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Thursday, June 30, 2005
Japanese players' association to vote July 22

Associated Press

TOKYO -- Japan tentatively agreed to take part in baseball's first World Cup-style tournament if its professional players' association agrees to it.

Masashi Tsunoda, an official with the Softbank Hawks of Japan's Pacific League, said Thursday a letter sent to Major League Baseball included a counterproposal from Japan's players on when to hold the tournament.

U.S. major league and union officials traveled to Japan two weeks ago and set a June 30 deadline for an agreement with the Japanese owners and players. U.S. baseball officials plan a formal launch announcement of the World Baseball Classic for July 11, the day before the All-Star game in Detroit.

The Japanese players' association will hold a meeting on July 22 to decide whether to take part. MLB and its players' association have already approved the tournament.

Players in Japan have proposed holding the qualifying games in March and the finals in July, during the All-Star break.

Several Japanese players, including Atsuya Furuta, the head of the Japanese players' association, have said they don't want to commit to a tournament before the start of their regular season.

Japanese baseball officials have objected to both the timing of the event and the distribution of revenue, which they say overwhelmingly favors the major leagues.

Under the plan formulated by the commissioner's office and the players' association, Japan would host one of the four first-round groups of the 16-team tournament.