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Puerto Rico Comes Out Swinging in their First Game

Team Puerto Rico defeats Team Nicaragua in First Game of Pool D Play - Image Credit: World Baseball Classic/MLB

MIAMI, FL– The World Baseball Classic’s first game of Group D yesterday, Saturday March 11th, between Nicaragua and Puerto Rico, was all that it was billed out to be. Two teams with a large Floridian fan base and a strong baseball history. Nicaraguans have a lot of respect for the legendary Puerto Rican superstar, Roberto Clemente who lost his life taking supplies to Nicaragua after their devastating earthquake and Puerto Ricans have a lot of respect for Nicaragua for the homage they give to Clemente and Puerto Rico.

The excitement from these two Latino fanbases prior to the game filled the streets surrounding the stadium and the 35,399 fans that packed loanDepot Park was overpowering throughout the entire nine innings.

Team Puerto Rico captain, Francisco Lindor, reached first base in the bottom of the fifth inning, and removed his helmet, ruffled up his curly blond hair, and pointed to the Team Puerto Rico dugout along the third-base side of the field.

Then, Puerto Rico took that excitement and turned it into the fuel to provide excellent defense and enough offense to defeat Nicaragua by a final score of 9-1.

The music, cheering and loud applause from the majority Puerto Rican fans was deafening. Puerto Rico had come to play. And so did Lindor, who finished 2-for-4 with an RBI that scored two runs. 

Additionally, ‘Team Rubio’ (all blond team) came out swinging behind their leadoff man, Lindor, who was one of four hitters with two or more hits against a Nicaraguan team making its first World Baseball Classic appearance.

“It was amazing,” Lindor said about the environment. “[I] looked around [at all the fans], and then exactly the moment when the ball was going to be thrown, I’m paying attention. … I feed off that, we feed off that.

He added: “It’s such an amazing feeling when everyone in that locker room has a similar background, when everyone around feeds off that. We always tell each other, ‘We go out there and just put on a show.’”

Francisco Lindor and Marcus Stroman in Postgame Press Conference following Team Puerto Rico’s 9-1 victory over Team Nicaragua – Image Credit: Latino Sports

Puerto Rico’s starter Marcus Stroman held Nicaragua to one hit over 4 2/3 innings before allowing a solo homer to Elian Miranda in the fifth. This was a coming out moment for Stroman who had not pitched in over nine days. Also, a great way to show off many critics in Puerto Rico who were critical of Stroman for wanting to pitch for Puerto Rico in this WBC when he played for the USA in the last Classic and defeated Team Puerto Rico in the finals.

That was past and today was the present where Stroman stated that he felt an emotion from the Puerto Rican fans that he never felt before and that was very different. He spoke like many mainland raised Puerto Ricans who appreciate learning and feeling the love from the island for the first time.

“In this type of tournament, you’ve got to get ahead, and you’ve got to pound the zone early,” Stroman said. “I trust my sinker more than anything, so I got that pitch going — and obviously [having] these guys behind me gives me more confidence throwing my sinker, because I feel like anytime they put it in play, it’s going to be an out.”

Next is Team Nicaragua taking on Team Israel today, Sunday, March 12th, at noon ET with Team Puerto Rico and Team Venezuela facing off at 7 p.m. ET.

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