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July 11, 2005

Paul Archey

Tim Brosnan

Donald Fehr

Justin Huber

Gene Orza

Allan H. "Bud" Selig

Gary Thorne

Dontrelle Willis


GARY THORNE: Welcome, everybody. My name is Gary Thorne and I'm very honored to have an opportunity to be part of a very special morning. We welcome all from around the world who are here and an opportunity to learn more about what is going to be a true breakthrough for baseball internationally with the World Baseball Classic. Major League Baseball and the Major League Players Association announced on May 11 that this World Baseball Classic, the 16-nation tournament would have the best of baseball from around the world competing on behalf of their individual countries to be played in March of 2006. Today, we are here to hear representatives from MLB and the Player's Association to give details on exactly what this great classic is going to look like. First I would like to introduce you the national baseball federation and the national baseball leagues that have been invited to participate in the World Baseball Classic. We are pleased that so many of them are joining us here today and I would ask each of the individuals if they would stand up when they are named. We are doing this as a press conference, so we are not asking for applause, simply to recognize those who are here. First of all from the International Baseball Federation, President Aldo Notari -- no applause necessary. You'll have your hands worn out by the time you get done. Representatives from the Major League Baseball Owners and Management Committee: Paul Godfrey from Toronto, the Blue Jays; Kevin McClatchy, Pittsburgh Pirates; Vincent Naimoli, Tampa Bay. From the Australian Baseball Federation, Vice President Geoffrey Pearce; from Baseball Canada, Executive Director Jim Baba; from the China Baseball Association, Madam Commissioner Rui-ho Hung; from the Chinese Professional Baseball League, Commissioner James Holt, from the Chinese Taipei Baseball Association, President Tom Peng; from the Dominican Republic Baseball Federation, President Hector Manuel Pereyra; from the Italian Baseball and Softball Federation, President Riccardo Fraccari; from the Korean Baseball Organization, Director of Operations, Hee-Joon Cho; from the Mexican Baseball Federation, President Alonso Perez Gonzalez; from the Mexican league, President Alejandro Hutt; from the Dutch Baseball and Softball Federation, the Vice President, Gijs Langevoort; from the Panama Baseball Federation, President Franz Olmedo Weaver; from the Puerto Rico Winter Baseball League, President Pedro Zorrilla; from the South African Baseball Union, Vice President Ken Berezowski; from USA Baseball, Mike Gaski, from the Venezuelan Professional Baseball, Umberto Oropeza. Now, if you would, please recognize them with a round of applause. (Applause). Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. Japan, who has accepted an invitation to participate in the World Baseball Classic was unable to join us today as many of you may know, they are in discussions with their Players Association and they wanted to show the appropriate respect for those discussions that are ongoing. But we welcome them as part, obviously, of this great classic that is upcoming. At this point with information and some details on what's going to be happening come March I'd like to introduce to you the Commissioner of baseball, Bud Selig, and Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director, Donald Fehr. (Applause).

COMMISSIONER SELIG: Thank you, Gary, and good morning. First, I'd like to thank the members of the many national baseball federations that are here today. All of us in Major League Baseball are very pleased that you have taken time out of your busy schedules and traveled here to join us for this press conference. I thank you for your participation, and most importantly, your support. As for all of the members of the media, as always, we appreciate your attendance here this morning. The World Baseball Classic is an unprecedented and historic international event. For the first time ever, baseball's best players will compete for their home countries in a global tournament. Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association have joined together to establish this event. It is sanctioned by the International Baseball Federation, and will be conducted jointly by Major League Baseball and the Players Association in cooperation with Nippon Professional Baseball and the Korea Baseball Organization, their respective Players Associations and the other national baseball federations. This tournament which will take place next March will increase worldwide exposure for our great game and promote the game's grass root development, not only in countries where the game already is popular, but in nations where the game is less known. The World Baseball Classic will ultimately produce new fans, and more players. All of us in Major League Baseball are very excited about this event. All 30 clubs are supportive of this effort, and we expect our players who are chosen by their respective national baseball federations to play with great eagerness, and excitement. This is great for our game, and all of us recognize and understand how important it is for the growth of our sport. While we still have many open issues to resolve, we're making very steady progress and while Paul Archey and Gene Orza will talk about this in a few moments. Most importantly we are pleased to introduce several Major Leaguers who will be competing for their home countries in the World Baseball Classic next March. As we get closer to the event, we will make further announcements regarding our progress in organizing the event, and the names of the players who will be participating. Don, I know you want to make a few comments.

