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Puerto Rico’s undefeated run at the World Baseball Classic ended last night at the hands of Team USA, which won the WBC championship by defeating the “Bleach Boys” 8-0 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Calif. The victory was a taste of sweet revenge for Team USA, which had previously lost to Puerto Rico earlier in the tournament. Team USA was led by a strong performance from pitcher Marcus Stroman, whose mother is Puerto Rican (so if you’re a PR fan, you’re probably either hurt that your team lost to a pitcher who was eligible to play for your team, or you feel like you kinda won anyway).
Prior to the highly-anticipated matchup, Ian Kinsler of Team USA sparked a bit of controversy after an interview with the New York Times. Kinsler appeared to criticize Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic for their style of play:
“I hope kids watching the W.B.C. can watch the way we play the game and appreciate the way we play the game as opposed to the way Puerto Rico plays or the Dominican plays. That’s not taking anything away from them. That just wasn’t the way we were raised. They were raised differently and to show emotion and passion when you play. We do show emotion; we do show passion. But we just do it in a different way.”
Kinsler later clarified his remarks to ESPN, maintaining he wasn’t trying to bash PR or DR: “Everybody is different. I play differently than a lot of my teammates on this team; I play with a little more emotion than most players during the season. Everybody has their own style! That’s all I was saying.”
After Team USA defeated Puerto Rico in the championship game, outfielder Adam Jones revealed the American squad was fired up by a few things they heard about Team PR. “Well, before the game, we, uh, we got a note that some championship shirts were made — we didn’t make ‘em — and… a flight [back to Puerto Rico to celebrate]. That didn’t sit well with us.”
It’s not uncommon for sports teams to have championship attire created before they play a championship, so it sounds like Jones and his USA teammates used the Puerto Rico news as “bulletin board material.” But several players from Team PR say their opponents misinterpreted their pre-game moves. Their flight back to Puerto Rico, and the subsequent parade to follow, was scheduled to take place whether they won or lost. Why? According to ESPN, the players wanted to return home to thank their fans for the enthusiastic support they’ve witnessed throughout the tournament. According to the Washington Post, Puerto Rican hairstylists were running out of hair dye because so many fans wanted to bleach their hair like the players on Team PR.
Carlos Correa, a shortstop for the Houston Astros and Team Puerto Rico, told ESPN they were just happy to bring people on the island joy with their play: “There were no crimes, there were no assassinations back home while we were playing in this classic. Everybody was dyeing their hair blond, so we had our whole nation behind us that is going through tough times right now.”