SURPRISE, Ariz.—Shortstop Erick Aybar rejoined the Angels on Thursday after a memorable World Baseball Classic experience with the Dominican Republic team, which beat Puerto Rico for the championship in San Francisco Tuesday night.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Aybar said through what has to be the world’s highest-paid translator, Angels first baseman Albert Pujols. “If you get the opportunity to play in it, you should play.”
Many top U.S. players remain ambivalent toward the WBC, declining to play because of the potential injury risk and the difficulty of getting game-ready by early March, but it’s obvious the Dominicans don’t share that sentiment.
They injected the WBC with enthusiasm and excitement, their exuberance for the game showing during their sometimes over-the-top celebrations.
When Aybar snapped a tie score with a run-scoring single in the top of the ninth inning of a 3-1, second-round win over the U.S. and then came around to score, the entire team came out of the dugout and pummeled him as if he had just hit a walk-off home run.
“Everybody knows we play baseball like that,” said Aybar, who is in the Angels lineup for Thursday night’s exhibition game against the Texas Rangers. “It’s fun. We talk loud.”
Though he didn’t play much in the field — Jose Reyes was the team’s starting shortstop — Aybar started several games at designated hitter and batted .333 (7 for 21) with six runs and two RBIs in six games. He worked out every day with Angels first-base coach Alfredo Griffin, who was a coach on the Dominican team.
“I did my regular routine,” Aybar said. “Alfredo knows what I need to do to get ready for the season. It was great to have him there.”