S. Korea to face Japan in opening match of inaugural baseball tourney
by Yonhap News Agency

SEOUL, May 20 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will face its archrival, Japan, to open an inaugural international baseball tournament this fall, officials said Wednesday.
At a press conference held in Seoul jointly with the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) unveiled groupings for the new 12-nation competition called the Premier 12. The countries were chosen based on their world rankings as of November last year, and the first edition will be played from Nov. 8 to 21 in Chinese Taipei and Japan.
The eighth-ranked South Korea has been paired with Japan (No. 1), the United States (No. 2), Dominican Republic (No. 6), Venezuela (No. 10) and Mexico (No. 12). South Korea will visit Japan at Sapporo Dome on Nov. 8 for the event's very first game.
Group A teams are: Chinese Taipei (No. 4), Cuba (No. 3), the Netherlands (No. 5), Canada (No. 7), Puerto Rico (No. 9) and Italy (No. 11).
The WBSC is an umbrella body established after a 2013 merger between the International Baseball Federation and the International Softball Federation. It created the Premier 12 last year in place of the defunct Baseball World Cup.
The Premier 12 will be held every four years, in years when the World Baseball Classic (WBC), which was first played in 2006, won't be competed.
Riccardo Fraccari, president of the WBSC, said the Premier 12 has been launched "to meet growing demands for international competitions."

"This tournament is about pride and passion in playing for countries," he said. "There are no individuals. You have to sacrifice everything for your country. This is the driving force and spirit of the Premier 12."

Fraccari also said he hopes the Premier 12 will help baseball become an Olympic sport again. Baseball was last competed at the Olympics in 2008 and the WBSC is lobbying to put it back in the program for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
"We have the Premier 12 as a platform to showcase the sport of baseball to the worldwide audience," he said. "Inclusion in the Olympic Games remains the primary objective of the WBSC. I am confident that the Premier 12 and the players can help us make our sport an Olympic event."

Accompanying Fraccari to the press conference was Kim In-sik, former national team manager and currently head of the technical committee at the KBO, who pledged the South Korean league's full support for the success of the Premier 12.
"The national team is the pride of the entire South Korea. We take this competition very seriously," he said. "I believe this tournament will be an opportunity for South Korea to play an important role in helping grow our sport around the globe."