Benches cleared on Saturday afternoon during the World Baseball Classic’s first-round game between Mexico and Canada. Mexican relief pitcher Arnold Leon dusted Canadian outfielder Rene Tosoni with an inside pitch, then immediately followed that up by hitting Tosoni square in the ribs with his next toss.
It’s not typically a pitcher’s intent to drill a batter, but after nine innings of late slides and a collision at home plate, and with a lopsided score of 9-3 in Canada’s favor, it seemed that tempers had reached a boiling point. Video footage would later reveal Mexican third baseman Luis Cruz had encouraged Leon to take another shot at Tosoni after the initial near-miss.
Players and coaches from both dugouts charged the field, not for a heated exchange of words, but for an all-out brawl. Punches were thrown by several players, and even fans got in on the action, throwing bottles and cans from the stands. After the players were calmed by the coaching staffs and the field cleared, the security staff at Chase Field announced that any further fan disruptions would result in immediate arrest.
Seven players in all were ejected, including Leon and Tosoni, but the game – which was already in the top of the ninth inning – was allowed to continue. Canada would go on to win 10-3, all but eliminating Mexico from the WBC.
Concerns have flared regarding the reputation of the World Baseball Classic. The tournament has already fielded questions about major and minor league players’ abilities to successfully compete in the WBC while participating in spring training and preparations for regular season play. Officials now worry that any physical ramifications of unruly situations such as the brawl between teams Mexico and Canada may cause players to think twice before joining a WBC team in the future. No player wants to start their regular season with injuries sustained from a voluntary tournament.
Next Stop, MLB?
It also remains to be seen how rivalries birthed in the WBC may carry over into regular season play. Leon, a minor league pitcher for the Oakland Athletics, has not played in the major leagues since his rookie season in 2011. However, Cruz, the regular third baseman for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Tosoni, an outfielder for the Milwaukee Brewers, will meet again during a series in April, and fans will be watching to see whether this newfound rivalry will spill over into those games.