DON FEHR: Thanks, Commissioner, and thank all of you for attending, especially those of you who came from so very far away. It's been a long time since players began to talk about international competitions of this type. It's taken a while for us to get here. Having said that, I think that everybody on the player's side is satisfied that this new partnership with Major League Baseball and the federations Nippon Baseball and Korean Baseball that will be able to put on an event which will be truly remarkable and will be exciting not only for the fans who watch it but for the players who play it, and for those of us involved in the administration of the sport. New ventures like this always take a little longer than you would hope to get off the ground, and there are always a few more wrinkles than you would like. But when they get to a stage where you can see the end result, even if it's still coming into focus, it's a very gratifying thing, and we really look forward to the events. It's going to be wonderful and in the years to come, I hope and expect that all of us will be able to look around as will all of you and remember that we were here when it all began. This will turn out to be a fairly significant day. With that, let me turn it back to Gary, and we'll go on with the rest of the program.

GARY THORNE: Thank you, Commissioner and thanks, Don. As all of you can see, and I would just point this out for you, obviously there has been a logo created for the classic and you can download the logo and other information at the MLBpressbox.com which has been set up to handle information, and obviously it will be added, too, at the details as we get closer to March are, in fact, hammered out. I would like now to introduce to you Paul Archey from Major League Baseball and Gene Orza from the Major League Baseball Players Association. They are going to give you some further details about the World Baseball Classic. Gentlemen?

PAUL ARCHEY: Thank you, Gary. As the Commissioner and Mr. Fehr just mentioned, this is a very exciting day for Major League Baseball and our players. But it's also an exciting day for 16 other countries, in particular, international teams, and I would like to announce to you the 16 countries that will be invited to participate in the inaugural World Baseball Classic. First, Australia, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, Panama, Puerto Rico, South Africa, the United States, and Venezuela. These are the 16 countries that have been invited to participate. It represents 16 of the best baseball-playing countries in the world with global representation, and we're very happy to extend an invitation to these countries to participate in the inaugural tournament. Thank you.

GENE ORZA: We are going to divide the 16 teams up into four pools, I think as indicated in your press kits. It's largely a function of geography although there are some logistical issues and even some marketing issues that come into make the pools. Pool A will be composed of an Asian pool; China, Chinese Taipei, Japan and Korea. We anticipate that those games will be played in either, our first choice obviously in Tokyo, but we are also considering the possibility of playing those games in Taiwan. The second pool will be composed of essentially North American teams with South Africa, which has been recently added to North America, (laughter), that's Canada, the United States, Mexico and South Africa. Those games we anticipate will be played in Arizona. Pool C is composed of Cuba, the Netherlands, Panama and Puerto Rico. And Pool D, Australia, the Dominican Republic, Italy and Venezuela. We anticipate that Pool C, obviously those games will be played in Puerto Rico and Pool D games will be played somewhere in a Major League stadium in Florida. How these pools interact is something that Paul will discuss.

PAUL ARCHEY: I'm going to walk you through the format and I should say from the beginning that all of this is really in your press material, so if I confuse you here and talk about the format, it's all written there. As Gene mentioned, the 16 countries are divided into four pools of four. The first round of the tournament are feature Round Robin play among all of the pools, with the top-two teams advancing on to the second round. The second rounds will also feature a Round Robin format, each time playing each other, with the top two teams advancing, the top two teams from each pool advancing on to a final four where there will be a single-elimination series at that point, where the winner and runner-up of each pool will play, one game knock-out, the winners advance to a one-game final at the end of to determine the World Baseball Classic champion.

