SAN FRANCISCO — Samuel Deduno pleaded with Tony Pena to leave him in the game – the outing of his life, his country across his chest.
Pena stuck with the demonstrative Dominican Republic right-hander – with his island nation’s World Baseball Classic hopes hanging on that managerial move. Deduno made Pena change his mind, and he never changes his mind.
The pitcher did his part by striking out Angel Pagan, and four innings later it was finally time for a party four years in the making.
The Dominicans have their World Baseball Classic crown, at last. Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina understood the magnitude of this victory, and made sure to call right away to offer his congratulations after his countrymen beat Puerto Rico 3-0 on Tuesday night.
“We appreciate that from the president,” Jose Reyes said. “This win is all about the Dominican Republic. They were hungry waiting for this moment, and we did it.”
Cheers of “Dominicana! Dominicana!” rang out through the rain at AT&T Park all the way to the lively streets of Santo Domingo.
That embarrassing first-round exit at the hands of the Netherlands in 2009? Forget about it now.
“I had enough of the shame of not having the trophy like this,” Pena said. “And, thank God this group of men was able to accomplish what we wanted, which is to put our country at the top in terms of baseball. This is the greatest gift we can give to our country.”
Edwin Encarnacion hit a two-run double in the first inning that held up, and the Dominicans capped a dominant, unbeaten run through the WBC.
“Tomorrow will be a national holiday,” said Moises Alou, the proud Dominican general manager and a former Augusta Pirates player. “It was a tremendous win.”
Robinson Cano earned MVP honors, Erick Aybar added an RBI double to back Deduno, who threw his arms into the air in delight after watching a run-saving defensive gem by center fielder Alejandro De Aza in a tough fifth.
The Dominican fans – fanaticos, indeed – didn’t let the Bay Area’s wet weather keep them from dancing in the stands, waving flags and tooting horns.
Some 50,000 more supporters gathered to watch on televisions inside and outside of Estadio Quisqueya in the Dominican capital city.
After Fernando Rodney struck out Luis Figueroa to end it, the Dominicans rushed the mound - each player waving his own flag. Well, Rodney held up his lucky plantain that served him well for the second consecutive day. He won’t eat this platano, which he said “is going to be my second trophy.”
“This is my gold medal,” he said. “It will be my black diamond, because it’s changing color. I kept telling everybody to relax and not to worry about (the pressure).”