World Baseball Classic Notebook

SAN JUAN, P.R.–Security officials at the entrance to Hiram Bithorn
Stadium had their hands full collecting signs on Friday night, part of
a zero-tolerance policy implemented by MB Sports (promotor locally of
the Classic) and Major League Baseball.

The stricter policy
was adopted after two fans who brought in a sign in that read “Abajo
Castro” (“Down With Castro” in English) to Thursday night’s game
between Cuba and the Netherlands got into an altercation with four
members of the Cuban delegation, including former Cuban national team
shortstop German Mesa.

“We hope that incidents like
[Thursday's] do not happen again and if they do, the Cuban Baseball
Federation reiterates that it will not permit provocations nor
insults,” Cuban baseball officials said in a written statement issued
Friday.

MB Sports’ Tuti Munoz said that the promoters sat
down Friday morning with MLB and Cuban officials and decided to
implement the “no signs” rule to keep the peace.

“This is a
touchy issue because in reality, we live in a country where you are
free to express yourself,” said Munoz. “This is a public event, but it
is private as well. Our policy is that the banners obstruct the view of
the other fans, and with the whole issue of having the Cubans here,
well, we didn’t want any more problems.”

MLB issued an
official statement Friday, a two-page missive distributed to the media,
that begins with “Code of Conduct for the World Baseball Classic.”
According to the statement, the code will be effective in all ballparks
in which the event is played. The code prohibits any sign over 3 feet
or any that is in bad taste, offensive or of a political nature.

Prior
to Friday night’s game, security officials had already confiscated
dozens of signs, along with another dozen broomsticks to be used to
hold them up.

MLB Director of Media Relations Pat Courtney said Cuba’s position was understandable under the circumstances.

“Cuba
basically feels they’ve bent over backwards to play by our rules in
this tournament and they just want us to reciprocate,” Courtney told
The San Juan Star. “They were very upset after the game last night.”
Courtney said MLB is following the general rules set for banners during
games, although he said the promoters for this tournament have their
own protocol.

Munoz said Thursday night’s incident caught
MB Sports off guard. “We hadn’t heard anything about any kind of
incident so we were surprised.”

MLB’s Russell Gabay,
venue manager for the Classic here, said MLB had not altered its
“enhanced security” plan in any way prior to Friday’s game.

“We’re still following the same procedures,” said Gabay. “The incident last night was unfortunate.”

–ERIC EDWARDS

Delgado still on the fence

Carlos
Delgado was not in Puerto Rico’s lineup again Friday night and manager
Jose Oquendo said the team could opt to replace him for the second
round when he and his coaching staff and general manager Lou Melendez
meet today.

“We’re going to sit down (Saturday) and have a
meeting and make what could turn out to be a tough decision,” Oquendo
said. “But that all depends. Carlos continues to make progress. He sat
out [Friday] more as a precaution. He is more anxious to play than
anyone.”

Under tournament rules any roster change must be made by today.

Delgado
has a case of tendonitis in his left elbow, a nagging injury he also
battled through last spring with the Marlins. He’s able to throw and
bat without discomfort, but the elbow bothers him when he has to turn
his wrist to catch the ball.

Delgado returned to Mets camp
in Port St. Lucie, Fla. to have the team’s doctors examine him. He was
scheduled to travel back to Puerto Rico last night. Oquendo said the
decision for Delgado to sit out Friday’s game was mutual.

“[Carlos
and I] met before the game and agreed that it was the best course of
action given that we’ve already qualified for the second round,”
Oquendo said.

Among those being considered to replace Delgado should such a move be necessary: Juan “Igor” Gonzalez.

“He’s
a possibility. So are a few other guys,” said Puerto Rico general
manager Lou Melendez, who doubles as MLB’s vice president of
international operations.

