A conversation with an Oriole with mixed loyalties last night

SARASOTA, Fla. - Of all the players in the Orioles clubhouse, maybe the most nervous and emotional about last night’s Team USA game versus the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic was catcher Francisco Peña.

He had two teammates on one team, with Adam Jones and Mychal Givens playing for the USA. He had his father, Tony Peña, managing in the other dugout. The first base coach with the Yankees, the elder Peña managed the Dominican Republic to the WBC championship in 2013 as the team went a perfect 8-0. But last night his team was eliminated with a 6-3 loss to the Americans. It was a game that featured Jones’ incredible catch to rob his O’s teammate Manny Machado, of a home run. Team USA advances to the WBC semifinals, while the tourney run ended for the Dominican Republic in that 6-3 loss.

Francisco-Pena-throw-gear-orange-sidebar.jpg“It was a fun game,” Francisco Peña said this morning in the Orioles’ clubhouse. “The Dominican team left everything on the field. The USA just played better baseball. Unbelievable. It was a great catch and couldn’t have happened to a better person. It was pretty cool when Machado tipped his cap to Jonesy.”

As Peña watched the game, those emotions were churning inside as he had rooting interests on both sides plus a dad in the dugout.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m rooting for the Dominicans the whole time because my dad was there and I was born there,” Peña. “But it’s pretty cool when you see your teammates go after it the way they did and play 100 percent for their country.

“I’m very proud of my dad. Everybody thinks it is pretty easy to manage a team with All-Stars. But it’s tough at the same time when you have to make a decision of what lineup to put out with all those superstars and what everyone will think back in the Dominican. I’m very proud of him.”

Across the Orioles clubhouse from Peña is the locker of pitcher Ubaldo Jiménez, who pitched in the WBC in 2009 for his native Dominican Republic. He had a start in that tournament where he set a record, fanning 10 batters over four shutout innings.

“It was a great game last night,” Jiménez said. “The Dominicans, they didn’t take advantage of all the opportunities they had with runners on base. But the United States played a really good game and they played great defense. You could see they wanted to win that game. Great game.

“It is a good rivalry. You have pretty much the best of the best in baseball facing each other. I know the Dominicans will come back with more hunger to win this all in four years.”

Jiménez was asked about Jones’ incredible catch.

“That was great,” he said. “I know he probably made Manny feel really bad about it. But that was a great catch and good timing. He’s playing in his hometown. If he didn’t catch that, it could have changed everything.”

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