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ST. PETERSBURG — Due to the fact there are no bullpens on the field or beyond the outfield walls at Taiwan’s Taichung Stadium, Rays catcher Christian Bethancourt missed the pageantry of Panama’s Planet Baseball Classic opener as he warmed up the beginning pitcher in a batting cage below the stands.

But he was nevertheless capable to hear the 1st handful of notes of “Himno Istmeño,” the Panamanian anthem. Then he had to pause for a moment.

“I cried for a small bit,” Bethancourt mentioned. “I got seriously emotional. And it felt fantastic.”

Bethancourt is not the only Ray to return from the WBC glowing about the practical experience.

The smile on Wander Franco’s face Saturday morning in recounting his time with the Dominican Republic group was just as telling.

“It was undoubtedly a dream come correct for any Dominican player to be capable to represent the nation,” he mentioned, by way of group interpreter Manny Navarro.

“I cannot clarify it,” added Harold Ramirez, who played for Colombia.

Dominican Republic’s Wander Franco celebrates immediately after receiving a base hit throughout the second inning of a Planet Baseball Classic game against Puerto Rico on March 15.


These feelings, and the memories, signed balls and jerseys the players brought household ought to serve as a rebuttal for these criticizing the WBC idea following the season-ending proper knee injury sustained by Mets closer Edwin Diaz as he celebrated Puerto Rico’s win.

“It sucks that he got hurt,” Bethancourt mentioned. “But I wouldn’t personally blame it on the WBC. That could have occurred anyplace.”

Whilst the WBC might not be preferred amongst fans in the United States — particularly though getting played at the very same time as the NCAA basketball tournaments — participating Rays players mentioned it is vital to recognize how a lot it signifies elsewhere.

“I sort of agree with that. It is not a knock on anyone, but particularly exactly where we come from, our nations in Latin America, baseball is the most important sport,” Francisco Mejia, who caught for the Dominican group, mentioned by way of group communications manager Elvis Martinez.

“In the United States, you in all probability have several sports or other factors to root for. It is an honor to put on your country’s jersey and represent your nation and your family members and pals. And that is the way we see it.”

Or, as Bethancourt framed it: “We’re representing our nation and we also are representing our households, our roots. For soccer they have the FIFA Planet Cup we have the WBC.”

The danger of injury to players is naturally the most significant concern for teams, who spot restrictions on usage, particularly for pitchers. But these very same injuries can happen throughout spring coaching workouts and games.

“I do not consider that is fair to necessarily pin it on the WBC,” Rays manager Kevin Money mentioned. “I absolutely realize organizations wanting to safeguard their guys for the championship season, but you appear at the atmosphere of some of these games, they imply a lot to these players. There’s practically nothing incorrect with receiving that variety of excitement involved in our game.”

Outfielder Randy Arozarena, who has played a starring function as Mexico sophisticated to the semifinals, has personified that.

And he emphasized the significance of the games when he mentioned his game-saving catch in Friday’s quarterfinal was larger than any household run he has hit, such as in the 2020 Planet Series.

Mexico manager Benji Gil went additional, saying it “has to be the most vital play in the history of Mexican sports.”

Other participating Rays mentioned it is challenging clarify how a lot it all meant, from getting teammates with some of their country’s elite players to proudly wearing the colors.

Mejia mentioned he couldn’t think about any postseason atmosphere surpassing what they skilled Wednesday in the win-or-go-household game they lost to Puerto Rico.

“I do not consider I’m ever going to really feel nervous once again,” he mentioned. “It does not matter the stage. I consider my ears are nevertheless ringing from all the noise in the crowd. … It is like you are playing in a concert or a thing.”

The Rays cannot however announce Shane McClanahan as their opening day starter, nor can other teams name theirs, due to a league-wide mandate to withhold the news for an MLB Network particular on Thursday. … With Neil Solondz promoted to join Andy Freed in the radio booth following the March five passing of Dave Wills, the group will subsequent be searching to fill the pre-/post-game host function. … Most effective wishes to former Rays communications managers Karly Fisher, who moved to player improvement in a travel/logistics function, and Craig Vanderkam, who joined Big League Baseball’s information operations division. … Prospect Junior Caminero, a 19-year-old infielder named up for Thursday’s game at Tropicana Field, place on a show in batting practice that had major-leaguers stopping to watch. … Regardless of his ideal efforts to get Money to spend, ex-Ray Ji-Man Choi picked up the tab for a Friday evening dinner with assistant hitting coach Brady North. … In a Crestline survey of 1,000 baseball fans nationwide, Rays backers have been named eighth least annoying and 13th ideal-behaved. … A restricted quantity of copies of the Rays media guide, with a cool 25th anniversary cover, will be readily available in mid-April at the group retailer. … Sports Illustrated’s Stephanie Apstein reported on a thing the Rays (and most other teams) do for their players that the mighty Yankees do not: deliver World-wide-web access on group flights for cost-free. … The new checkout-cost-free, grab-and-go concession location on the centerfield porch will be named The Shortstop. … In addition to upgrading the Tropicana Field most important and side video boards, there is also a new graphics package. … provides the Rays a 63 % likelihood to make the playoffs, third ideal in the American League East, fourth in the league, 10th in the majors. … The Yankees are preparing renovations to their Tampa spring facility. Owner Hal Steinbrenner mentioned they have been concerned to be “falling behind a lot of other teams that have newer facilities,” citing the Blue Jays’ state-of-the-art complicated in Dunedin, and adding: “I’m not a single that ever desires to be secondary.”

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