Team Puerto Rico: So Far, Not What Fans Expected
On March 9, 2022, I went to the Boston Red Sox v. Team Puerto Rico exhibition matchup at JetBlue Park here in Fort Myers, Florida. With the World Baseball Classic (WBC) about to begin shortly, the games are a great way for fans who can’t make it out to the tournament, to get a chance to witness some of the action. And as a fan of Team Puerto Rico, it was nothing close to what I expected.
In the previous years of the WBC, Team Puerto Rico has always had a dominating team, made up of some of the best stars in the game. Now there are still some top stars on this years squad, and it can be just getting rid of the rust, but the showing Wednesday was nothing to call home about.
Team Dominican Republic is expected to be stacked and filled with what seems to be some of the top all around stars in the game today. And from just looking at their lineup, any team that is scheduled to face them, will have their hands full. From what I witnessed the other night, if Team Puerto Rico brings the same lackluster play, they will be exiting the tournament earlier than they ever have.
A little background; my maternal grandparents, were both born in PR and my fraternal great grandparents as well. My immediate family, as people call us, we are NEUYORICANS, because we were born in NY and with a Puerto Rican heritage. Not sure what you are called if you were not born in NY and have a Puerto Rican heritage; but I am sure each state has it’s own name for my people.
The atmosphere leading up to the game was electric, something like a World Series game, as the fans entered the stadium wearing their PR gear and waving their flags for as far as the eye can see. I felt a bit of nostalgic and had tears in my eyes watching because every time I see the Puerto Rican flag waved, I think of my maternal grandfather and how he used to have the flag flying in his home. He was very proud to be Puerto Rican. He fought in WWII and was a very proud man that took care of his family and loved his homeland.
As we stood at our seats watching Team Puerto Rico warm up, Latin music was blaring over the speakers, and we all had a hop in our step as we swayed to the beats. It was like we were all back on the island on our teams home turf. It may have been Boston’s home field, but they welcomed us Latino’s as if it was ours.
The crowd was electric and excited and proud. And each time a Puerto Rican player came out of the dugout, the pride turned into loud roars, as loud as any player has ever received. It made the hairs on my arms stand up as you could feel true excitement in the air.
It was just amazing how leading up to the game had so much more excitement then the game itself.
Francisco Lindor was the first batter in the top of the 1st inning and as quickly as his at bat started, it was over as he struck out looking at three pitches. The Red Sox starter, Brandon Walter, retired the next two batters to end the inning.
After the Red Sox took the lead in the bottom of the frame, Team Puerto Rico battled back in the top of the second to tie the game at 1-1. Finally we felt like the team would finally break out and score runs in bunches, but that never manifested as the Red Sox pitcher managed to get Eddie Rosario to ground into an inning ending double play with the bases loaded.
The game remained tied until the bottom of the fifth when the Red Sox scored a run to take the lead. Up to this part of the game, the Puerto Rican offense could not get anything going and it felt like they were maybe trying to hard to impress their fellow countrymen in the stands.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Red Sox blew the gate wide open with six runs on five hits and at one point I thought I was seeing wrong, but Team Puerto Rico used one of the Red Sox pitchers, Jake Thompson, who entered to help get them out of the inning. As odd as that looked, we could only chalk it up to manager Yadier Molina not wanting to be embarrassed any longer and rest his own pitchers.
To make matters worse, Team Puerto Rico played the Atlanta Braves on Thursday and they got pounded 9-0, and mustered just four hits all game.
As proud as my people are, we would be devasted, if Team Puerto Rico bowed out early in the WBC.
We hope that it could be that Puerto Rico is just waiting for the real games to get started before they turn it on; that is all we are hoping for.