KAZ’S KORNER

BASEBALL GAINING GROUND GLOBALLY WITH WBC

Most of the big businesses and corporations in the United States are striving to expand globally. This also is true for what used to be America’s favorite pastime—the sport of baseball.
Quite a number of sports are played by the same rules around the world including soccer, golf, tennis, track and field just to name a few.
Baseball has been expanding its territory from North and South America, Korea and Japan to many other countries, which is evident in this year’s field in the World Baseball Classic which will take place in six different locations around the world.
This is the fourth WBC which takes place every four years and continues to grow as the game of baseball expands internationally.
And because more than one-quarter of major league baseball players are from countries other than the United States, the ultimate goal of MLB is that it is represented all over the world, and the WBC appears to be the best way to accomplish that goal.
Right now major league baseball is one of the most international sports with representative from 18 different countries.
Opening day in 2016 had 238 players born outside the United States on major league rosters, according to an article that appeared in the Houston Chronicle Sunday. That number could very well be even higher when the teams break camp at the end of this month.
Israel made its tournament appearance on Monday and defeated South Korea 2-1 in 10 innings. Although there are some 75 former or current major leaguers of Jewish decent, only a handful are playing for Israel.
The country has been playing organized baseball for about 10 years and debuted in the WBC in 2013.
Peter Kurz, President of the Israel Association of Baseball thought that Houston Astros starting infielder Alex Bregman would grace his team with his presence, but the former LSU star opted to play for the United States when he was invited to play for the team.
Israel also lost Major league all-star recruits like Milwaukee outfielder Ryan Braun and Detroit second baseman Ian Kinsler, while other eligible Jewish players like LA Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson, who played for Israel in 2013, declined an invitation so he could compete for a regular-season starting job. Shlomo Lipetz, a pitcher, is the only Israeli on the roster.
As a top seed the United States team gets to play Round 1 in Miami and if it advances like it should, Round 2 is in San Diego, which are easy trips for Team USA. Israel has to fly to Seoul and can advance to Tokyo.
The four first-round pools are located in Seoul, South Korea (Pool A), Tokyo (Pool B), Miami (Pool C) and Jalisco, Mexico (Pool D).
Team USA, which includes Bregman and relief pitcher Luke Gregerson from the Houston Astros, doesn’t see action until Friday when it faces Columbia, which has major leaguer pitchers Dayan Diaz (Astros), Tayron Guerrero (Miami), Jose Quintana (Chicago White Sox) and Julio Teheran (Atlanta) and infielder Giovanni Urshala (Cleveland). Other Astros playing in the WBC include two-time batting champion Jose Altuve (Venezuela), Nori Aoki (Japan), Kevin Chapman (Canada), Carlos Beltran and Carlos Correa (both Puerto Rico).
Some of the familiar names playing for Team USA include former Astros pitchers J.A. Happ (Toronto) and Pat Neshek (Philadelphia), catchers Buster Posey (San Francisco) and Jonathan Lucroy (Texas) and sluggers Paul Goldschmidt (Arizona), Giancarlo Stanton (Miami) and Daniel Murphy (Washington).
Team USA plays the always-tough Dominican Republic Saturday which has such major league stars as Andre Beltre (Texas), Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz (both Seattle) and Jose Bautista (Toronto).
Sunday they finish pool play against Canada which has Kevin Chapman (Astros), John Axford (Oakland) and Freddie Freeman (Atlanta).
The second round begins Tuesday in San Diego.
KWICKIES…A couple of college basketball coaches were relieved from their respective jobs Monday. After five straight losing seasons North Texas fired Tony Benford while Missouri’s Kim Anderson didn’t “show” the fans enough in his three years there, compiling a dismal 26-67 record. But Anderson will coach Mizzou in this week’s Southeastern Conference tournament.
Two Lone Star State college head football coaches will put their respective teams through spring practice for the first time as Tom Herman guides the Texas Longhorns and Major Applewhite puts the Houston Cougars through the paces starting this week.
Free agency begins tomorrow (Thursday) at 3 p.m. as the Houston Texans try to convince cornerback A.J. Bouye to re-sign and continue playing in NRG Stadium. If the Texans are successful at landing Bouye, they should have one of the best groups of cornerbacks in the NFL joining Johnathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson and Kevin Johnson. Houston finished first in defense last season and won the AFC South Division for the second consecutive year.
Tampa Bay has offered Mike Glennon a contract that would make him the highest paid back-up quarterback in the NFL. Of course that won’t be true if the Dallas Cowboys keep Tony Romo.
And speaking of contracts, Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden received a two-year extension Monday that will keep him in the nation’s capital through the 2020 NFL season.
JUST BETWEEN US…The NFL scouting combine that has been going on for the last couple of weeks did not extend invitations to a couple of possible first-rounders—Oklahoma’s Joe Mixon and Mississippi quarterback Chad Kelly–because of a combine participation policy that bars players convicted of a violent crime, sexual crime or a crime involving a weapon. Mixon was involved in an incident in which he hit a female student in the faced with his fist when he was a freshman. And Kelly, who is the nephew of Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, was kicked off the team at Clemson for conduct detrimental to the team earlier in his career and wasn’t invited to the combine because he was involved in an incident outside a bar in 2014. Some believe the policy is ludicrous because the guys barred from the combine are allowed to be scouted on pro day at their school and will eventually be allowed to play in the NFL. Kansas City Chiefs general manager John Dorsey said it best, “When you come into the National Football League combine, it’s not a right; it’s a privilege to come here.”