ORLANDO–If the goals of the World Baseball Classic were to sell
merchandise and create national pride, then based on batting practice
before the game between Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, it is a
roaring success thus far.
Scores of Venezuela fans
gathered behind the first-base dugout more than three hours before game
time to scream for their beloved countrymen. Many of them wore freshly
minted Venezuela jerseys, with Bob Abreu appearing to be the most
popular model. On the opposite side, the Dominican fans seemed to favor
David Ortiz as their jersey of choice.
While strong in
numbers, they seemed outnumbered during BP. It has only been a couple
of hours, but anyone who has been inside the park is surely already
humming, “Aaayyy, Venezuela, oooh.” The team’s fans have been rocking
Cracker Jack Field since Venezuela (who took BP first) started taking
their hacks. Some brave Dominican fans tried to infiltrate the
Venezuelan section by marching through it hoisting a giant Dominican
flag above their heads while blowing horns that one typically hears at
an international soccer match. But chants of “Venezuela, Venezuela,
Venezuela” quickly drowned them out.
In the cheering war, round one goes to the Venezuelan contingent.
award for best BP group of the day goes to the Dominican though. Going
first, Venezeula trotted out a group Victor Martinez, Miguel Cabrera,
Carlos Guillen, Abreu and Omar Vizquel. An impressive group, but the
Dominican Republic topped that with the quartet of Ortiz, Miguel
Tejada, Albert Pujols and Alfonso Soriano. With little humidity, and a
breeze blowing towards center, the ball was flying out of the park
(particularly for Ortiz).
Fans weren’t the only ones
impressed with BP. Loitering behind the cage were Braves righthander
Kyle Davies and catcher Steve Pyzik. Both had just finished a workout
on the back fields (the Braves train at the complex), and were peeking
in to see what the fuss was about, though they had no intention of
staying for the game.
“No, I gotta play golf (this afternoon),” Davies said. “I just wanted to check out BP.”
Davies could hardly finish his sentence as he gushed over another Big Papi bomb.
“He was my first strikeout,” Davies beamed as the ball landed more than 400 feet away.
• During BP, the Dominican team hung the jersey of Vladimir Guerrero
from the cage. Scheduled to participate, Guerrero dropped out last week
after three of his cousins were tragically killed in a car accident in
the Dominican Republic.
• The first tiebreaker for
advancement out of pool play and into the second round will be
head-to-head record. However, if there is a three-way tie, the
tiebreaker is defensive runs allowed divided by defensive innings
played. This formula is used to determine first place among the three
teams. Then, to determine second place, tournament officials will go
back to head-to-head matchups to decide among the remaining two teams.