–ERIC EDWARDS

Oliveras brings back scouting report

Long-time
winter league manager Mako Oliveras, a bench coach for the Cubs from
1995-96 and a hitting coach in the Devil Rays organization, was already
quite familiar with the Dominican lineup before he went to scout them
in Kissimmee, Fla. But he returned to Puerto Rico on Friday with a
report that he hopes will help the island team’s pitching staff stifle
the Dominican’s potent lineup in the second round.

“I’m
pretty familiar already with the strengths and weaknesses of their
guys, but it was a chance to see how far along each guy is in his
preparation for the season; who’s hot and who’s not,” sad Oliveras.

So, who’s hot?

“Well,
just about everyone. [Adrian] Beltre and David Ortiz look particularly
good,” said Oliveras. “[Miguel] Tejada was struggling a little bit, but
that could change from one day to the next. It’s certainly not going to
be easy to bat them.”

Oliveras was particularly impressed by the impact the game between the Dominican Republic and Venezuela had on Florida fans.

“It
was something else. We got the chance to export or game over there. The
noise, the emotion, I had goose bumps,” said Oliveras. “A lot of the
U.S. fans, most of them were surrounded by these screaming and shouting
Dominican and Venezuelan fans. They had a pretty uncomfortable look on
their faces at first. But I think the emotion turned out to be
contagious.”

–ERIC EDWARDS

Bonus For Vernon Jr.

Of
all the media members milling about Team USA in Phoenix, only one had
the tandem of “sports artist” as his affiliation and a son playing
center field.

Vernon Wells Jr., the father of Blue Jays
outfielder Vernon III, has been asked by several members of the
American team–including Yankees Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Johnny
Damon–to paint portraits of them wearing Team USA uniforms. A former
Canadian Football League player who has made a second career for
himself as an artist, Wells has already done paintings for Ken Griffey
Jr., Johan Santana, Gary Sheffield and many other stars over the years,
receiving commissions in the $6,000-$10,000 range per piece.

“When
I first heard about the tournament, I figured I’d benefit more than
anybody,” Wells said with a laugh. “Guys want to play for their
country, and they want it portrayed.”

Wells also was asked
by current Toronto teammate Frank Catalanotto (Italy) and former Blue
Jay Esteban Loiaza (Mexico) to paint them in their countries’ uniforms.

–ALAN SCHWARZ

CLASSIC CUTS

• The prospect who elevated his status more than any other in Pool D was the Phillies’ Bradley Harman.
The shortstop, who ranked as the No. 9 prospect in the Phillies’
system, showed fluid actions on defense as he was flawless in the
field. The 20-year-old had three of Australia’s nine hits in the
tournament. That included their only hit against Venezuela and one of
their two extra-base hits, a lead-off double that one-hopped the wall
in right against Francisco Liriano in the top of the fifth.

“Coming
into this tournament, I sort of told myself that his was an opportunity
to see what I was going to go up against in the next few years of my
career,” said Harman, who hit .303/380/442 in 419 at-bats at low Class
A Lakewood in 2005.

“And to be able to swing the bat the
way I did, it was only three hits, but I felt comfortable the whole
tournament up at the plate. So I’m very happy about the way I swung the
bat.”

• Several African-American members of Team USA–Vernon Wells, Randy Winn and Derrek Lee–said
that while they remembered growing up hearing about apartheid, playing
South Africa carried no special significance to them. “I look at it as
these guys had nothing to do with apartheid,” Lee said. “I’m not
holding any grudges against South Africa. It’s in the past. Things have
changed. You don’t forget, but you have to move on at some point.”


Cuba’s worst three losses in international play in the last 30 years,
prior to Friday’s 12-2, seven-inning, mercy-rule loss to Puerto Rico,
were: 1983 Intercontinental Cup, Taiwan 13, Cuba 1; 1997
Intercontinental Cup gold-medal game, Japan 11, Cuba 2 (a loss that
ended Cuba’s 134-game international winning streak); and 1999 Pan
American Games, USA 10, Cuba 5.

Contributing: Matt Meyers, Alan Schwarz.

International | #2006 #International Affairs #World Baseball Classic

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