Mike Trout on Team USA, Acuña likely out of WBC, LIDOM Championship updates
Mike Trout on Team USA, Acuña likely out of WBC, LIDOM Championship updates
Touching base is a monthly column highlighting exciting baseball events beyond the borders of MLB -from international leagues to amateur teams and everything in between. This month’s column will feature the Dominican Winter League Championship, a preview of the upcoming Caribbean Series and the latest updates from the WBC World.
Hours after Tigres del Licey left with a record fifth game win in the Dominican Republic Professional Baseball League championship series, his catcher, Jorge Alfaro, appeared at a gas station not far from Estadio Quisqueya. I wasn’t alone. A crowd gathered.
Alfaro, who has been nicknamed “Aquaman” by fans because of his long hair and resemblance to Jason Momoa, was instantly recognizable. With his build and thick hair, people knew Alfaro when they saw him, even in street clothes. And especially for what happened next.
It was well into the morning in Santo Domingo, but a game of stickball broke out between gas pumps. Cars came and went, but game after game continued. Esmil Rogers, the exYankees relief that he pitched in relief for the Tigers in their run to another title, delivered again in the stickball game. Other players joined in. Fans gathered, curious customers also stopped to watch. Phone cameras rolled.
Tigres had just won a record 23rd title and with it, Licey moved to the top of the Dominican heap. They now have one more championship in the Dominican Winter League—known by its Spanish acronym, LIDOM—than their rivals, Águilas Cibaeñas. In the long and storied history of baseball in the country, the Tigers are the champions of champions. Some Dominican fans understand that the New York Yankees are something like the Tigers of Major League Baseball.
And Alfaro is his latest hero. The 29-year-old catcher, a native of Colombia, dominated the LIDOM playoffs and hit .375 during the postseason. In the championship series against Estrelles Orientales, he went 8 for 19, with two home runs, a double, four RBIs and four runs. He was named MVP of the series.
In the 10th inning of the deciding game, with a runner on the board at 1-1, Estrellas’ Ronel Blanco refused to give Alfaro a run. His five pitches sailed everywhere but the zone and Alfaro walked to extend the inning. The next batter, Mel Rojas Jr., singled to right field and Licey led off with another run.
Last week, Alfaro signed a minor league deal with the Red Sox, joining a shaky catching corps that can help pave a path back to the majors. Last season with the parents, Alfaro hit .246 in 82 games, with seven home runs and 40 RBIs. He is a former top prospect for the rangers i Phillies and before Dominican fans tagged him with a new nickname, Alfaro was known as “El Oso,” the bear, for his prodigious power at the plate and behind it with a strong arm.
Between the Dominican League, gas station stickball and, soon, spring training, Alfaro’s winter continues. if you can crack the Red Sox roster, will play his eighth season in the League. And he could become just the latest player to gain momentum in LIDOM on his way to breaking out in MLB. Last season, in the Orientals’ run to the LIDOM final, they were led in part by a young parador Jeremy Rock. Less than a year later, Peña won the World Series MVP award in the Astros’ run to the title.
Caribbean series on deck
Before Alfaro reports to Fort Myers, Fla., for spring training, he may first fly to Venezuela for more playoffs. As Dominican champions, Tigres earned a spot in the Caribbean Series, the eight-team tournament of champions that begins on February 2.
It will be the 65th edition of the Caribbean Series, which was first contested in 1949. And, what do you know, Tigres has won the most titles, with 10, followed, again, by Águilas, with six.
The teams competing include league champions from the Dominican, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Mexico, Panama, Colombia, Cuba and Curaçao. So far, those teams include Tigres (Dominican), Indis de Mayagüez (Puerto Rico), Texans de Montería (Colombia), Federals de Chiriquí (Panama), Agricultors (Cuba) and WildCats KJ74 (Curaçao).
The Venezuelan and Mexican leagues should crown their champions in the coming days.
Venezuela Winter League events
In Venezuela, Tiburones de La Guaira take on Leones del Caracas in the VPBL championship series. And Game 2 saw a boost in energy.
Bras star Ronald Acuna Jr. signed a late contract to join the Tiburones as a designated hitter. And in his first game Tuesday night, Acuña hit a solo homer to center field in the fourth inning to extend the Tiburones’ lead.
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GO GO GO GO YYYYYY🦈🥁
🎥: @beisbolplaycom #InformeTiburones pic.twitter.com/eAHwVpPJXY
— Sharks Report (@TiburonesReport) January 25, 2023
The Leones, however, rallied to win, 8-5, and now have a two-game lead in the series.
And then Acuña immediately retired, announcing on Instagram after the game that he was retiring from the Venezuelan league, apparently upset by the welcome the visiting Caracas fans gave him and his family. After his home run — and, to be fair, his extended celebration — some fans had to be separated from Acuña’s father and family, he said. game reports.
Will Acuña be MIA at the WBC?
Acuña, however, wanted to play at home. So will we see him play in Venezuela in the next World Baseball Classic?
It seems the answer is no. Acuña said last week that while he wants to play in the WBC, the Braves have other ideas.
