GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- The Caribbean Series, which dates back to the formation of the original Caribbean Federation in 1948, has evolved over the years and has big plans for the future.A tournament that once featured some of the biggest names in Latin America, now focuses on younger players and veterans
GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- The Caribbean Series, which dates back to the formation of the original Caribbean Federation in 1948, has evolved over the years and has big plans for the future.
A tournament that once featured some of the biggest names in Latin America, now focuses on younger players and veterans trying to land jobs in the big leagues. It's an international showcase -- on the field and in the stands -- in almost every sense of the word.
It's a baseball festival.
Next year's Caribbean Series is scheduled to be held in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, followed by Puerto Rico in 2020, Mazatlan, Mexico, in 2021, and the Dominican Republic in 2022. Cuba has participated in the Caribbean Series since 2014 as an invited guest.
• Full Caribbean Series coverage
Here are five things to know about the Caribbean Series entering Thursday night's championship game between Puerto Rico and the winner of Wednesday night's Domincan Republic-Cuba matchup at Estadio de Beisbol Charros de Jalisco.
1. It's an important part of the baseball landscape
The Caribbean Series is made up of winter league champions from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and Cuba. Those leagues provide valuable on-the-job training for Minor League and Major League players. The Caribbean Series extends that experience through the first week of February, sometimes less than a week before the start of Spring Training.
"Keeping the series going for 60 years has meant a lot for baseball," Caribbean Federation president Juan Francisco Puello said. "I say that because, over time, we've developed many players. We have an agreement with MLB, but we shouldn't forget that players' development is also due, in part, thanks to us."
2. The Caribbean Series is considering moving the start date from the first week of February to last week of January
Officials from the Caribbean Federation have toyed with the notion of starting winter league play for all countries at the beginning of October, shortening the playoff schedule, and starting the Caribbean Series as early as Jan. 22 in order to add more teams and still complete the annual tournament by the Feb. 10 deadline. The winter leagues usually begin in the middle of October.
Part of the reason to include more countries -- specifically Colombia, Nicaragua and Panama -- in the event is to make it a more appealing attraction for international television and radio broadcasts.
3. The Caribbean Series could include teams from Asia in the future
The Caribbean Federation has informally reached out to professional leagues in Japan, Korea and Taiwan about participating in the Caribbean Series.
It's uncertain if the baseball schedules for those countries will allow participation, but the Caribbean Federation remains optimistic and will continue to pursue a partnership with an Asian team.
4. Venezuela will play host to the 2018 Caribbean Series … for now
This year's tournament was supposed to be in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, but it was moved to Mexico for the second consecutive year because of the political and social unrest in Venezuela.
Next year's event is scheduled for Barquisimeto, but the venue could change due to what the Caribbean Federation describes as "acts of God, earthquakes and other factors out of the organization's control."
Venezuela last played host to a Caribbean Series in 2014 on Isla Margarita. The 2010 Caribbean Series was also held on Isla Margarita. The country has won seven Caribbean Series championships, with its most recent coming in 2009 by the Tigres de Aragua in Mexicali.
5. Cuba could eventually play host to a Caribbean Series in Havana
In 1959, Fidel Castro took over the island and declared Cuba a communist nation, ending the country's participation in the Caribbean Series after 1960. As a result, the tournament disappeared for 10 years until a revival in 1970 that included the addition of the Dominican Republic and Mexico, and the removal of Panama and Cuba.
Cuba returned to the tournament in 2014 and there's been talk of adding the island to the Caribbean Federation so it can play host to a tournament. Caribbean Federation officials say Cuba cannot join because of political factors, including its relationship with the United States.
"I've said -- and perhaps it's been misinterpreted -- that I aspire to a Caribbean Series in Havana, specifically in the Estadio Latinoamericano," Puello said. "Why? To go back to our roots. That's where the Caribbean Series started in 1949. That would mean going back to the place of our birth, our origins. Hopefully that happens one day."
Jesse Sanchez, who has been writing for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.