What is routine for countries like Venezuela, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic is festiveness for the rest of us.
Baseball in those countries is flavored with a flamboyance that would seem over the top during the regular season — and earn a ball in the ribs your next at-bat — but it fits right in at the World Baseball Classic.
“Everybody shows their excitement and their passion in a different way,” U.S. manager Jim Leyland. “I have no problem with that.”
People at Petco Park witnessed it from the first inning of the first game, when Puerto Rico right fielder Eddie Rosario threw out the Dominican Republic’s Jean Segura at the plate Tuesday night and set off a celebration like it was Game 7 of the World Series.
Puerto Rico catcher Yadier Molina gave an exuberant out sign after making the tag. Rosario raced in from right and chest-bumped two of his teammates while the others jumped out of the dugout like a skunk had just joined them.
In the eighth inning, Puerto Rico second baseman Javier Baez pointed to Molina while applying a no-look tag as the Dominican’s Nelson Cruz slid belatedly into the bag.
And all this is before the discussion of bat flips begins. It’s one thing when you see Venezuela’s Miguel Cabrera or the Dominican’s Adrian Beltre and Cruz do it, but anyone else in the lineup is just as likely to flip out. Puerto Rico’s Carlos Correa had a bat flip against Italy in the first round that was called “legendary.”
When Venezuela’s Roughned Odor homered in the seventh inning against U.S. reliever David Robertson on Wednesday night, Odor did a hop and a bat drop out of the box and raised both arms to the crowd as he came around third base. When he reached the plate, Odor pulled at the front of his jersey as if to reveal Superman’s “S” underneath it.
“You have to take it with a grain of salt,” said U.S. center fielder Adam Jones, who enjoyed a rather celebratory jog around the bases when his eighth-inning homer made it 2-2 vs. Venezuela. “You know, the bat flips that you see in the WBC, that’s not going to happen during the season. Unless it’s certain people, Miggy, Beltre, Cruz, the big dogs, they can do that kind of stuff because they’ve earned that right. But some of the stuff I’ve seen, it’s probably not going to happen in the regular season.
“But, hey, this is the tournament for it to happen. If you’re going to do it, do it now and do it in winter ball. But I think the younger guys who have exemplified a little more perro caliente (hot dog), a little more of that, they know during the regular season, they have to respect the major league pitcher on the mound a little bit more.”
The thing fans notice about these other countries is how much they express their emotions in comparison to the U.S. players.
“We are very, very emotional, very passionate,” Jones said. “We just exude it in a little different way. I love it when you see the Dominican and Venezuelan teams, Puerto Rican teams jump all over. I love when you show a passion for something that you really enjoy doing. That shows that you care.
“Our style, we’re not as flamboyant as that, but we can get that way if you really want us to. We can get that way. But it’s just not our style.”
Said Leyland: “I can assure you that the fire in the United States team is just as much as everybody else’s, but the custom of those other countries … they exhibit their emotions a little bit different. I have no problem with that. I respect that. That’s them.”
Fans sporting the red, white and blue were scattered throughout the ballpark and chants of “U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A!” were heard throughout the game.
Our favorite fan: The guy who came as George Washington — complete with a 13-star Betsy Ross flag.
They should have had him throw out the first pitch.
… and heard
“Thirty bucks!” said a fan checking out a WBC T-shirt at a souvenir stand.
The shirt remained on the rack.
Jones is a 2003 Morse High graduate who grew up in San Diego, so he has received plenty of well-wishes in his return this week.
And ticket requests.
Jones said players are allotted four tickets, so this is an opportunity to see who his real supporters are.
“I did something smart, and my mom always tells me to do, put it on Facebook,” Jones said. “Copy and pasted the link, everything, told people: This is where you get your tickets. Put your credit card down. This is where it’s at. It’s cut and dry. It’s not the season. It’s a completely different format.
“And I said: ‘Look, if you want to come out and support me, this is the way to come out and support me.’ When you support somebody, that means you go out of your way and spend your own money to support. That’s how you support someone.”
The WBC will feature a “World Festival” on Thursday and Friday that will include food and music from seven of the original WBC countries along with other activities.
The event is free to the public and will be at the Park at the Park from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each day.
The food items include: poutine (Canada), fried rice bowl (China), Cubano sandwiches (Cuba), spicy Italian sausages (Italy), hummus plate (Israel), yakisoba noodle
bowl (Japan), and street tacos (Mexico).