The 2004 World Series had 10 teams – the event’s biggest field to date – as a decision was made to give Mexico or Puerto Rico an automatic berth in the tournament due to the popularity of baseball in both Latin American nations. Mexico was seeded in 2004 and continued to be seeded in even-number years. The move evened out the pools with five teams in the International Pool along with the five teams in the USA Pool.
2005 World Series
Puerto Rico returned in 2005 and continues to be seeded in odd-number years. The odd team out – Puerto Rico or Mexico – can still qualify for the World Series by winning the Latin American region.
The 10-team field continued in 2005 – the 25th year of the tournament – with Panama City, Panama, becoming the first team from Central America to win the world championship by defeating Tarpon Springs, Florida, in the finals, 4-0.
Also in 2005, the World Series announced a partnership with the Detroit Tigers professional baseball team that saw the Tigers help promote the series. Tigers players Nate Robertson, Vance Wilson and Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez made appearances at World Series Field, greeting players and other visitors to the city.
Since 2005 was the 25th year of the World Series, players and coaches from Boardman, Ohio – the first world championships – were honored throughout the week, creating more World Series memories.
2006 World Series
In 2006, the world championship returned to the United States as El Campo, Texas, became the first USA Southwest region team to win the title in a 2-1 victory over the Mexican national champs from Guaymas, Sonora, in a true “border series.” Texas pitcher Matthew Hamman earned three victories, tying a series record. His 27 strikeouts in 20 innings set another record. The combined 50 strikeouts by Hamman and teammates Andrew Kinder (20) and Holden Whitley (three) set a team record. Catcher Landon Appling batted a series-high of .706 (12 for 17). Appling’s grandfather, John Paul Appling, played for Texas in the Little Bigger World Series in 1952 in New Jersey when he was 14 years old.
The 2006 World Series was significant for Mexico in more than one way. The event marked the 20th anniversary of the year Mexico first played in the world tournament.
Jakarta became the first team from Indonesia to play in any World Series, representing the Asia-Pacific region in 2006. The team from Venezuela set a series record with 23 stolen bases.