GENE ORZA: I'm going to talk briefly about the dates of this tournament, and note initially that the size of type really has two purposes; not only to tell you the schedule but to find out if any of you are eligible to umpire in the event in case you can see that from back there, because I can't even see it from up here. That's a particularly useful slide as far as I'm concerned. We'll play the tournament over 15 days. We're going to start the tournament in Japan a little earlier, because obviously the logistical question is raised, playing in Asia and returning to the United States for round two games. So the Asian pool will begin play on March 3 through 5. We anticipate that they would leave Tokyo or Taiwan, as the case may be on the 6th, and to resume play in round two on the 13th. That will give them a longer period of time that the other three pools that are playing will be March 8 and 11 so that for competitive balance purposes and competitive equivalence purposes we thought it was important to open up a little early in Asia to give players time to adjust. The second round of games will be played as I indicated on March 13 through 15, and we would then move after a couple of days off to the 18th, a semi-final and the finals will be played on the 20th of March. There are spring training implications to this both in Asia and the United States. We'll have reporting dates in Asia for February 26th and the United States of March 3, players will obviously be training before that and we are currently in discussions, particularly our Asian partners in this venture as to when and how to effectuate an equal period of time to train, both for the Asian players and the American players.

PAUL ARCHEY: One other thing to add, just in case you can't do the math that quickly, and looking at the format, it's a total of 39 games from the beginning to end; first round through the championship, all in 39 games.

GARY THORNE: Thanks. I will remind you that there's going to be a Q&A session, question and answer coming up in just a moment here, so those who have questions will be able to direct them to the gentlemen to my right or the people we are about to meet. It's my pleasure now to introduce to you for the first time some of the players who have agreed to participate in the World Baseball Classic. They are with us here in Detroit. They are just a few, obviously of the many great players who are anticipating the opportunity to be involved in this World Baseball Classic for the first time. They give you an indication of just how high the quality of play is going to be, and also, of the interest and excitement, really, that the players have thinking about what this is going to look like when they ultimately take the field and play. So here now are some of the individuals who will be involved come next March. From Australia, Justin Huber; from Canada, Justin Bay; from the Dominican Republic, Miguel Tejada; from Korea, Hee-Seop Choi; from the Netherlands, Andruw Jones; from Panama, Carlos Lee; from Puerto Rico, Carlos Beltran; and from the United States, Dontrelle Willis. (Applause). We thank the players for taking the time to come out and join us, and obviously, this is just an example of the caliber of talent you're going to see next March competing against one another, and obviously for the first time an opportunity to see what the uniforms are going to look like that these teams and players are going to be competing in. We are going to let them have a little photo-op here for a second and then the players are going to be sitting down and they are going to join as part of the Q&A session that we are going to have here. Gentlemen, if you would, at the table, please. I would invite all of you now the opportunity to ask questions about the Classic. The players are available for that, the Commissioner, Bud Selig, Don is available, Don Fehr, Paul Archey is here, Gene Orza, and Tim Brosnan I guess is also going to take some questions, seated to my right here, the only one we haven't heard from yet. If there are questions, we have people with microphones, the wireless that will get to you. We'll start right here.

Q. Tim, can you describe the unique challenges of having Cuba and Japan participate given that they have not accepted these invitations and what negotiations are going on with those two countries and perhaps the State Department?

TIM BROSNAN: I'm not sure I'm the best person to answer those questions. I think to answer that question in full would require any number of people sitting up here and actually sitting in the audience, because I think you described it correctly. It's a unique challenge, but I want you to be sure to understand, it's not a daunting challenge. It just brings a particular set of circumstances that involves a number of people having to participate. I'm confident that in spite of the challenges you're going to see these two countries participating, but I think that, again, my giving you an answer to that question would not be quite complete. You have Paul Archey and Gene Orza and also Rob Manfred from our office who have been working through those issues. I will pass that a little bit to those folks.

PAUL ARCHEY: I'll try to clarify and if Gene wants to jump in as he's known to do...

GENE ORZA: Let me just clarify -- (Laughter.)

