We know most of you will be headed to Phoenix for Cactus League spring training: MLB players are indeed the main attraction. But there’s plenty of other baseball on hand in the Valley of the Sun in February and March, including new and returning tournaments.
First, kick off spring training with the MLB4 tournament, featuring four high-profile NCAA teams. It returns to Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in 2020’s kickoff to Arizona spring training, set for Friday, Feb. 14 to Saturday, Feb. 16.
On tap for 2020’s tournament: College World Series Champion Vanderbilt University Commodores, University of Michigan Wolverines, University of Connecticut Huskies and California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly SLO).
Teams will play three games during the tournament. General-admission tickets are now on sale at the Salt River Fields website and available on a per-game basis ($10), on a per-day basis ($15) and for the entire tournament ($30). There is a broad appeal to this showcase event: players will be training at the Salt River Fields complex, giving you a chance to witness some workouts and then take in a high-level NCAA baseball game.
The other big news: Surprise Stadium (Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers spring home) and Tempe Diablo Stadium (Los Angeles Angels spring home) will host qualifying games for the baseball competition at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Hosted by USA Baseball, eight nations will compete for an Olympic spot over 16 games.
Here’s the schedule:
Sunday, March 22 – Surprise
1 p.m.: Puerto Rico-Dominican Republic
7 p.m.: USA-Nicaragua
Sunday, March 22 – Tempe
1 p.m.: Venezuela-Cuba
7 p.m.: Colombia-Canada
Monday, March 23 – Surprise
1 p.m.: Colombia-Venezuela
7 p.m.: Canada-Cuba
Monday, March 23 – Tempe
1 p.m.: Nicaragua-Puerto Rico
7 p.m.: Dominican Republic-USA
Tuesday, March 24 – Surprise
1 p.m.: Nicaragua-Dominican Republic
7 p.m.: Puerto Rico-USA
Tuesday, March 24 – Tempe
1 p.m.: Canada-Venezuela
7 p.m.: Cuba-Colombia
After group play concludes, the top two finishers from each group will advance to the Super Round, where they will each play two games. Head-to-head contests among these teams from the opening round will carry over into the Super Round standings.
The team with the best Super Round record will be declared the winner and become the fifth National Team to advance to the baseball tournament of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, joining world No. 1 Japan, No. 3 Korea, No. 5 Mexico and No. 18 Israel.
The runner-up and the third-place team in the Americas Qualifier will play in the Final Qualifier round, scheduled from April 1-5 in Taichung and Douliou City, Taiwan. They will battle for the last spot in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, along with No. 4 Chinese Taipei and No. 20 China, who both qualified through the Asia Championship, the runner-up from the Europe/Africa Qualifier, No. 8 Netherlands, and No. 7 Australia, the Oceania representative.
Another tournament worth noting and perhaps worth the drive: In March, Kino Sports Complex in Tucson will host both pools for the Qualifying Round of the 2021 World Baseball Classic. Each pool will feature six teams with the top two finishers in each pool advancing to compete in the 2021 World Baseball Classic.
The World Baseball Classic is sanctioned by the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) as the sport’s official National Team World Championship.
Pools and teams invited to participate in the Qualifier are:
Republic of South Africa
Each qualifying pool will feature a nine-game double elimination round with the top two teams from each pool advancing to the World Baseball Classic, scheduled for 2021. The four advancing teams will join the 16 countries – Australia, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Kingdom of the Netherlands, Mexico, Puerto Rico, United States and Venezuela – that received automatic invitations based on their performance in the 2017 tournament.
Finally, we’re big fans of taking in a college game while in Arizona for spring training. The Arizona State University Sun Devils play out of historic Phoenix Municipal Stadium, while the GCU Antelopes play out of spiffy new GCU Ballpark. We’re linked to each schedule and can highly recommend the game-day experiences at both venues.