Carried by Ivan Rodriguez‘stwo-home run night and 4 1/3 strong innings from starter Javier Vazquez, the Puerto Rican national team shutout the Panamanians 7-0 in their first game of the 2009 World Baseball Classic. Carlos Delgado homered off of Bruce Chen in the second inning to ignite the Puerto Rican offense and bring the raucous, sold-out crowd to a frenzy.
Puerto Rico looks to advance to the second round of the tournament with a win Monday versus the surprising Netherlands team
(who completed quite a shocker earlier in the day).
Photo by nautical2K, additional photography by tedkerwin
Birds are chirping, the sun is shining and the weather is starting to heat up. Ah, the signs of spring. Which means baseball season is upon us! What better way to start it off than with the second edition of the World Baseball Classic (WBC). 2006′s inaugural tournament was a rousing success, stirring the passions of hardcore baseball fans from all over the world. After two weeks of incredible baseball, Japan
was crowned as the first ever WBC champion by defeating Cuba in a thrilling finale. This year’s competition promises to be just as exciting. Teams are divided into four groups – or pools – consisting of four countries each. The top two teams of each pool advance to the second round. Pool A’s Asian teams kick-start the action on March 5th while the rest of the groups begin play 2 days later. For a schedule of the games and their venues click here. San Juan’s Hiram Bithorn Stadium, home of the Santurce Crabbers of the Puerto Rico Baseball League, will once again feature first-round games, this time hosting Pool D’s matchups from Saturday, March 7th to Wednesday, March 11th. The upstart Panamanian and Dutch teams will try to upset the Puerto
(PR) and Dominican (DR) powerhouses – overwhelming favorites to win Pool D and reach the quarterfinals. Historical rivals since the 1970′s – when the Caribbean Series restarted – “quisqueyanos” and “boricuas” take their baseball very seriously. No doubt that a first-round matchup between the two would be a sold-out spectacle, the cheering evenly divided between Puerto Rican fans and the sizable Dominican population that resides on the island.
Pools B & C will play their games in Mexico City and Toronto, respectively, allowing home town fans the opportunity to watch their favorite players compete in the name of their countries. Among the heavily favored nations competing in the tournament are USA, Venezuela, Japan, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. Puerto Rico, Mexico, Korea and Canada are dark horses that could surprise with strong showings. Regardless of who comes out on top, the game of baseball will benefit greatly from the international exposure as the game continues to grow and gain fans from across the globe. For tickets to Pool D games in San Juan, and other venues, click here.