#Shortstops: Wearing Their Pride
Less than six months after Francisco Lindor and Javier Báez were the focal points of opposing teams in a fierce seven-game World Series, they joined forces to become the double play duo for one of the most electric teams to take the field in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
Lindor and Báez, whose jersey from the 2017 World Baseball Classic is preserved in Cooperstown at the Hall of Fame, were representing Puerto Rico. And represent they did.
On paper, the team was fantastic. Rounding out the infield was Carlos Correa, who would go on to win a World Series title with the Astros later that year. The outfield boasted three more players with winning in their blood: Kiké Hernandez, Eddie Rosario and Ángel Pagán all have rings. A veteran designated hitter in Carlos Beltrán and the ageless Yadier Molina behind the dish cemented the Puerto Rico lineup as a force to be reckoned with.
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Yet it was the intangibles that were most memorable about that squad. Yes, the numbers were great – so great that they came within a game of bringing home the title. But the pride those guys had in wearing their nation's name on their chest brought out an energy that American baseball fans had seldom seen.
This was a time before Major League Baseball had embraced and pushed the ‘Let the Kids Play’ motto and mentality. Before promos for Sunday Night Baseball and the playoffs included bat flips galore.
This was a team that thrived on the big play, and that big play was often followed by a big celebration that made the play that much more entertaining.
In a game against the Dominican Republic, Molina threw out Nelson Cruz attempting to steal second base with a throw that most catchers simply could not make. Yet people remember the play for Báez’s no-look tag in which he simultaneously secured the out and pointed back to his veteran backstop in celebration.
Correa, Lindor and Báez all blasted deep home runs in the first round of the WBC, and they all took their time to admire it. Their jog around the bases included fist pumps, screams and emphatic high fives with the base coaches. The energy was palpable as they played for their country.
Closer Edwin Díaz was seen waving his arms aggressively in the air as soon as he sealed the deal to close games. The Puerto Ricans were winning, and they were having fun doing it.
Though they would ultimately lose in the championship game to the United States, the way they played may have been the most memorable aspect of the 2017 World Baseball Classic. While baseball may be America’s national pastime, it is an international game. The way the Puerto Ricans went about their business in the 2017 World Baseball Classic reminded us how much it means to people around the world.
As the Classic returns this March, perhaps the energy will translate to Puerto Rico’s first WBC championship.
Chris Wright was a 2022 programming intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development