MIAMI—The Dominican Republic is playing the World Baseball Classic with two of their fallen countrymen close in their thoughts.
Jerseys representing Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte hung in the Dominican Republic dugout.
Ventura, a 25-year-old pitcher for the Kansas City Royals, and Marte, a 33-year-old former major-league infielder, were killed in separate car accidents back home in the Dominican this past offseason.
They are gone but not forgotten to their Dominican brothers, who routed Canada 9-2 on Thursday night in the Marlins Park opener of the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
"For me, it's painful," Carlos Martinez, who was the Dominicans' starting pitcher on Thursday, said in Spanish. "When I saw those two jerseys, I asked God to give me health. I know that even though they are not with us, they are still supporting us."
Dominican slugger Jose Bautista, also speaking in Spanish, praised the feeling of brotherhood on the DR team.
"We have to learn from our mistakes," Bautista said, referring to the dangers of driving, especially on Dominican roads. "We have to teach the younger guys."
NEWS AND NOTES
— Canada manager Ernie Whitt said the Dominicans "have no soft spots" in their lineup and considers this year's team the most talented to ever play in the WBC.
"I can't think of a team that is better than what the DR put out there," Whitt said. "I think the U.S. in 2006 was a good team, but I think (the DR) has more consistent arms. And with their lineup, if you make one mistake, they're going to hurt you."
— Marlins 2015 first-round pick Josh Naylor, a first baseman who was traded to the Padres last summer, has caught Whitt's eye. Naylor was sent to the plate as a pinch-hitter with two outs in the ninth against Mets closer Jeurys Familia. He struck out.
"I was looking forward to him putting one in the fourth deck, but it didn't happen," Whitt said of Naylor, a 6-0, 225-pound lefthanded hitter. "He's going to be a big, young star. We have some good young players who are going to keep this program going."
— The crowd at Marlins Park was heavily pro-Dominican. "It felt like we were playing at Estadio Quisqueya," Bautista said of the stadium he once played in back home in Santo Domingo.