ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Baseball is everything to the people in the Dominican Republic.
“We have a saying back home, ‘everybody knows baseball,’” Rays' third base coach Rodney Linares said. “As a kid, your first gift is a bat and ball. It doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or a girl. We’re always playing baseball. Most of the guys, that’s one of the things we do, especially to escape poverty.”
That is why it is such a big deal for Linares to be named the manager of the Dominican team for the World Baseball Classic.
“It’s an honor,” Linares told ABC Action News sports anchor Kyle Burger. “Anytime you get to represent your country, especially with Nelson (Cruz) being the GM. I got to know him last year for a couple of months.”
Linares will lead what could be the early favorite to win the WBC title, considering the young superstars that could be on the roster, such as Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. of the Toronto Blue Jays, Julio Rodriguez of the Seattle Mariners, and maybe even Rays shortstop Wander Franco.
“Vladdy came out and said yesterday, Sandy Alcantara, (Rafael) Devers has already committed,” Linares said. “I know there’s a lot of guys that I’ve talked to personally that have committed, but it’s not public yet.”
Former Rays designated hitter Nelson Cruz is the team’s general manager who hand-picked Linares.
Linares, 44, has been with Tampa Bay for four seasons, but he has 12 years of managerial experience.
“I went all the way from rookie ball to Triple-A managing in the Astros system, then getting my first big league job here as a third base coach,” he said. “The end goal is to manage in the Major Leagues. This is a stepping stone.”
The WBC beings in March 2023.