The Dominican Republic World Baseball Classic Team

The Dominican Republic World Baseball Classic team is a powerhouse, make no mistake about it. The island nation, located to the west of Puerto Rico and to the east of Jamaica and Cuba, is nuts about baseball. The Dominican Republic World Baseball Classic team is loaded with some of the game’s most feared sluggers, many groomed in the various leagues found on the island that has Haiti as its bordering neighbor to the west. New York Mets third base coach Manny Acta, the Dominican Republic World Baseball Classic team’s manager, will be tripping over the All-Stars, there will be so many at his disposal in the dugout.

So far, the Dominicans haven’t finalized their thirty man roster for the start of play. Their first contest is on Tuesday, March 7th, in Pool D play of the round robin tournament sponsored by Major League Baseball and its Player’s Association. That game will be played in Orlando, Florida at the Disney Wide World of Sports complex, and may possibly be the best of the entire First Round, as Venezuela is strong as well. Australia and Italy will almost be afterthoughts in this pool, so superior is the talent level of the Dominican and Venezuela sides. Both Latin American countries are expected to advance to the next round, with the Dominicans favored to reach the semifinals and ultimately the championship tilt on March 20th in San Diego, California.

One look at the players available to the Dominican Republic World Baseball Classic team and you can see why they are such heavy favorites. Infielders such as Alfonso Soriano of the Washington Nationals and Ronnie Belliard of the Cleveland Indians are incredible talents at second base. Adrian Beltre of the Mariners at third and Rafael Furcal at shortstop are eligible to play for the Dominican Republic, as are speedy Jose Reyes of the Mets and ageless hitting machine Julio Franco of the Braves. Two of the biggest names in the sport will be at first and shortstop. The Cardinals basher, Albert Pujols, is regarded as the National League’s premier player. The first sacker has averaged 41 home runs and 127 RBI in his first five major league seasons, to go along with his .332 lifetime average. Tejada, of the Baltimore Orioles, has knocked in over 100 runs five times in his nine year career.

The Red Sox “Big Papi”, David Ortiz, is a member of this outfit. He is a 30 year old left handed thumper from Santo Domingo, and was right there in the running as American League MVP last year on the strength of his nearly 150 RBI and 48 round trippers. He is one of the game’s greatest clutch hitters, and is the absolute last person an opposing hurler wants to see stride to the dish with the game hanging in the balance. Ortiz is thrilled to have the opportunity to represent his country, comparing it to the Olympic experience.

Pedro Martinez, a multiple Cy Young Award winner, taking the coveted pitcher’s hardware in 1997,’99, and 2000, is iffy for the Classic. He has already been ruled out for the First Round with a sore big toe that makes it uncomfortable for him to push off the mound. But don’t think that the Dominican Republic World Baseball Classic team is hurting for pitching. There are plenty of live arms, beginning with 2005 American League Cy Young winner Bartolo Colon of the Angels, coming off a 21-8 year. The Orioles’ Daniel Cabrera, a strikeout an inning pitcher last year, will have his right arm limber and ready to go. A slew of short relievers, led by Armando Benitez of the Giants and Ervin Santana of the Angels, are more than capable additions to any potential roster that the Dominicans wish to put together.

The weakest link on this unit is in the catching corps, with Ronny Paulino, Miguel Olivo, and Juan Brito the likely trio to make the final cut. This group is not a threat at the plate, but the Dominicans have more than enough firepower to carry a weak bat at this position.

The outfield will be more than ably patrolled by Vladimir Guerrero, an All-Star that many consider to have the best throwing arm in all of baseball. He is a free swinger, but that hasn’t hindered him in the past, as his lifetime .324 average and over 300 home runs will attest to. Jose Guillen, the Nationals’ best player in 2005, and Cincinnati’s young Wily Mo Pena will be on hand, joined by fleet Willy Taveres of the Astros. Manny Ramirez, the Red Sox enigmatic slugging star, may or may not play. If he does, he brings a right handed bat to the lineup that will make pitchers swoon with apprehension! But Manny’s moodiness and unpredictability make him less than 50-50 to show.

The Dominican Republic World Baseball Classic team will be trying to show the rest of the world that they are the best players on the planet. They should have an easy time of it in the First Round, but Puerto Rico and Cuba may be waiting for them in Round Two pool play, a pair of nations with the same intent as them – to show the rest of baseball how good they are.

There has been no shortage of great Dominican players in the majors over the last fifty years, with the Alou brothers {Matty, Jesus, and Felipe}, Juan Marichal, Rico Carty, Cesar Cedeno, and George Bell among them. The Dominicans carry a rich baseball background into this competition. The eyes of virtually an entire baseball savvy nation will be on their team, as they try to capture the World Baseball Classic trophy.

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