Puerto Rico: U.S. players misinterpreted planned celebration

ByDoug Padilla ESPN logo
Thursday, March 23, 2017

LOS ANGELES -- That sense of disrespect that added fuel to the United States' victory in the World Baseball Classic championship game Wednesday might have been misplaced.

Shortly after the United States' dominating 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico, to win the WBC for the first time in four tries, team center fielder Adam Jones told the MLB Network audience from the victory podium that Puerto Rico's postgame plans sounded a little premature.

A flight to Puerto Rico and a "caravan" and celebration already had been planned before the title game was played. Jones noted that the Puerto Rico team had champion T-shirts already made up as well.

"That didn't sit well with us, so we did what we had to do," Jones said.

Other United States teammates echoed the same sentiment.

"It didn't sit well," Andrew McCutchen said. "We heard and we saw T-shirts were made and printed out for the Puerto Rican team. We even heard a flight was made for them for that parade because they said they were going to win. That ignited us, we were ready to go and we showed that tonight."

However, the Puerto Rican team planned to fly home and celebrate its WBC performance, win or lose.

Puerto Rico third baseman Carlos Correa did not deny the team's plans to go to Puerto Rico following Wednesday's game but denied it was because they were confident they would beat the United States.

"It's funny because they have been talking about that, but it's all about the country, it's not about our team," Correa said. "Our country has been behind us since we have started [the tournament]. When we were in Mexico, we told the governor in Puerto Rico that if we made it to the finals, we need to plane to get back and celebrate with our people."

Baseball fans in Puerto Rico have been head-over-heels excited about their team's run in the WBC. Puerto Rico was a perfect 7-0 before running into a determined USA team, led by starting pitcher Marcus Stroman.

Stories have been written about how Puerto Rico stores have run out of hair dye as citizens have rushed to get the bleach-blond look the players have been sporting the past few weeks.

Correa said civic pride, born of the tournament, has been unifying for all of the people in Puerto Rico.

"There were no crimes, there were no assassinations back home while we were playing in this classic," Correa said. "Everybody was dyeing their hair blond, so we had our whole nation behind us that is going through tough times right now."

Correa suggested the weight both teams place on the WBC might have led to the misunderstanding.

"It's as simple as this: If you ask Angel Pagan, if you ask Yadi Molina if it feels better than a World Series, they would say yes," Correa said. "If you ask one of the American guys, they will say, 'No, not even close.' So that just tells you the way we play when we represent our country is a lot different than when they play. A lot of their guys say no to the baseball classic. None of our main guys say no to the baseball classic."

And of course, the United States had WBC champion T-shirts and caps at the ready, too, but the difference might have been that those did not become public until after the game.