Persistence pays off.
Told Sunday the Thunder Bay International Baseball Association was out of the running for the 2015 18U World Baseball Cup, executive director Warren Philp refused to give up hope.
Instead he asked Baseball Canada officials in Prague for the announcement to push to immediately award Thunder Bay the 2017 competition.
The ploy worked.
“(The Baseball Canada official) said, ‘Do you want to go back to your board?’ And we said no, we want to know today. And they said yeah, let’s give it to Thunder Bay, they did a great job last time. So we’re happy about that,” said TBIBA president Larry Hebert.
“It took us three times to get it last time and three times this time. We didn’t strike out either time.”
Thunder Bay hosted the 2010 edition of the tournament, then known as the World Junior Baseball Championship. More than 50,000 people poured through the turnstiles at Port Arthur Stadium and Baseball Central.
It’s that success that earned them the right to host again.
Hebert said they’re hoping to replicate the results from 2010.
“We’re hoping. As long as we get great weather we’ll get the crowds. Thunder Bay supported it last time. We budgeted it for 25,000 people and that was our figure. Of course we doubled that, which was unbelievable and just totally surprised us – pleasantly,” Hebert said.
The 2017 tournament, which will feature between 12 and 14 teams from around the world, was pushed back on the calendar to conclude on Labour Day weekend to allow Japan to participate. The baseball crazy nation hosts a countrywide high school tournament earlier in the summer that made it impossible to put together a team in 2010.
The new date will also avoid conflicts with the Thunder Bay Border Cats, though owner and general manager Brad Jorgensen welcomes the 18U World Baseball Cup with open arms.
“We’re extremely happy to see this here in Thunder Bay. I think to bring baseball awareness to all Thunder Bay, this can only help. It was a great event previously and I think it will be a great event again in 2017,” Jorgensen said.
Over the years the tournament has been a launch pad to the major leagues. Graduates include Canadians Larry Walker, Ryan Dempster, Russell Martin and Brett Lawrie.
The 2010 event featured the likes of Francisco Lindor, a top 5 prospect in the Cleveland Indians system, and Cuban slugger Jorge Soler, expected to crack the Chicago Cubs line-up in the next couple of seasons.
Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs, a long-time amateur ballplayer himself, said he checked out the 2010 event and that it just goes to show how great the city is at hosting these type of events.
“We’ve just proven to ourselves that we’re a world-class city, attracting world class events. If you look at 2016, we’ve got the Police/Fire games. We’re attracting an AHL franchise. I just can’t say enough about this city and what it’s attracting now,” Hobbs said.
Hebert said one they’ve figured out the logistics of 2017, they will likely look into hosting a warm-up event, eying a pre-2015 warm-up exhibition between Canada and the United States if it can be arranged.
For more information, visit www.worldbaseball2017.com.
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