JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel has been selected by Major League Baseball to participate in the qualifying tournament for the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
The 16-team qualifying round will be held in the fall.
The Israel Association of Baseball will select the players. According to World Baseball Classic rules, non-Israeli citizens of Jewish heritage can play for Israel. The balance of the team is expected to be made up of the top players from the Israel national team.
In addition to Israel, the other teams invited to the qualifying round are Brazil, Canada, Chinese Taipei, Columbia, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Great Britain, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Philippines, South Africa, Spain and Thailand.
“The skill level and passion for the game in Israel is remarkable, and we know their participation will be a wonderful addition to the tournament,” Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said.
Michael Weiner, the president of the Major League Baseball Players Association, added that "We’re confident Israel’s participation in the World Baseball Classic Qualifying Round will help increase national and worldwide interest" in
The international baseball tournament, sanctioned by the International Baseball Federation, features the world’s top players competing for their home countries and territories. Team Japan won the inaugural 2006 classic and in 2009.
Automatic qualifiers for 2013 are Australia, China, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, Puerto Rico, the United States and Venezuela.