Mexicali to host World Baseball Classic for first time

For the first time, the World Baseball Classic is coming to Mexicali.

In March, the border city will host a qualifying round for the WBC. Mexico will compete against the Czech Republic, Germany and Nicaragua, with the winner advancing to the 16-team championship field for the 2017 tournament.

In its three previous tournaments, the WBC visited Mexico once -- in 2009, in Mexico City, in pool play. The smaller capacity of the Mexicali ballpark (19,500) is more appropriate for a qualifying round in which the European entrants do not figure to attract many fans.

Mexicali -- about a four-hour drive from Los Angeles -- has a proud baseball tradition. Its Mexican Pacific League team, Aguilas de Mexicali, has won three championships, and its rosters have included such major league stars as Fernando Valenzuela, Mike Piazza and John Kruk. The Angels once had a partnership with the Mexicali team.


The three other qualifying sites announced Thursday: Brooklyn, N.Y. (Israel, Brazil, Britain, Pakistan); Sydney (Australia, New Zealand, Philippines, South Africa); and Panama City (Panama, Colombia, France, Spain).

The 12 teams that already have qualified for the championship field, based on results from the last WBC in 2013: Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, Puerto Rico, United States and Venezuela.

The Dominican Republic is the defending champion. The venues for the championship rounds have not been determined.