Thursday, December 14, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays' Peralta feels Dominican excitement at WBC

PORT CHARLOTTE

The early elimination of the U.S. team from the World Baseball Classic has again raised questions about the timing, format and validity of the event.

Certainly, and for a number of reasons, the lack of participation from so many major American stars is a glaring issue that has to be addressed if the tournament is to continue.

But to anyone who saw the joyous and emotional celebration — perhaps overzealous — by the Dominican Republic players after Thursday's win over the Americans, the tournament looks like a wonderful thing.

That certainly was the case for Rays reliever Joel Peralta, who originally was to be part of the Dominican Republic bullpen along with Fernando Rodney. Instead, he has been participating vicariously through texts with Rodney, and by wearing his D.R. team hat around the clubhouse and hanging a flag at his locker.

"People don't understand; our country is a poor country, we don't have much there, but baseball is huge. It's huge," Peralta said.

"And baseball is probably the only thing in life that we can beat the United States in. At least in sports. I don't think there's anything else we can be better than the United States in. I'm not saying we're better, but a couple nights ago we were better."

Peralta heard some of the chatter that U.S. fans, and maybe some players, thought the Dominican players went too far in their celebration. But, he said, it's relative.

"If you beat the United States, you've got to celebrate," he said. "For us, it was like we won the championship already."

JAYE'S ROAD TRIP: Joe Maddon's wife, Jaye, leaves Tuesday from Long Beach, Calif., behind the wheel of their 30-foot RV for the cross-country drive to Tampa with their two dogs, Winston (English bulldog) and Athena (Great Dane), and her two sons, Ryan and Dylan, for support. She is collecting penny-a-mile pledges benefiting St. Pete's Pet Pal Animal Shelter. See petpalanimalshelter.com to donate; follow their progress on Twitter — yes, we're really typing this — at @WinstonCMaddon.

RAYS RUMBLINGS: Sports Illustrated shot photos of LHP David Price that might be on the cover of its regionalized baseball issue; ex-Rays/now Royals RHP James Shields could end up on another version. … Principal owner Stuart Sternberg said there has been no thought of relocating spring training from Port Charlotte. Some have speculated they would move it back to St. Petersburg if they got a new regular-season home in Tampa. … Maddon said INF Tim Beckham "has made as much improvement from last year to this year as anybody I've seen." … Don't look for the Rays to make a Harlem Shake dance video as the Indians did; Maddon said he prefers they be original. By the way, Maddon already has a "really good" dress-up theme in the works for the first road trip. … DH Luke Scott is promoting Survival Straps paracords, with proceeds to Wounded Warrriors and others. See survivalstraps.com. … Maddon liked the choice of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the new Pope "with the humility and he sounds kind of tough, and the Church could definitely use some direction right now."

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