ST. PETERSBURG — Mainly because 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 in a position to hear the 1st couple 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 truly emotional. And it felt terrific.”

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

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

“It was surely a dream come correct for any Dominican player to be in a position to represent the nation,” he mentioned, by means of group interpreter Manny Navarro.

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

Dominican Republic’s Wander Franco celebrates just after obtaining 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 residence need to serve as a rebuttal for these criticizing the WBC idea following the season-ending ideal 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.”

Though the WBC may possibly not be preferred amongst fans in the United States — particularly although becoming played at the similar time as the NCAA basketball tournaments — participating Rays players mentioned it is crucial to comprehend how a great deal 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 means of group communications manager Elvis Martinez.

“In the United States, you in all probability have several sports or other issues to root for. It is an honor to put on your country’s jersey and represent your nation and your family members and mates. 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 threat of injury to players is naturally the most significant concern for teams, who location restrictions on usage, particularly for pitchers. But these similar injuries can take place throughout spring education workouts and games.

“I do not feel that is fair to necessarily pin it on the WBC,” Rays manager Kevin Money mentioned. “I undoubtedly comprehend 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 absolutely nothing incorrect with obtaining that variety of excitement involved in our game.”

Outfielder Randy Arozarena, who has played a starring part 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 residence run he has hit, such as in the 2020 Planet Series.

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

Other participating Rays mentioned it is difficult clarify how a great deal it all meant, from becoming 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 knowledgeable Wednesday in the win-or-go-residence game they lost to Puerto Rico.

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

The Rays can not but 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 part. … Finest wishes to former Rays communications managers Karly Fisher, who moved to player improvement in a travel/logistics part, and Craig Vanderkam, who joined Significant 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. … In spite of his very best 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 had been named eighth least annoying and 13th very best-behaved. … A restricted quantity of copies of the Rays media guide, with a cool 25th anniversary cover, will be offered in mid-April at the group retailer. … Sports Illustrated’s Stephanie Apstein reported on anything the Rays (and most other teams) do for their players that the mighty Yankees do not: give Web access on group flights for totally free. … The new checkout-totally free, grab-and-go concession region 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 very best in the American League East, fourth in the league, 10th in the majors. … The Yankees are arranging renovations to their Tampa spring facility. Owner Hal Steinbrenner mentioned they had 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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