by David Conde
Every four years dating back to 2006, the World Baseball Classic takes center stage and nations come together with their best players showcasing their skills for the whole world to witness. Major League Baseball started this tournament to give countries the opportunity to show that baseball is not just America’s National Pastime.
Many countries have participated and have advanced through the rounds, but three have so far reached the ultimate goal of being crowned champions, Japan (2006, 2009), Dominican Republic (2013) and United States (2017).
In 2013, Team Puerto Rico faced off against an unbeaten Dominican Republic team in the final of the World Baseball Classic. The classic did not end as Puerto Rico expected as they lost 3-0 to a DR team that ran the table finishing 8-0 in the Classic.
Fast forward four years and Puerto Rico entered the 2017 Classic on a mission with something to prove and it started from the first round as they opened the tournament in Charros de Jalisco along with host country Mexico, Venezuela and Italy.
In their first game against Venezuela, Team Puerto Rico sent a message to the rest of the field that this year would be different as they defeated the South American country 11-0 in just seven innings. On the next night they faced Mexico and scored four runs in the top of the ninth to pull away to a 9-4 victory. In game three, Puerto Rico found themselves down 2-0 in the first, but scored nine runs in five innings and once again won an impressive game 9-4, showcasing their talented bats and solid pitching to win their opening pool with a 3-0 record.
The second round, which moved to San Diego, California, was even tougher, as they were matched up against the defending champs, the Dominican Republic, a strong USA team and Venezuela, who also advanced from the first round of games.
In the first game, Puerto Rico shocked the Dominican Republic with an impressive 3-1 victory. Then they survived a late rally from Team USA to win 6-5, punching their ticket to the Semi-Finals. In their final game in Round 2, they took care of Venezuela again with a 13-2 pounding, securing a perfect 6-0 record.
In the semi-finals, they were faced with the task of taking on the Netherlands and it truly proved to be a tough assignment as they found themselves down 2-0 in the first inning. But Team Puerto Rico rebounded quickly and scored three runs in two innings and one in the bottom of the 11th to earn a walk-off victory and advance to the WBC Finals.
But this time it was not meant to be for Puerto Rico as they met their match and lost to Team USA 8-0 and once again came up a game short of the Title.
The journey through the classic was more than just a baseball game, it was a movement felt around the world and on the island of Puerto Rico.
These men united together as brothers through prayer, dyeing their hair bleach blonde and sharing a passion for a game and their nation. They made this journey fun and amazing to watch as they brought a whole nation of Boricuas young and old together, showcasing the pride and respect for its people.
The goal was great, but the end result was even better as they showed us all what a team can accomplish when they play as one, united by a love for their nation.
This amazing team included stars like Yadier Molina, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, and Angel Pagan and also a few young guys that played with teams in the Upstate NY area like, T.J. Rivera and Seth Lugo with Binghamton, and Jose Berrios, Eddie Rosario and Kenny Vargas with Rochester.
This Puerto Rican team showed so much class on the field and the passion brought everyone to their feet wanting more and wanting to be a part of this great movement. They showed how fun baseball can be again.
There will be four years before we can all feel this way again, but it will be something worth waiting for, as they can still boast that Puerto Rico is the best Latino baseball team in the World.
The 2021 World Baseball Classic, can’t come any sooner.
David Conde is the Co-Founder and Executive Editor of Legends On Deck. He is a former Senior Editor for MetsMerizedOnline, MetsMinors.net and Contributor for Hardballchat.com. He is a native of Brooklyn, NY and a lifelong Mets and baseball fan. David coaches little league baseball so he can teach his two sons how to play the game he loves. David also has a hobby of taking sports photos which can be seen here on Legends On Deck.
Legends On Deck® was created so avid baseball fans can read about the Stars of today and the Legends of tomorrow. We are proud to be partnering with CNY Latino, as we will contribute monthly baseball stories and photographs covering your favorite local baseball teams and their Latino stars from professional organizations such as the Syracuse Chiefs, Rochester Redwings, Binghamton Mets, Auburn Double Days, and the Tri – City Valley Cats.
You can find more exciting stories at www.legendsondeck.com and be sure to follow us on Twitter (@LegendsonDeck) and LIKE us on Facebook – (LegendsOnDeck).