At a press conference on Tuesday, it was revealed that Marlins Park will play a pivotal role in the 2021 World Baseball Classic.
The home of the Miami Marlins will host opening round games, as well as the tournament’s semifinal and championship rounds. The Marlins Park news came as part of a joint announcement that included Marlins CEO Derek Jeter, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, World Baseball Classic president Jim Small and MLB senior director of international domestic player operations Leonor Colón.
In addition to Miami, Taichung and Taoyuan, Taiwan; Tokyo, Japan; and Phoenix, Arizona will all host pool play during the World Baseball Classic. Quarterfinal games will be contested in Tokyo and Miami, and the championship round will take place at Marlins Park.
According to MLB, Marlins Park will be the first site to host games in all three phases of the international competition. The 2021 championship will finish in time for the start of the Major League Baseball season that year.
The international tournament already knows 16 of its participants. Australia, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Colombia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Israel, Italy, Japan, The Kingdom of the Netherlands, Korea, Mexico, Puerto Rico, United States and Venezuela have all qualified. The field, however, has expanded for the first time to 20 teams.
Other nations will vie for the final four spots in the competition with qualifying games in Tucson, Arizona. Those countries include Brazil, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Great Britain, New Zealand, Panama, Philippines, Nicarauga, Pakistan, South Africa, and Spain.
The United States won the most recent World Baseball Classic in 2017, defeating Puerto Rico. The Dominican Republic won the title in 2013, while Japan won the first two, 2006 and 2009.
Marlins Park has hosted games in the last two WBC tournaments, but never the championship. Hard Rock Stadium, where the Marlins played prior to Marlins Park opening in 2012, hosted games during the 2009 tournament.
"“It doesn’t have any impact on our team. The impact, we hope, is that you want to get baseball fans in here, in the building, come out, enjoy the game, and ultimately come out and support our team as well,” Marlins CEO Derek Jeter said at the press conference."
With attendance figures for the World Baseball Classic games far outpacing those of the Marlins regular season contests in recent years, it’s no wonder the team pushed to be the tournament’s main host.
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In 2017, a crowd of 37,446 set a baseball attendance record for Marlins Park for contest between the United States and the Dominican Republic. That figure surpassed Opening Day of the 2014 MLB season that saw 37,116 fans attend a Marlins game. The Dominican team defeated the US 7-5 in a thrilling contest that saw Dominicans score four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to take the lead.
"“Being selected to host all three rounds, including the finals, reaffirms Miami’s place as a global destination for all the biggest events, and Marlins Park is the ideal world-class entertainment venue to play host,” said Jeter. “The excitement and passion on display in Marlins Park during the last World Baseball Classic showed what we already knew to be true about this market – that South Florida has an undying love for their heritage and the game of baseball. We are proud to welcome fans from across the globe to Marlins Park for this event, and we are excited to show off all the new enhancements we have made to the ballpark since the tournament was last played here.”"
The multi-cultural mix in Miami, coupled with the recent success of hosting Super Bowl LIV, makes Marlins Park the prime spot for this international event.