Team USA won’t play a game abroad in this year’s World Baseball Classic.
But the American side might feel like it’s playing a road game Saturday night at Marlins Park when it takes on the Dominican Republic.
The WBC opening-round game between the U.S. and Dominican Republic has been sold out for over a week and could break the ballpark’s attendance record for a baseball game set in 2014 on Opening Day when the Marlins hosted the Rockies before a crowd of 37,116.
Ticket prices for the game on the resale market have continued to climb in anticipation of the event with an asking price of $240, according to TicketIQ.com, which is 207 percent above the average price of any of the other WBC games at Marlins Park.
Since it opened in 2012, the ballpark has only exceeded crowds of 36,600 for Marlins games four times.
But it’s never had as boisterous an atmosphere as it probably will have Saturday night for the 6:30 p.m. tilt between two of the tournament’s top contenders.
“It’s going to be a great atmosphere,” said Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich, who is playing in his first WBC tournament. “I don’t know if I would say it’s going to be a hostile environment, but I think it’s an environment we’re all looking forward to playing in and experiencing.”
Banging together their plantain-shaped noisemakers, emoting on nearly every pitch and roaring on every big hit during their nation’s 9-2 win over Canada, a pro-Dominican crowd of 27,388 on Thursday night gave everyone a glimpse of what to expect.
“For a minute I thought I was playing at Estadio Quisqueya,” said Toronto Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista after Thursday’s game, referring to a ballpark he once played in back in Santo Domingo. “They gave us tremendous energy. You can’t compare what it’s like to play in front of a crowd like that and feel that positive energy from them.”
TWENTY YEARS LATER
Jim Leyland and Edgar Renteria got a chance to catch up late Thursday night — 20 years after each helped the Marlins win their first World Series championship.
“This is hard to believe, but it’s true, the first person I saw last night when I got to the hotel before I saw my wife and daughter was Edgar Renteria,” Leyland said before the USA’s game against Colombia on Friday night. “And he reminded me that he had our signs, so … a pretty nice welcome.”
Leyland, the manager of Team USA, said he saw both Renteria, who delivered the walk-off hit in Game 7 of the World Series against the Indians in 1997, and Moises Alou, another member of that team. Renteria is the bench coach for Team Colombia.
HONORING THE FALLEN
Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte, each of whom was killed in separate car crashes in the Dominican Republic in January, are being honored by their fellow countrymen during the WBC. National team jerseys of each player were hung in the Dominican dugout during Thursday’s game against Canada.
“For me especially, it is painful,” Dominican Republic starting pitcher Carlos Martinez said. “And for my fellow players it is also painful; both of them were a big loss. That gives us a lot of emotion to us Dominicans to follow in God’s steps, to pray to God, so he will give us a blessed life.”