PAUL ARCHEY: There are two separate issues. Japan has accepted the invitation to play, however it must be, as we mentioned earlier, they are in discussions with their Players Association and it must be ratified by their Players Association, and they are in those discussions now. We are hopeful that that will happen. Cuba is a much different issue and we're working through that, at least the political side of that. And again, we're hopeful that they will accept, but that's a process and we will continue to follow that process over the coming weeks.

GENE ORZA: I agree with Paul that it is a little bit misleading to lump Japan and Cuba together; there are different issues involved, and as Paul described -- I'll begin again. I think it's a little bit misleading to lump Cuba and Japan together. There were different issues involved. Japan, as Paul has described, the issue there of course is dealing with their Players Association. We have some experience in that regard and we are pretty confident that we can convince the Japanese Players Association to endorse, as has the NPB, the concept of the World Baseball Classic.

Q. Can I ask sort of a follow-up to that on this side and maybe some of the players, can you talk about how you can assure or try to guarantee to Cuba one of it's big concerns will be the possibilities of defections, how do you tell the Cuban government that these players will not defect once they are here with laws in the U.S. for asylum, etc., and if I could ask one of the players to talk about the significance of this event.

GENE ORZA: Initial observation is that Cuba plays in international events all the time but also we'll have to suggestion discussions with the Cubans about that as we usually do when we have international events, particularly those involving players. I think the best characterization is one that Tim utilized, it is an issue but not one that is terribly daunting; Cubans compete and play against Americans all the time.

GARY THORNE: If one of the players want to respond to the question about the defection by Cuban players and the fact that -- (Laughter.) What did you want to ask the players?

Q. Just the significance of having this global event, this worldwide event that talks about a sport that has been focused throughout the years primarily in North America, how it becomes an international event.

JUSTIN HUBER: I think from the Australian perspective, anyway it's going to be a massive thing for junior baseball in Australia and getting baseball going again in Australia. It's been scuffling a little bit for the last couple of years, and to have an event like this will hopefully springboard some new interest and some new stuff down there. That's what I'm hoping, anyway.

JASON BAY: I think it's just nice that we get to play on a national level. A lot of other sports do it and baseball never really did. I think it's better for the game and, you know, you look at baseball and all of the different nationalities that are represented, there's going to be a lot of very competitive teams and I think that's probably for the greater good of baseball and I think that's what we are really going for.

MIGUEL TEJADA: Well, I think it's great, especially for my country. In the Dominican, we always play baseball and I think it will be best for our fans because, you know, now they are going to see all of the players playing together on one team, and I know that they are going to be really excited to see all of the players on one team.

HEE-SEOP CHOI: I feel very honored to be playing among the best baseball players in the world, and it's good for my country and that's it. (Laughter.) (Applause.)

ANDRUW JONES: I think everybody said the right words, I guess. It's a good thing for baseball, you just represent your own country and go out and play baseball on a high level. You know, we never get a chance to play in tournaments like that, it's like the Olympics and it feels kind of like the Olympics. I think it's just a good thing for baseball.

CARLOS LEE: I think that it's going to be very exciting and just the fact that, you know, Panama getting invited to this kind of tournament, that's a big accomplishment for us. I feel very lucky to be part of this.

CARLOS BELTRAN: I think this will be great for baseball. It will be positive energy, especially for my country, Puerto Rico, I think being able to represent my country in a tournament like this with the best players in the world, it's a big tournament, and you know, we are just looking forward to doing a good job over there.

DONTRELLE WILLIS: Well, I just hope I make the team. (Laughter.) Like they said, man, this is definitely a high honor for them, and there's nothing better than for me to represent my country. This is a beautiful thing, these are some of the best players in the world, and I think this is going to definitely bring baseball to everyone's doorstep internationally, and I think it's key for us to do that. Us as players, we try to do the best we can to market ourselves, but it's only in America. Like I said, I just hope I make the team. But we're going to have a good time. We're going to enjoy it and it's going to be fun and everyone is going to play hard, so you won't be disappointed.

GARY THORNE: Thanks, guys.

