Dominican Republic wins World Baseball Classic as Robinson Cano is named MVP

The Dominican Republic topped Puerto Rico 3-0 on Tuesday to win the World Baseball Classic. Second Baseman Robinson Cano was named WBC MVP after hitting .469 with two home runs. (March 20)

advertisement | advertise on newsday

SAN FRANCISCO -- Robinson Cano held the cell phone up to his right ear. On the other end of the line was Danilo Medina, the President of the Dominican Republic, calling to congratulate Cano and his teammates.

That doesn't happen when the Yankees beat the Royals in June.

No, this was bigger. Huge. What the Dominican Republic accomplished with Tuesday night's 3-0 win over Puerto Rico in the title game of the World Baseball Classic was enormous back home, where large movie screens were propped up in stadiums to show the live broadcast from AT&T Park.

Cano, who went 3-for-40 in last year's playoffs, was named the tournament's MVP. He's won a World Series ring with the Yankees, but celebrating the D.R.'s undefeated march (8-0) to the WBC crown was a life-changing event to everyone in that red, white and blue uniform.

"You always remember the first time for everything,'' said Cano, who batted .469 (15-for-32) with four doubles, two homers and six RBIs in eight games. "Your first hit, your first playoffs -- everything. This is always going to be in our hearts for the rest of our lives. Every one of us who played in this game will always remember the World Classic. This is such a thrill.''

Jose Reyes scored the first run after a leadoff double in the first inning and the Dominicans never looked back. Reyes' was a long blast that caromed off the high brick wall in rightfield, and when he reached second base, he kept pumping his fists, over and over. The fuse was lit.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"When I did that, the first thing that went through my mind is that was going to pull not just my team, but the whole Dominican Republic,'' Reyes said. "They were waiting for this moment so bad.''

Said manager Tony Pena, "This ballclub is about emotion. We showed emotion every single time.''

Fernando Rodney, who pitched in all eight games, closed out the ninth for his seventh save of this WBC. The D.R. bullpen, a dream team of its own with Octavio Dotel and Pedro Strop, finished with a streak of 252/3 scoreless innings.

"Wow,'' said Moises Alou, the GM of the Dominican Republic. "That could be the best bullpen ever seen."

The whole team was assembled to erase the bitter disappointment of 2009, when the D.R. failed to make it out of the first round. Reyes blamed that early exit on overconfidence. This year, the Dominicans took no one lightly, yet seemed to thoroughly enjoy the two-week grind to the top.

When Rodney struck out Luis Figueroa to end the game, the Dominicans flooded the field, each waving their own miniature flag as they raced to the mound. With so much debate about the meaning of the WBC, there was no doubt how important it was to the D.R.

"This is an unforgettable moment,'' Reyes said. "Having taken the D.R.'s name and shown the world what we're capable of. And having won and triumphed, as a player, I'll never forget this. This is one of the greatest moments of my career and my life.''

Reyes topped off his night with a seventh-inning triple, lashing it through a steady rain and into the right-centerfield gap. For all the celebrating afterward, the night wasn't perfect. The Dodgers' Hanley Ramirez, who switched to third base for the WBC to accommodate Reyes and Aybar, had to leave the game in the fifth inning after jamming his right thumb on a diving play in the field. He is expected to have an MRI when he returns to Phoenix Wednesday.

The conditions were less than ideal, with temperatures in the low 50s and rain during most of the game. For a tournament already considered a injury risk, it was not the best of circumstances, and both teams were probably lucky to avoid any additional problems.

Plus, now that the WBC is over, it's back to their more mundane baseball lives for Cano, Reyes and the rest of a team that Alou referred to as "national heroes.'' How does a group like this now split up and go its separate ways to Florida and Arizona after such an historic moment for their baseball-crazed nation?

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"I'll tell you one thing,'' Cano said, "tonight we're going to celebrate. Tomorrow we're going to celebrate. And Thursday, we will go back to spring training.''

You also may be interested in: