Today’s “game” or rather exhibition saw Robinson Cano suited up and playing for another team — the World Baseball Classic’s Dominican Republic team in an exhibition game. Yesterday, the Dominican team whaled on the Phillies 15-2. Today was not as terrible, partly due to starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda’s 3 scoreless innings at the beginning of the game.
Then it all fell apart, and by the 6th inning, the Dominican team (with a roster of All-Stars and star players like Cano and Toronto’s Jose Reyes and Edwin Encarnacion) took advantage of the Yankee minor leaguers to create a very messy 6th inning. The final score was 8-2 for the DR. The highlight for me personally was hearing the cheers from both Yankee and Dominican fans for their shared son Robinson Cano, especially when he hit a nice RBI single in the 5th inning. It was one of the few times in a player’s life that the entire stadium is rooting for you to succeed, a drastic difference from another exhibition game in July 2012, for example.
In the outfield for the second half of the game, Zoilo Almonte is working toward that Curtis Granderson coverage job open this April. Not only was his defensive coverage excellent with an extraordinary effort at every play, his offense today included a 2-run right field HR to score the Yankees’ only runs of the game. Personally, another stand-out player has jumped higher on my radar, the hometown player Addison Maruszak, who spent the last two years in AA Trenton. His fielding reminded me so much of a young Derek Jeter, anticipating every play, hustling to the ball, covering his teammates, and playing full-out. I guess time will tell, but I think with some continued development we could see more from the Yankees farm system.
Honestly, the most interesting thing about this “game” today was the Dominican fan base. At times, you felt like you were at a soccer game, with the cheering, celebrations, whistles, chants, songs and fan camaraderie. I think it was one of the few things that saved this loss from being excruciating at times. Another was knowing that as much as Spring Training doesn’t count for anything but Spring Training statistics, today’s performance was basically just a structured work-out for the players. Even the players not on the roster today were having fun and enjoying their time there, cheering on their renegade teammate (Cano) and always in it for a joke or laugh or whatever prank they were pulling with the walkie-talkies at the beginning of the game. Sticking with the spirit of fun and lightheartedness allowed for the fans just to relax and enjoy seeing this collection of All-Stars from across the league on one field together.