Foster hopes International Baseball slate at Al Lang could be "audition" to host World Baseball Classic
St. Petersburg mayor Bill Foster said he hopes this month’s inaugural International Baseball slate of games at Al Lang Stadium could serve as an “audition” to become a potential host city for a future World Baseball Classic.
There will be 13 games played at Al Lang, from Feb. 21-Mar. 13, pitting three international teams from South Korea, Canada and the Netherlands, as well as college teams and the Rays, Phillies and Blue Jays. Foster said there have sold around 900 “season tickets” for the entire schedule so far, with single-game tickets going on sale next week.
The WBC, staged in March every four years with national teams from all over the world, had seven host cities in 2009, including Mexico City, Toronto, Miami, L.A., San Diego and Tokyo. Foster said potential WBC games could be played at Al Lang and Tropicana Field. The next WBC will be in 2013.
“That’s our ultimate goal, is to bid and host the WBC here in the city of St. Pete,” Foster said. “Since the WBC started, I’ve always thought, ‘Why not St. Pete?’ It’s a perfect time of year for it, we have great facilities to host the WBC, and that would be a huge shot in the arm for the city of St. Pete. This enables us to demonstrate to Major League Baseball and the WBC that we can host international competition.”
The South Korea Nexen Heroes have been working out at Walter Fuller Park in St. Petersburg this past week. The club had been considering several different spots, from Vero Beach to Arizona to China, for their pre-season training, but their owner felt St. Petersburg was “very aggressive” and persuasive in getting them here. Foster said the funds to host the three international teams were privately raised, with no cost to taxpayers.
The first game is Feb. 21 with the Nexen Heroes facing Penn State at noon. The Rays will play the Netherlands Mar. 9.
Individual tickets start at $6. Season tickets are $75 for 13 games. For more information, go to www.stpeteinternationalbaseball.com
-- JOE SMITH