“I’ve always said I want to represent my country” Mint said, “but it’s not a decision I can make. The team, the doctors and the staff will take care of it.”
Coming off a season-ending knee injury in July 2021, a right ACL tear, the Braves eased him out last year. Of the 115 games he started, Acuña appeared as the designated hitter in 27 of them. Even then, he returned to All-Star status.
Acuña’s absence would be a big blow for Venezuela, a team that traditionally presents itself as one of the favorites to get out of the WBC group stage. Instead, they will have to battle with the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, along with Israel and Nicaragua, for one of the two spots in the quarterfinals.
As the defending WBC champions, Team USA will be among the favorites again in March, but they won’t come close. One of the first moves the team made was to appoint Mike Trout his captain And the angels star soon turned to recruiting a lineup.
“Since then, it’s been a lot of guys saying, ‘Hey, I want to be a part of this,'” Trout said last week. “Everybody wants to be a part of this because it’s going to be something special.”
His first call was to Bryce Harperthat he had to play before undergoing elbow surgery this winter, more calls followed. Trout will be joined by a star-studded group, including the NL MVP. Paul Goldschmidt from cardinals. The list will be finalized on February 7.
“The whole reason I signed up — to try to win this thing,” Trout said. “And there is nothing else. Anything else is a failure.”
Senga doesn’t speak
right Kodai Sengathat in December he signed a five-year contract with the Foods, he wondered if he wanted to pitch for Japan in the WBC. But he didn’t hide his disappointment with his former team, the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks.
In a Twitter thread since deleted Earlier this month, Senga said he wanted to play in the MLB for several years but was held back by Hawks management. They weren’t ready to let him go, Senga said.
He also said he even agreed to certain terms, like ERA and WAR benchmarks, but was turned down. He claimed he grew up not enjoying the game.
Perhaps it explains Senga’s enthusiasm upon arriving in New York. “I am very excited and happy to be in the Big Apple and to join such a great team. We’re going to the Mets,” he said at an introductory press conference.
Team Japan has finished
Japan released their 30-man roster on Thursday, a roster that includes the Angels Shohei Ohtaniparents pitcher Yu Darvish i puppies gardener Seiya Suzuki.
And Japan won another notable name: Lars Notable.
The 25-year-old Cardinals right fielder was born and raised in El Segundo, Calif., but qualifies to play in Japan because his mother is a native of the country. Nootbaar will be the first player in team history to be born outside of Japan.
Japan will have a stacked list that also includes Masataka Yoshidathe 29-year-old outfielder who in December signed a five-year contract with the Red Sox, and Munetaka Murakami, the 22-year-old shortstop for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows who broke Sadaharu Oh’s home run record with 56 last season. .
Murakami’s new three-year deal with the Swallows will see him move to the MLB in 2025. And he’s already stated his preference for a landing spot.
“Ideally, I’d like to play for a West Coast team,” Murakami said earlier this month in a televised interview in Japan. “But I’m also interested in the New York Yankees.”
How is it called…?
The other night they were playing stickball in Santo Domingo, but it’s called the traditional street game in the Dominican Republic The Platelet, which means “small plate”. (You may be familiar with this if you read the new rules proposals that Levi Weaver and I made earlier this month.)
Kids (or adults, whoever) make home plate out of a rolled-up license plate (or folded cardboard, whatever works) that rests on a rim behind the batter. The pitcher’s job is to knock over the tile. The batter’s job is to protect the plate by hitting the ball. Bounced pitches are common. This is the game that Vladimir Guerrero Sr. he played as a kid to learn his — shall we say — aggressive approach to a wide strike zone.
News and notes
Some more news from around the world of baseball:
• South Korea’s WBC roster appears to be set, following the additions of the Cardinals’ second baseman Tommy Edman, pirates first base Ji-Man Choi and outfielder for the Padres Ha-Seong Kim.
• It required MLB to lobby for a license from the US government, but from Cuban major leaguers living in the US. will be able to play in Cuba in the WBC. On Thursday, Cuba announced its roster and third baseman Yoan Moncada and central gardener Louis Robert from White Sox are the only current major leaguers included.
• Long time Astros Utility Marwin Gonzalez, who played for the Yankees last season, will move to Osaka after signing a one-year contract with NPB’s Orix Buffaloes.
• Adam McKillican is a world traveler. The native of Canada is right-handed in the rocky organization that played last season in High-A Spokane and this winter for the Adelaide Giants in Australia.
• Thunder Bay, Ontario will host the 2024 Women’s Baseball World Cup Finals.
• And finally, the red ones signed lefty Dominic Scheffler this month when the international free agency period opened. At 6-foot-4, he throws a 94-95 mph fastball. And if Scheffler can make it to the major leagues, he would become just the second player in MLB history to be born in Switzerland. As it stands, the only player born in Switzerland in the older was Otto Hesswho played for the Cleveland Naps and Boston Braves in the early 1900s.
(Top photo by Mike Trout: Brace Hemmelgarn / Twins from Minnesota / Getty Images)
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