Bay pumped for Classic

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

DETROIT -- Jason Bay, for one, is excited about the World Baseball Classic which begins in March.

"There's going to be a lot of excitement depending upon the availability of all the players, we should have a good team, not a deep team, but a good team," the Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder from Trail, B.C., said.

"I haven't signed anything, but I'm committed to playing.

PROUD CANADIAN

"It's been the same reaction when I spoke to Peter Orr (Atlanta Braves), Jeff Francis (Colorado Rockies) or Justin Morneau (Minnesota Twins)," Bay said. "I'm a proud Canadian and Canadians are very patriotic people."

St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Larry Walker, who may or may not play next season is another matter, as is Los Angeles Dodgers closer Eric Gagne, who has a sore arm.

The 16-team tournament will be played at four locales:

Canada (managed by Blue Jays coach Ernie Whitt) Mexico, South Africa and the U.S. will play in Arizona.

Australia, the Dominican Republic, Italy and Venezuela will meet in Florida.

The Netherlands, Panama, Cuba -- if it decides to participate -- and Puerto Rico will meet in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

And in the Far East, Japan will play host to Chinese Taipei, China and Korea.

The top two teams will advance to the next round with the semi-finals and final being played at major-league parks.

"I think that this World Classic will take off like international hockey," said Paul Godfrey, president of the Blue Jays and a member of the organizing committee.

After the inaugural event, the Classic will be played again in 2009 and then every four years.

"I think that this could eventually be bigger than the World Series ... down the road," Godfrey said.

The question is will everyone play? George Steinbrenner, owner of the New York Yankees and former head of the U.S. Olympic committee, voted against the proposal.

Outfielder Gary Sheffield of the Yankees said yesterday that he would not play.

He was in the minority. Besides Bay, Mike Young, Chris Carpenter and John Smoltz (U.S.), Bobby Abreu and Cesar Izturis (Venezuela), Felipe Lopez (who could play for the Dominican or the U.S.) all said that they were interested in playing.

"The initial reaction has been positive, but then we've only spoken to Jason Bay," said Greg Hamilton, who will be putting Team Canada's roster together. "We'll have to see what others think as words filters out."

Besides outfielder Bay, infielders Morneau of New Westminster, B.C. and Orr of Newmarket and pitcher Francis of Surrey, B.C.; Hamilton is hoping to enlist the services of the likes of:

- Pitchers Ryan Dempster (Cubs) of Gibsons, B.C., Rich Harden (A's) of Victoria, B.C., Eric Bedard (Orioles) of Navan, Ont., Chris Reitsma (Braves), of Calgary, Jesse Crain (Twins) of Toronto, Rheal Cormier (Phillies) of Cap Pele, N.B.;

- Catchers Pete Laforest (Devil Rays), of Aylmer, Que, and Russ Martin (Dodgers), of Chelsea, Que.;

- Infielders Corey Koskie (Jays) of Anola, Man., Scott Thorman (Braves) of Cambridge, Matt Stairs (Royals) of Saint John, N.B. and Danny Klassen (Astros) of Leamington, Ont.;

- Outfielder Adam Stern (Red Sox) of London, Ont.


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