The World Baseball Softball Confederation today announced the 28 players named to compete on behalf of Europe in the WBSC-sanctioned Asia Winter Baseball (AWB) professional international league, which is set to open on 25 November in Taiwan.
The Europe-branded baseball team was established by WBSC, under President Riccardo Fraccari, and made its historic debut in international competition in 2015.
The 2016 European roster selection features players from eight nations, including the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Romania and Spain — and seven different European leagues, as well as six Major League Baseball (MLB) minor league affiliates and Independent Leagues in the United States. The Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies each have two players from their organisations representing Europe.
World No. 10 Netherlands leads all nations with nine Dutch players on Team Europe. The highest-ranked nation in Europe, No. 9 Italy, which had 11 players named to the 2015 club, has seven players on the continental squad. No. 21 Spain features four players, while No. 20 Germany has three and No. 24 France two. World No. 14 Czech Republic, No. 41 Poland and No. 45 Romania are all represented on Europe’s active roster, with one player each.
Former MLB player Desmond Relaford has been named Team Europe’s manager. Former Spanish National Team pitcher Manuel Olivera will serve as pitching coach, while former Italian National Team member Danny Gorrin will take charge of the catchers. Two-time Olympian with the Italian National Team Seth Lafera will serve as infield coach.
The six-team AWB will feature one team representing a prospect-based Chinese Taipei National Team, the CPBL, the Korea Baseball Organisation (KBO) and two clubs from Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB).
The 2016 AWB season will run from 25 November to 15 December, with each team playing a 17-game schedule. The semi-finals will be held on 17 December, followed by the AWB Championship Final on 18 December.
The AWB, organised by the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL), features young players and potential future stars from multiple professional leagues.
Fox Sports Taiwan, broadcast partner of the CPBL, has acquired the exclusive rights of the 2016 AWB season in the host nation.
Team Europe will be looking to improve upon a 5th Place finish in 2015 that saw the Chinese Taipei squad crowned as the AWB champions.