Mexican, Canadian teams brawl during World Baseball Classic

Story highlights

  • A Canadian baseball player bunts in the 9th inning with his team leading 9-3
  • Mexico's pitcher hits the next batter, spurring a brawl at the World Baseball Classic game
  • Mexico's manager says his pitcher "just lost it a little bit"
  • A Canadian player says what happened shows the intensity of the tournament
The World Baseball Classic is meant to showcase the best the sport has to offer, in the spirit of healthy international competition.
But chances are what happened in Saturday's Mexico-Canada contest wasn't what baseball's powers-that-be had in mind.
The first-round ballgame devolved into a full-fledged brawl, ripe with tussling, take-downs and tossed punches. Four Mexican players and three Canadians ended up getting ejected from the game at Chase Field in Phoenix, with more penalties possibly to come.
"We got hit for playing the game, and that happens, but at the same time, you got to stand up for yourself," said Canadian first baseman Justin Morneau. "You can't just get pushed around."
The drama started with the game's fate seemingly cinched. Canada led 9-3 when its catcher, Chris Robinson, led off the ninth inning with a bunt single.
His rationale was to give his team a better chance of scoring more, since total run differential is a factor in determining which teams advance in the tournament. But Mexican players saw it as a slap in the face since the result seemed out of reach, and pitcher Arnold Leon then hit Canada's next batter, Rene Tosoni, on his upper back.
That's when the fisticuffs began.
"When you're playing professional baseball, things like this arise," Mexican manager Rick Renteria said. "According to what he's used to ... (Leon's) mind went somewhere else. ... He just lost it a little bit."
After players from both teams stormed the field, video showed several throwing punches and yanking opponents to the ground.
The hubbub didn't end when the fighting did.
According to a story on the World Baseball Classic's official website, a Canadian player provocatively raised his arms at the largely pro-Mexican crowd. A bottle then flew from the stands, hitting a Canadian player in the face, who seemingly tried to climb into the crowd only to be held back, the story said.
Canadian manager Ernie Whitt said one of his coaches was hit in the head with a bottle, while another was nearly struck by a ball.
After the game, Renteria said none of his players got seriously hurt in the brawl. The same held true for their foe.
"You can't hurt us Canadians," Whitt said with a straight face, even as his remark spurred laughter in the press room.
The 10-3 final score dropped Mexico's first-round record to 1-2. Canada improved to 1-1 and will face the United States on Sunday.
Taking into account run differential, the top two teams in their four-team bracket will move onto the tourney semifinals in Miami. That group includes Italy, which won its first two games.
The World Baseball Classic is the sport's only elite, major international competition now that baseball is no longer in the Olympics. Started in 2006, this year's edition features 16 teams and first-round play in Taiwan, Puerto Rico and Japan as well as the United States. The championship game is slated for March 19 in San Francisco.
While many top American players declined to play for their national team -- because of injury or choosing instead to stay with their Major League teams preparing for the upcoming season -- the World Baseball Classic has generated significant buzz internationally.
It's also proved to be highly competitive at times, something that Morneau says Saturday's contest shows.
"Whoever says that guys are just here as an extra spring training game or just here to say they represented their country and then go home obviously didn't see how intense that game was and what it means to everybody that was involved," said the Minnesota Twins player.
"... It was a good game, and something unfortunate happened towards the end of it."