SAN FRANCISCO -- Moises Alou, only five years removed from his last game as a Major Leaguer, either played with or against many of the players who comprised the Dominican Republic's World Baseball Classic roster.
His friendships with the current crop of stars made the recruiting process easier, when it came time to put a team together for the 2013 Classic. Alou, 46, is now the general manager of the Dominican Republic team, and he spent most of the offseason assembling the roster.
"It's a privilege to be named the head guy to put this team together," he said. "There was a lot of work to be done. We put together a very good team despite some players that couldn't play because their organizations wouldn't allow them to play because of injury or other things. We are very proud. No matter what happens tonight, I'm very proud of these guys. They showed up ready to play and gave it all they've got."
Pena expresses love for baseball in native homeland
SAN FRANCISCO -- Tony Pena has been in baseball as a player, coach and manager for more than three decades, and as he's shown in countless media sessions since the beginning of the World Baseball Classic, he's never lost passion for the game.
Clearly, the 55-year-old Pena, who regularly serves as bench coach for the New York Yankees, loves his job. He has no issues expressing himself in a manner that lets you know right away that he has unlimited amounts of enthusiasm for baseball. His passion for his country also has come through loud and clear during this tournament, and after just a few minutes of listening to him speak, it's easy to understand why he's had such a long run in the coaching ranks after he retired in 1997.
Pena's eyes lit up -- as they do five or six teams per media session -- when he was asked to address the magnitude of the Classic championship game against Puerto Rico on Tuesday night.
"The only thing I can tell you is in the Dominican Republic, tonight, [there] will be nobody in the streets," he said. "There will not be anybody watching any other channel. Soap operas, news, nothing. The whole country ... will be watching the ballgame. Because in the Dominican Republic, the No. 1 pastime is baseball."
Baseball is undoubtedly a way of life, more than a hobby, in the Dominican Republic. The importance of the game is ingratiated in children at a very young age. These reasons alone can explain why so much Major League talent oozes from this country, and that is clearly a source of pride for the Dominican natives who have starred in the big leagues. It's a responsibility, too.
"All these kids, they want to be like any one of those superstars, and they watch what we do," Pena said. "And whenever you see this ballclub play, they play well out of emotion, because it is our culture. It is what we live for.
"In the Dominican Republic, all little kids that are growing up, they want to be a baseball player. And I think the group of players right here, they just want to pass the good way to those kids to remember that day. It doesn't matter what happens today [in the game], but they will be proud of the Dominican Republic team."
Return to Bay Area special for Tejada
SAN FRANCISCO -- Miguel Tejada has a long history with the Bay Area, having played for the Oakland Athletics from 1997-2003 and the Giants in 2011. This is his third World Baseball Classic, and the fact that he's playing in San Francisco makes being in the final that much more special for him.
"It's special because when I come to the Bay Area, I always remember all the good times that I have had here," he said. "And I want to thank the A's and Giants for giving me the opportunity to play in this area. I've always loved it."
That said, it probably wouldn't matter where the championship game is being held, as long as he's playing in it. Tejada, currently signed by the Royals, is in an elite Dominican class when it comes to the World Baseball Classic. Only he and Jose Reyes have participated in all three, dating back to 2006.
"For me, I've enjoyed every game in the WBC," Tejada said. "I'm happy that the manager and GM picked me to be one of the guys to come to the WBC. I'm happy to be here."
Worldwide attention on World Baseball Classic
Japan had more reporters covering the 2013 World Baseball Classic than any other country.
The breakdown of media credentials by countries participating in the Classic championship round is as follows: Japan 335; Dominican Republic 125, Puerto Rico 66 and the Netherlands 14.
By the numbers
7: Wins in as many games for the Dominican Republic at the World Baseball Classic entering the final against Puerto Rico. With an eighth victory, the Dominicans would be become the first team in Classic history to post a perfect record through the tournament.
13: Wins for the Dominicans all time in World Baseball Classic action. They have four losses.
2: MVP Awards for Robinson Cano at the 2013 World Baseball Classic. The Yankees' second baseman was named MVP in the first two rounds of the Classic (Pool C and Pool 2).