By Matt Meyers
March 7, 2006
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.
The 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.