Q. When are we going to know about the venues? When is that going to be decided?

PAUL ARCHEY: The next press conference. (Laughter.) No, we're working through that now and we're very close, on that. As mentioned at the beginning, there are many details that are coming together, venues are one of them, one of the issues, and very soon, in the next few weeks or months. (Laughter.)

Q. Question for Commissioner Selig, Commissioner, how much does the World Baseball Classic take the blow away from the IOC's decision to remove baseball from the Olympics?

COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, I don't know if, frankly, I consider it a blow. I'm sorry they made the decision that they made, but as far as the sport is concerned, this, if you watch what's going on here today, you understand this sport is being internationalized. It will have a more profound significance in the world as time goes on, and there is no question in my mind that this is going to be -- this is going to develop into something that will have people from all over the world trying to figure out how they can replicate this set of circumstances. So, sorry they made the decision, but we are moving on in a very dramatic way to internationalize the sport. I don't think you could see any better example of what you're seeing here today.

Q. For Dontrelle Willis but anybody on the left can answer as well. What about pitching issues, pitching competitively in March at a time when you are usually just getting ready for the season?

DONTRELLE WILLIS: Just have to get ready a month earlier. To be honest I don't think it will be an issue because this is something bigger than just us. This is a chance for us to represent our country and, you know, you can have arm problems in July just like you can have arm problems in February, God forbid. It's just one of those things where if I get a chance to go, I'm just going to try to prepare myself for that. As a pitcher, you know yourself and you know how much pitches you need and how many bullpen sessions you need to get yourself ready as best you can. Hopefully if guys get selected earlier enough, they will have a chance to get themselves ready.

GENE ORZA: There are going to be in this competition, like many other competitions of this kind, pitch count limitations, and we haven't announced those yet because we don't know what they are yet. We plan to do that in consultation with the steering committee and the technical committees in the various agreements that go into making this tournament call for. So there will be some deference given to that very question you asked, regarding pitch, rounds and use limitations that are going to be on the table once the steering committee and the technical committees meet.

Q. You sort of talked about it a little bit already, but on the panel over here, someone said that the tournament in Florida would use a Major League stadium; there's only two and I'm wondering if you can narrow that down a little bit. (Laughter.) Secondly, we've danced around the Cuba issue. In the event Cuba decides not to participate and makes that decision late, is there a backup plan or another country that might be invited or would it then be a 15-team tournament?

PAUL ARCHEY: On the venue issue in Florida, the answer is Major League or Minor League stadium, so multiple, more than one venue and would be either Major League or Minor League. Yes, we do have a backup plan in case Cuba or any other country for whatever reason at the time of the tournament is ready to take place. We can only invite 16 countries. There are many more, there are over, I think 122 baseball federations around the world, and a number of countries that we could not invite because we needed to limit it to 16 countries. So there are other countries in line, I would rather not go into that at this point, but yes, there is -- there are alternate countries to participate.

GENE ORZA: A couple have requested the opportunity, too. I don't want to get into that, but we have had a couple of countries contact us and say, is anybody dropping out; we want to play.

Q. My name is Tom Volt from the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and I concur with Commissioner Selig in that the Olympic situation, I would rather see the revenues go back to baseball anyway. And in that vein, could Commissioner Selig or someone perhaps elaborate on how the International Baseball Association is affiliated with this and how it's going to affect the development of baseball in the world?

COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, there are people up here that will answer the first question. But in terms of how it will affect the sport, we are plowing new ground. If somebody had suggested even a year ago or five years ago or ten years ago that we'd be sitting here one morning, all of us in a partnership, some of our greatest players sitting to our immediate left, with the excitement of what's going to happen, you know, I often hear that other sports have done more and we're a little behind the curve, and there was a period, four or five years ago, that was true. It is no longer true. So I don't think that people quite understand, I'm not even sure that I do, how big this is going to be, and what this will do for baseball in the world. It's going to be absolutely remarkable. I'll let either Gene or Paul answer, because they are in a better position.

