MLB boss Selig urges U.S. improvement for next Classic

LOS ANGELES Tue Mar 24, 2009 6:26am EDT

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The U.S. team needs to attract better-known players to help raise local interest in future World Baseball Classic (WBC) tournaments, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said on Monday.

Speaking during a television broadcast of Japan's 10-inning win over South Korea in the WBC final, Selig said he was happy with the international event he had helped create but would consider making changes to help the U.S. field a stronger team.

"I'm really proud of where we are," Selig remarked about the state of the 16-nation tournament and the excitement it had generated abroad during its second edition.

The commissioner admitted that interest was not as strong in the birthplace of baseball, noting many U.S. players were not yet in game-shape for the preseason tournament and many top players were discouraged from participating by their teams.

The U.S. team failed to advance past the second round in the inaugural 2006 event and this year reached the semi-finals before being eliminated by defending champions Japan.

"After '06, we decided to start spring training two weeks earlier and we're starting the season one week later," he said about giving MLB players more time to prepare.

"We made the adjustments. Maybe we have to make some more."

The next WBC is scheduled for 2013 and Selig said he would look into encouraging players to train for the tournament earlier, pressure MLB owners to allow leading players to participate and shorten the event by having fewer 'off days'.

"We have to find ways to pick up the intensity for the United States," he said. "We've got to find a way to get our best players and make sure they're on the field.

"We need to do it like the other countries do, to get the very best players we have. This is so big... we need everybody's best players and we shouldn't accept anything less."

However, Selig said he was satisfied with the progress of the WBC and remained confident about the event's future.

"This will some day be just absolutely huge."

(Writing by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by John O'Brien)

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