The happiest man in camp today is Wladimir Balentien, the Curacao native who is basking in the glow of the Netherlands’ victory over the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. The Dutch team, which includes Curacao, advances to the second round, while the Dominicans, shockingly, are ousted.
Balentien, who would have been on the Dutch team but chose to remain in Mariners’ camp instead, really rubbed it in to Adrian Beltre, who would have been on the Dominican team but was not allowed to play by the Mariners. He arrived early and left a note in Beltre’s locker that said, “Nice game, Dominican.”
Said Balentien: “Last year, he said, ‘You guys are just going there for a vacation. You’ll play two games and come back to spring training.’ I’m giving him a hard time, because who’s going for a vacation today?”
Balentien said he was initially concerned that the Netherlands didn’t have enough pitching, because its two leading hurlers, Jair Jurrjens of the Braves and Shairon Martis of the Nationals, chose not to participate, But now he’s concerned more about their hitting.
“I feel great for our country, and all my teammates on the team,” he said. “It was a mission they completed that looked impossible when we first got there, and we’re in the pool with Dominican. We never thought we had a chance. They did an outstanding job.”
Added Balentien: “I’d love to be there, but at the same time, I have to think first of my future. I think it was the best thing for me to stay here and try to make the ballclub. Hopefully, I’ll be there for the next one.”
Balentien had to miss the initial WBC because of a neck injury. “It’s kind of like the WBC is not for me, I guess.”
Balentien said the victory is reverberating through the Dutch countries.
“Right now, that’s the news all over the place back home, the Netherlands. I guess all the people back home are so happy for them and cheer for them, and waiting to see what happens in the second round.”