Team Israel's manager Brad Ausmus looking uncomfortable in an Astros uniform. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Remember the World Baseball Classic? That thing where players represent their countries to play baseball? It was at Petco Park first for the semifinals and finals in 2006 and the quarterfinals in 2009? The thing that Sandy Alderson fought so hard to get played at Petco that it cost the Padres a shot at any near future All Star Games? Well, it's coming back in the 2013. Although no games will be played at Petco Park this time around.
A new wrinkle added to this go around is that some additional nations were invited to play in qualifying rounds. There are 4 qualifying groups and each group's winner will advance to the main tournament, which will take place once again during Spring Training in March. With these extra teams come extra opportunities for players affiliated with the Padres to get a chance to be part of the event.
Playing right now in Florida, Team Israel is taking on Team Spain. Team Israel is able to take on any player with a Jewish heritage since technically all Jews are citizens of the country. Two players who played in the Padres' farm system this year took advantage of that opportunity. Cody Decker, a twitter star and Padres 2009 22nd round draft pick out of UCLA who hit 29 HRs this year between AA San Antonio and AAA Tucson, is one of those players. The other is Nate Freiman, an 8th round pick by the Padres in 2009 out of Duke who plays 1B, stands 6'7 and hit 24 HRs for AA San Antonio this season.
Team Israel is also managed by Brad Ausmus, a former Padre who currently works in the Padres front office.
Israel has already won a game in the tournament. The defeated Team South Africa on Wednesday. Freiman hit 2 HRs. Other teams playing today are Team Czaech Republic and Team Germany in Germany as well as Team France and Team South Africa in Florida. Team Great Britain got trounced 11-1 by Team Canada yesterday in Germany. Team Spain beat Team France 8-0 yesterday as well.