Dominicans erase past pain to win baseball's World Classic title
The Caribbean side defeat Puerto Rico in the World Classic final to make up for their failures in past tournaments when they were favourites
The Dominican Republic ended a string of disappointing international results by capping an amazing undefeated run to beat Puerto Rico and win the World Baseball Classic title.
"The Dominican Republic is one of the countries that produces the greatest number of baseball players," said manager Tony Pena. "I had had enough of that shame of not having a trophy like this."
The star-studded Dominicans had talked about letting nothing spoil their record-setting run at the World Baseball Classic and they backed up their words with a 3-0 win over Puerto Rico in an all-Caribbean final. "This moment is always going to be with us," Pena said. "This is always going to be in our hearts because it is something totally different.
"When we talk about times in our careers as a professional baseball players in the US ... in our game this goes beyond all of that - going out and representing your country."
The Classic is the biggest-ever prize for the Dominican Republic, which has more than 100 players in Major League Baseball teams.
The Dominican Republic were heavily favoured at the 2009 World Baseball Classic. However, they failed to get out of the first round thanks to a pair of one-run losses to the unheralded Netherlands.
Despite their reputation as baseball powerhouses they had never won an Olympic gold medal or any other world baseball championship.
But this time around there was no let-down, as the Dominicans rolled through the competition, becoming the first team to go a perfect 8-0.
Japan lost three times in 2006 and twice in 2009 en route to their championships.
"There was never any doubt. We always had confidence and trust in this group," said shortstop Jose Reyes.
The Dominicans also won despite being without some of their big stars - Albert Pujols, Adrian Beltre and David Ortiz - who either had injuries or decided to skip the event.
Second baseman Robinson Cano was named tournament MVP. He batted .469 overall with four doubles, two home runs and a tournament record 15 hits.
"You always remember the first time for everything: your first hit, play-offs, everything. This is always going to be in our hearts the rest of our lives," Cano said.
The start of the post-final news conference was delayed for several minutes while Reyes and Cano took a call from Dominican President Danilo Medina.
"He wanted to say congratulations for the hell of a job we did. This win is all about the Dominican Republic. They were hungry waiting for this moment and we did it," Reyes said.
Pena said the win is one of the greatest managing experiences of his life. He even let his starting pitcher Samuel Deduno talk him out of taking him out of the game in the fifth inning during a visit to the mound.
"I walked over to the mound. I went over to take Samuel out and he said, 'Please, do not take me out of the game. I want this guy'.
"And I said, 'You want it? You got it.'
"That is one thing, I am never going to take nothing away from them. And he did his job."
Cano said it would be a short celebration for the players who have to return to spring training with their Major League Baseball teams later this week.
"Tonight we are going to celebrate. Tomorrow we are going to celebrate. And Thursday we will go back to spring training," Cano said.