LA reportedly hosting '09 Classic finals

LA reportedly hosting '09 Classic finals

Dodger Stadium, which has been undergoing a major facelift, will be home to the semifinals and finals of next year's World Baseball Classic on March 21-23, the Los Angeles Times reported in its Friday editions, with the second round going to San Diego's PETCO Park and Dolphin Stadium in Miami a week earlier.

The announcement is expected at a media conference in Los Angeles on July 31.

The Dodgers haven't hosted a World Series since 1988 -- when they defeated the A's -- and an All-Star Game since 1980. Earlier this season, Major League Baseball announced that the 2010 All-Star Game will be staged at Angel Stadium in Anaheim.

PETCO, which is the home of the Padres, was the site of the inaugural semis and finals in 2006. Playing in front of sellout crowds in the 45,000-seat venue, Japan vanquished Cuba, 10-6, in the finals after defeating rival Korea. Cuba, the perennial world baseball power on the international scene, beat the Dominican Republic to move on to the finals.

Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, who now pitches for the Red Sox, was named the tournament Most Valuable Player.

Dolphin Stadium, home of the Marlins, was not a site for games during the inaugural tournament.

The first-round venues were set several months ago with the Classic beginning March 5 in Japan.

As in 2006, Tokyo Dome and Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico, will again host first-round games. In 2009, those venues will be joined for the first time by the Rogers Centre in Toronto and Foro Sol Stadium in Mexico City.

Rogers Centre is the home of the Blue Jays and Major League Spring Training exhibition games have been played at the 27,940-seat facility in Mexico City.

The 16-team field is the same as '06, though an expansion of the field to 24 countries and territories with qualifying rounds as a preface to reach the main competition is under consideration for 2013.

Next year's brackets are as follows:

Pool A -- China, Chinese Taipei, Japan and Korea, beginning on March 5 in Tokyo Dome, where the A's and Red Sox opened up the regular season.

Pool B -- Australia, Cuba, Mexico and South Africa from March 8-12 in Mexico City.

Pool C -- Canada, Italy, the United States and Venezuela from March 8-12 in Toronto.

Pool D -- Dominican Republic, Netherlands, Panama and Puerto Rico March 7-11 in Puerto Rico.

Attendance for the '06 tournament at its seven venues was 737,112 tickets sold, a major coup considering that the Asian bracket didn't reach the 80 percent capacity in Tokyo Dome that was originally projected.

It was the first time that all Major League players were allowed to represent their native lands in an international baseball tournament. The baseball competition in the Summer Olympics, which is slated for Beijing next month, includes non-25-man roster MLB players only.

In another new wrinkle for '09, a rules change has been made in the qualifying portion of the tournament, which will now be a double-elimination format in the first two rounds.

In '06, there was round-robin play as teams with the top two records in each bracket ascended to the second round and the semifinals with a complicated formula of runs scored used as the first tiebreaker.

The semifinals remain as a single-elimination competition to qualify for the finals.

Unlike '06 as well, there will be a crossover of brackets in the semifinals rather than teams from the same bracket playing each other to qualify for the finals.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.