GENE ORZA: Well, our agreement, for example with the IBAF, requires them to take what percentage of the proceeds that they get and go dedicate that to promotion of baseball internationally. So we have arrangements with other countries suggesting that is the best way to do it and in some cases require it. We have to draw a pretty fine line, though, in telling other people how to do their business. Some have accused us of being dominant, too dominant in the conduct of this event and we are sensitive to that issue. We want to encourage other federations who receive proceeds from this event to use their money to promote baseball and in some cases that I indicate will require them to dedicate an appropriate percentage of this to international events and promotion of international baseball. So we are confident that if the event is successful and there is a substantial profit involved, and that is a highly suspect proposition right now, that it will redown to the benefits of international baseball.

DON FEHR: Let me just make a brief remark or two. As I said in my opening comments, when you start something at the beginning, you tend to have more questions than you do four years or eight years or however many years down the road and there are a number of things we are still working through. But you can see from the level of participation, we have the interest and excitement this has created that you are going to create a lot of interest in the sport and hopefully we are going to generate some significant dollars that are going to be used for development back in the home countries and both now and in the future. Unfortunately we are not at the stage where we can give you precise dollars and cents. A year from now, hopefully we will be, but a year from now we'll be basking in the glow of what I am confident at least will be a very successful event.

PAUL ARCHEY: If I can also add, when this was presented to ownership and the three gentlemen that were introduced on our ownership management committee representing those owners, it was approved based on the primary objective of this tournament was to grow the game of baseball worldwide, and that was the No. 1 objective and at some point they can elaborate on that further. That is what we planned to do, use this tournament as a platform to continue growing the game worldwide.

Q. Dontrelle, you said the players are going to play hard. If the situation calls for it, would you buzz Cabrera or Carlos Delgado?

DONTRELLE WILLIS: Oh, man. I don't buzz anybody. (Laughter.) Second of all, I'm a firm believer that we all play hard in our respective teams and I don't think it's going to be a question that we're going to play hard for our country. We all have a lot of pride and pride in our craft and me personally, I take a lot of pride in the game of baseball. Now, if the ball slips, I'll give them the head and I'll let them know, my fault, but it's over with and now we're going to be competitive. (Laughter.) It's funny. Me and Miguel always talk about facing teach other and he's always talking about how he'd hit me and what-have-you, but I know if I get a chance to face him, you know, I'll hit him. It's going to be fun, man, I don't think it's going to be a problem about us playing hard here.

Q. May I ask from the Japanese side, the Japanese Baseball Players Association is asking for the league posting of the schedule, and is it possible from the next time, the second time, is there a possibility to reconsider the schedule?

DON FEHR: I'll respond to that. Whenever you do the event initially, you have to come up with some beginning outlines, you have to firm it up, you have to have an approach to go to people with and get it off the ground. I would expect that in future events, with a lot of interest and a lot more lead time to work with it, that there will probably be a lot of ideas on scheduling and other matters that a lot of people are going to have to consider. So we'll look at it as it comes.

PAUL ARCHEY: Just to add to that on schedule, that will be one of those issues that will be taken up by the steering committee made up by different representatives.

GENE ORZA: We have already advised the Japanese committee to take up that question in the next go-around. We commit ourselves to those discussions. The request that I made at least and Paul joined in it in a conference call recently was simply that in formulating that position, let's make sure we take into account everybody else's schedules, too, not simply the United States but schedule of the players around the world. That's something we think might have been lacking and a suggestion is that the event be moved to the middle of July.

Q. Have there been any decisions based on television at all and is Gary's presence here a bit of a hint?

GARY THORNE: No. I can't answer that. Anybody?

TIM BROSNAN: No, there have not been any firm decisions made on television, but the good news is that the reason they are haven't been any firm decisions made is that we're sorting through a number of discussions and a number of expressions of very serious interest at this time.

GARY THORNE: All right, ladies and gentlemen, I want to thank all of you very much, especially the 16 nations and territories who are represented here. It has been such an honor to have you with us for this, obviously a monumental conference. Thanks to the players who joined in, we really appreciate that. Thanks, guys.

End of FastScripts...

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