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ESPN, MLB Network Play Ball With World Baseball Classic

ESPN and MLB Network will provide team coverage of the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

Baseball’s fledgling service and the total sports network and its various arms will present the tourney’s 39 games from seven venues in five nations, starting March 5 and concluding with the championship contest on March 23 at Dodger Stadium.

Deal terms were not disclosed.

All told, ESPN and ESPN2, their HD versions, plus ESPN Radio, broadband service, ESPN Mobile TV and Spanish-language ESPN Deportes will present 23 contests, while MLB Network, which is expected to launch on Jan. 1 in some 50 million homes, will televise 16 contests.

The opening round of the 2006 tournament -- the inaugural competition was won by Japan in 2007 --  starts March 5 and will be played entirely outside of the U.S. Pool A (China, Chinese Taipei, Japan and Korea) will compete at the Tokyo Dome, home to the Yomiuri Giants of the Nippon Pro Baseball league; Pool B (Australia, Cuba, Mexico and South Africa) at Estadio Foro Sol in Mexico City, home of the Mexico City Red Devils of the Mexican League; Pool C (Canada, Italy, United States and Venezuela) at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, the home to MLB’s Toronto Blue Jays; and Pool D (Dominican Republic, Netherlands, Panama and Puerto Rico) at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

In the opening round, MLB Network will air the entire Mexico City pool, three games from Toronto and two from San Juan.

Second-round games will be played at Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres, and Dolphin Stadium, home of the Florida Marlins. The four advancing teams from Pools A and B will compete in San Diego from March 15-19, while the four teams emerging from Pools C and D will play in Miami from March 14-18. MLB Network will air one game from San Diego and four games from Miami.

The service will also support the tournament with shoulder programming. World Baseball Classic Tonight, debuting in late February, will provide highlights, analysis, feature stories and special reports on the event, its teams, players and coaches. MLB Network also will air the World Baseball Classic Selection Show, a studio show detailing the announcement of the rosters.

“The acquisition of the World Baseball Classic demonstrates our commitment to airing big events and showcasing a wide variety of baseball programming,” said Tony Petitti, MLB Network president and CEO, in a statement. “With game broadcasts and studio programming dedicated to the World Baseball Classic, MLB Network will provide in-depth coverage to all of the action and stories of the ultimate global baseball tournament.”

ESPN and its various properties will air the balance of the telecasts. ESPN will televise the semifinals set for March 21 and March 22, and the final on March 23, all from Chavez Ravine.

“ESPN looks forward to working with the World Baseball Classic to build on what we started in 2006,” said Len DeLuca, ESPN senior vice president, programming and acquisitions, in a statement. “We have more games for ESPN, a deeper multimedia offering, and wider international rights.  We look forward to collaborating to make this the best global championship in March.”