World Baseball Classic, Inc. (WBCI) today announced the rosters and coaching staffs for Pool 1 of the World Baseball Classic Qualifier, which will be played March 13th-18th at Kino Sports Complex in Tucson, Arizona. Pool 1 of the Qualifier will feature the National Teams of Brazil, France, Germany, Nicaragua, Pakistan and South Africa. The top two teams in Pool 1 will advance to compete in the 2021 World Baseball Classic, which marks the fifth installment of the event featuring many of the world’s greatest players. For the first time, the WBC will include 20 competing National Teams.
Team Brazil will once again be led by Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin, who led the squad to its first WBC appearance in 2013 after winning the Qualifier in Panama City, Panama in November 2012. Larkin also managed Team Brazil at the WBC Qualifier played in Brooklyn, New York in September 2016. Former All-Star outfielder Steve Finley will return for a second time as hitting coach and 21-year veteran pitcher LaTroy Hawkins will again serve as the team’s pitching coach. The 28-man roster features 10 players affiliated with Major League Clubs, including infielder Dante Bichette (WSH), the son of former Major Leaguer Dante Bichette and brother of Toronto Blue Jays infielder Bo Bichette, as well as right-handed pitchers Igor Kimura (TB), Rodrigo Takahashi (ARI), Heitor Tokar (HOU) and Rafael Viana (TOR); left-handed pitcher Dylan Lee (MIA); outfielders Gabriel Maciel (MIN), Victor Mascal (HOU) and Jean Tome (SEA); and infielder Liam Sabino (STL).
Team France will be managed by legendary Major League manager Bruce Bochy, who retired following the 2019 season after 25 seasons managing the San Diego Padres (1995-2006) and San Francisco Giants (2007-2019). Bochy, who compiled 2,003 career victories and won three World Series titles with the Giants (2010, 2012, 2014) during his managerial career, will be joined on his coaching staff by Giants third base coach Ron Wotus. The 28-man roster features three players affiliated with Major League Clubs, including right-handed pitcher Jason Alexander (LAA) and infielders Alen Hanson (SEA) and Ernesto Martinez (MIL). In addition, right-handed pitcher Brett Bochy, the son of Bruce, will compete for Team France.
Team Germany will be skippered by Steve Janssen, who has previous World Baseball Classic experience with the Netherlands. Janssen, who served as the country’s pitching coach during their gold medal-winning 2011 Baseball World Cup, was the bullpen coach for the Netherlands as the team reached the semi-finals of the 2013 WBC. Germany’s 28-man roster features five players affiliated with Major League Clubs, including infielders Marco Cardoso (BOS) and Brendan Donovan (STL); left-handed pitcher Lucas Jacobsen (TEX); and right-handed pitchers Niklas Rimmel (MIN) and Markus Solbach (LAD).
Nicaragua will be led for a second consecutive WBC Qualifier by former Major League outfielder and Nicaragua native Marvin Benard, who played nine seasons in the Majors for the Giants from 1995-2003. Benard, who managed the squad in Mexicali, Mexico in March 2016, set career-highs with 562 at-bats, 163 hits, 36 doubles, 16 home runs, 64 RBI and 27 stolen bases during the 1999 season. He spent the 2015 season as a hitting coach in the Padres organization, helping the Single-A Tri-City Dust Devils of the Northwest League to the league finals. Nicaragua’s 28-man roster features five players affiliated with Major League Clubs, including catcher Rodolfo Bone (SF); left-handed pitcher Leonardo Crawford (LAD); infielders Cheslor Cuthbert (CWS), who has spent time in the Majors during each of the last five seasons with the Kansas City Royals, and Jesus Lopez (TOR); and outfielder Ismael Munguia (SF).
Pakistan will be managed for a second consecutive WBC Qualifier by Syed Fakhar Ali Shah. Shah, who also serves as the Executive Director of the Pakistan Baseball Federation, led the country during their WBC debut in the Qualifier played in Brooklyn in September 2016. The squad does not have any players affiliated with Major League Clubs on its 28-man roster.
South Africa, which will be participating in their fifth WBC event, will be managed by Andy Berglund. Berglund, who served as a coach for South Africa during the last round of WBC Qualifiers in Blacktown, Australia in February 2016, previously managed the Czech Republic team during the 2012 WBC Qualifier in Regensburg, Germany. He also served as a coach for the French National Team in the 2014 European Championship. The 28-man roster features two players affiliated with Major League Clubs, including right-handed pitcher Kieran Lovegrove (LAD) and infielder Brendan Venter (ATL). In addition, former Major League infielder Gift Ngoepe and his brother, Victor, will compete for the South African team. Gift will be competing in his fourth WBC event after participating in the 2009 WBC, as well as the 2012 and 2016 Qualifiers. He was the first-ever player from South Africa to play in the Majors, appearing in 28 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2017, followed by 13 games for the Blue Jays in 2018.
The Qualifier will open on Friday, March 13th with a doubleheader featuring Pakistan vs. Brazil and Germany vs. France. Tickets for all Qualifier games, including day passes for doubleheader days, are available at https://www.mlb.com/world-baseball-classic/schedule. The complete schedule of Pool 1 games is as follows:
Each of the two qualifying pools will feature a nine-game double elimination round with the top two teams from each pool advancing to the World Baseball Classic, scheduled for 2021. The four advancing teams will join the 16 countries – Australia, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Kingdom of the Netherlands, Mexico, Puerto Rico, United States and Venezuela – that received automatic invitations based on their performance in the 2017 tournament.
The Qualifiers were originally introduced prior to the 2013 World Baseball Classic and were held in Germany, Panama, Taiwan and the United States (Jupiter, Florida) during the fall of 2012. Qualifiers in Australia, Mexico, Panama and the U.S. (Brooklyn, N.Y.) were played again prior to the 2017 WBC. The inaugural World Baseball Classic was held in 2006, with ensuing editions in 2009, 2013 and 2017.
Complete rosters for Pool 1 of the Tucson, Arizona Qualifier follows this press release.