By Lindsay Campbell

Top-notch athletes from around the globe are stepping up to the plate as they compete for a championship title in the U-18 Baseball World Cup.

From September 1 to 10, Thunder Bay will host this premier youth baseball tournament for the second time since 2010.

According to event organizer Martina Benvegnu, attendees can expect a similar experience to when the tournament was first hosted seven years ago. “We definitely learned through trial and error last time because it was our first time hosting such a big tournament,” she explains. “But, we’re only changing small logistical things. The base of our tournament should be run fairly the same.”

“TBIBA aspires to be respected internationally by the amateur baseball communities,” she explains. “We’re here to run a professionally managed championship event on the world stage.”

A total of 50 games will be held at two local venues: Port Arthur Stadium and Baseball Central. Countries competing include the United States, Cuba, Canada, Mexico, Nicaragua, Japan, Korea, Chinese Taipei, Italy, Netherlands, South Africa, and Australia. Japan, who was not present at the 2010 tournament, is expected to bring in a large fan base this time. Benvegnu says individuals from Japan purchased many of the early bird tickets.

Since 2002, the Thunder Bay International Baseball Association has been influential in expanding the local baseball community. The bid for this year’s Baseball World Cup was received in February 2014, and volunteers on the organization’s board have been planning ever since. Benvegnu says the support within the city has been advantageous in the organizing process.

“We’ve been getting a great response from the community and everyone’s been really helpful,” she says. “We’re just trying to get more ticket sales as we get closer to the event, but we already know that we have a great community in Thunder Bay and it will be a sell-out.”

Benvegnu also stressed the need for volunteers to make the tournament a success. “You don’t need to know anything about baseball… There are a million different things that you can do to help out and make this tournament runs smoothly,” she explains. “This isn’t just a baseball tournament. It’s a whole new experience coming to the games, so just to be able to come to the games and be a part of this experience and see why Thunder Bay should have events like this is important for sure.”

For more information on volunteering, game schedules, and purchasing tickets, visit the tournament website at Individual game tickets can also be purchased at the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium.