South Africa will play in a modified double elimination qualifying round, taking on Spain, France and Israel. The Jupiter qualifier is the first of four that will take place in the next few months and will determine the final four spots in March's World Baseball Classic. The remaining three qualifers will be located in Germany, Panama, and Taiwan.
"This will be a tremendous opportunity, certainly to be able to compete with the teams that are in our bracket in Jupiter, and we are looking forward to it." Magnante said, "We don't have much time to prepare... but we do have enough talent that on a given day, that we certainly can compete and win."
Magnante has been associated with South African baseball since 2005, when he was approached at the European baseball academy about managing the team for the first World Baseball Classic in 2006. Since the inception of his involvement, South Africa has participated in the Baseball World Cup and the African Nation Games, in addition to the second World Baseball Classic in 2009.
"The game has grown, but [incrementally], and because the nation is now scouted... players are being seen." Magnante said, "However, the problems are the [lack of] finances and there is no infrastructure. There is no little league baseball... and there is no professional baseball there and no one is paid to play, so there is no financial reward..."
To help in the support of this growth, Major League Baseball International (MLBI) held the first African Elite Camp in Cape Town, South Africa in 2011. At the clinic, top players and coaches from the nations of Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe, received instruction from MLB staff, which included Magnante. From the clinic, scouts were able to determine who the best prospects were from throughout the African nations.
Despite such clinics and the efforts of Major League Baseball , according to Magnante, in a nation known more for its rugby and cricket than baseball, there are several "major hurdles" that have contributed to the sport's lack of exponential growth in the country.
"The prioritization of the sport in terms of national ranking, and the importance of the sport in the culture of the society, baseball is way down on that pecking order." Magnante said, "Since baseball was eliminated as an Olympic sport, the federation in South Africa no longer receives the same type of funding that it did prior to that. So it is really on MLB's dime that South Africa is a part of [the WBC].
"The reason they chose South Africa was because it's the only country really on the African continent where baseball is actually played. The fact that it is such a large continent, they wanted to embrace the world and create a fan base and a global interest [for baseball]... "
While baseball is not included among South Africa's most popular pastimes, there has been a good number of South Africans that have pursued a career in the Major Leagues. Of these, the most notable is Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Gift Ngoepe, who was the first South African to sign a professional contract.
As noted by Baseball America, Ngoepe was once viewed as simply a "novelty", but after hitting .234 with 106 hits and nine home runs in 2012 with the Bradenton Marauders, paired with being voted the best defensive shortstop in High-A by league managers, Ngoepe is turning out to be a legitimate prospect. Ngoepe will join other South African natives, such as Tayler Scott, on the South African roster on September 19th in Jupiter.
"This is the most talented team we will take in to international play since I've been associated with South Africa." Magnante said, "We have our best chance to compete and advance based on the roster that we have in place right now."
Magnante admits that South Africa still has "miles to go" before it reaches the same bracket of baseball as the United States and other world powerhouses. However, through ventures such as the World Baseball Classic and the African Elite Camp (which Magnante believes will be an ongoing effort in the future), Major League Baseball continues to create a "global interest and awareness" for baseball, growing the game throughout all corners of the globe.