For only the second time in history, the International Softball Federation’s World Men’s Softball Championships will be held in Canada, and the championships are coming to Saskatoon.
The only other time the event was held in Canada was in 1988, also in Saskatoon. It is a venue that the ISF has come to appreciate and has rewarded Saskatoon the right to host the championship yet again, the first site since the tournament’s inception in 1966 to host the tournament twice. With opening pitch slated for the morning of July 17, the buzz around this tournament is starting to percolate in baseball circles in the city.
Generally, championships are held every four years. This year’s championship breaks with tradition and comes five years after New Zealand hosted the event.
Sixteen teams from all over the world will compete in the tournament. Some of the highlights of the visiting teams include the always powerful United States, the softball savvy Japanese and New Zealand, the three-time defending champions of the tournament. In fact, in the 11 different championships since 1966, there have only been three different winners: New Zealand, the United States and Canada. The last Canadian team to win a softball championship was in 1992, when the tournament took place in Pasig, Philippines.
There is no question that New Zealand will once again be the team to beat in this year’s championship. However, Team Canada is looking to capitalize on home-field advantage, and the schedule works in their favour. Unlike the visiting teams that will have to overcome jet lag with starts as early as 10 a.m. or 11:30 a.m., Canada’s games are slated for the evenings — not only to give them ample time to rest, but also to have large crowds for each game.
The games will begin on July 17, with the opening ceremonies taking place that night at 5:30 p.m. Immediately following the opening ceremonies, Canada will begin their quest to be named 2009 champions, hosting Argentina at 7 p.m. at Bob Van Impe Stadium.
Teams will be divided into two pools of eight, with each team playing each other once. At the end of round-robin play, the top four teams will advance in a playoff format determined on the amount of games won. Quarterfinal games will take place on July 24, with the semi-finals taking place on July 25. The bronze medal game and Golf Medal games will end the tournament on July 26.
There are many different ticket packages online to allow you to take in some of the best softball in the world. From tournament passes, championship weekend packages, flex pack vouchers, or single game-day tickets, the options are endless. Games will be played at Gordon Howe Park and Bob Van Impe Stadium.
It will be a tall order for the Canadian hosts to dethrone the three-time defending champions from New Zealand, but organizers are hoping that home-field advantage is the spark the Canadian team needs to win another world softball championship.