented Chinese Taipei U-12 manager Lai Chao Jung, a veteran at the international level. "I want to thank the WBSC for holding this tournament. I'm happy we can play and honoured to have the possibility to represent Chinese Taipei once again."

Two other squads in Group A are aiming for the world title.

Juan Morales, manager world No. 4 Mexico, said: "Our mission here is to become World Champions. We feel we can compete with every other team." Morales, a former collegiate player in the US, added: "We have five tournaments in Mexico for this age bracket. We started in November 2021 and held the last one during the first week of July. We got started with a pre-selection of 45, and we cut it down to the final 18-player roster."

"We treat baseball as our game in my country", said Manuel Rodriguez, the experienced manager for No. 13 Panama, "we feel we are baseball leaders. As always, we expect to try for the World Title. We are aware it won't be easy." Panama worked in a camp for 40 days before heading to Tainan.

No. 6 Venezuela is also ambitious: "We aim for the podium," said Venezuela manager Rafael Herdé, who will serve for the third time as the skipper for the U-12 World Cup. "We did our best to get ready." The Venezuelan Baseball Federation recently launched a U-11 National Championship, which serves as the base for selecting the U-12 National Team.

No. 17 Italy and No. 26 South Africa have set their own goals.

"We hope to match the ninth place of 2019," commented Italy manager Stefano Burato, who has served as the manager since 2019. "These kids haven't seen much action in the last two seasons because of the COVID-19 restrictions."

"As a team, we expected to participate not only our country but the whole continent," said South Africa manager Ian Griebenow. "Each one of my players understands that whatever we can get from this, we can bring back to South Africa and grow the game."

World No. 5 USA looks like the team to beat in Group B: "Our expectations are really high," said US manager Ray Farrell, who served as a coach on the 2017 U-12 World Champion USA. "I was fortunate enough in 2017, but I was also there in 2019 when we missed getting into the Super Round. The U-12 World Cup is a big event for us. We're trying to get back on the international stage and show what our National Team is all about."

Former Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) All-Star Hirokazu Ibata will manage World No. 1 Japan: "We are here to win. Japan has never won a U-12 World Cup." Ibata added: "Our selection process started with a digital challenge. We watched several videos and selected 40 players. After that, we held more tryouts to reduce the number to 18."

"Our final goal is to become World Champions," said Dong-Jiin Lee, Korea's manager and former KBO player. "Our players are very fast, have a lot of confidence, and want to compete." The World No. 3 programme upgraded its selection process: "This time we selected the team nationwide. On previous occasions, we selected it locally."

No. 7 Dominican Republic will make their U-12 World Cup debut and are looking to finish on the podium: "We have worked against time, but with enough gap to form a squad capable of fighting for one of the three medals," Dominican manager Alvaro Samboy, a former Minor League Baseball (MiLB) pitcher, recently commented.

No. 14 Czech Republic is aware of the world-class level of competition in Tainan: "We came here intending to finish in the Top 10. It would be great to finish in the top 8, but we will see about that," said Czech manager Matous Prochazka, at 29, the youngest skipper in the tournament. "We are excited to be here; it's an honour." Prochazka and his staff worked on a group of 140 players and reduced it to 30 at the beginning of the year.

Welcome from WBSC, Tainan City and host Chinese Taipei Baseball Association

"It's a pleasure to welcome you to the sixth WBSC U-12 Baseball World Cup on behalf of President Riccardo Fraccari," said WBSC Executive Director Michael Schmidt. "It is always great to be back in Tainan, the only city in the world with a dedicated stadium built to host a WBSC World Cup, which provides a unique and unforgettable experience for all the teams and players who will compete."

Chinese Taipei Baseball Association (CTBA) and Baseball Federation of Asia (BFA) president Jeffrey Koo recalled how baseball helped him integrate as a 12-year-old student in Japan.
"I went to play baseball with my classmates and hit a home run in my first at-bat. It was the first time I felt like I belonged in something."

He then addressed the Chinese Taipei Baseball Team players: "I want you to understand that you can be here to compete with the best worldwide. You should appreciate the contribution to many, many people."

Tainan City Mayor Wei-Che Huang also addressed the players: "Let's make friends through baseball."