by Mark Harris
SURPRISE, Ariz. — When Texas Rangers infielder Jurickson Profar suits up for the Netherlands this March in the World Baseball Classic, he’ll try to soak up the moment, because after all, he’ll just be playing baseball with his childhood friends.
“Very excited (to play in the World Baseball Classic), I’m playing with my friends that I grew up with,” Profar said.
Two of those friends are Andrelton Simmons and Didi Gregorius, who both played with Profar when they were children living on the island of Curacao, a constituent country of the Netherlands.
Now, all three are in their mid-20s and are set to represent the Dutch team in the WBC.
While most players in the WBC are playing for their country, Profar gets to do the same and do it with his buddies at the same time. Sounds like a pretty good deal.
But Profar isn’t the only Ranger playing in the WBC, as Texas will have 10 players from seven different countries represented in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
Catcher Robinson Chirinos, pitcher Martin Perez and infielder Rougned Odor will play for Venezuela, while closer Sam Dyson and catcher Jonathan Lucroy will represent the U.S.
“Yeah I think it’s going to be fun for everybody involved,” Dyson said. “I’m grateful to be a part of the team and hopefully I can represent the Rangers, represent myself in a great way.”
Dyson comes off an excellent 2016 season with the Rangers. He recorded 38 saves (sixth most in the majors) with a 2.43 earned run average.
(Video by Gabe Mercer/Cronkite News)
Lucroy batted .292 last season with 24 home runs and 81 RBI.
Relief pitchers Alex Claudio and Reiver Sanmartin will play for Puerto Rico and Colombia, respectively. Pitcher Adam Loewen will play for Canada.
Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre is be on the Dominican Republic team, but will miss the first round with a calf strain and is questionable for any future rounds. He strained his calf while working out at his home.
Beltre hit .300 last season with 32 home runs and 104 RBI.
But not every Rangers player with the opportunity to play in the WBC chose to do so. Outfielder Carlos Gomez is entering his first full season with Texas, and he decided to forego playing with the Dominican Republic to get more time with the Rangers in spring training.
“Well, that’s his dedication to this ballclub and wanting to be part of this team,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. “That’s where his focus is at. I respect that.”
With many players departing for the WBC in March, Banister has a smaller camp.
“On the luxury side of it, it’s great to have these guys go represent a team bigger than themselves and also to have them represent the Rangers,” Banister said. “If you think about it, you’re playing for a country on your chest, it’s not an individual state or city, it’s a country, and you get to play with teammates that are part of that process and to me I love that.”
As for the players competing, they didn’t seem to be too worried about missing time in camp.
“You’re doing some of the similar stuff there,” Dyson said. “I mean by the time those games start up we’ll be a little over a week into our games here, so I don’t think it’ll be a huge change.”
Profar kept it simple.
“I’m going to play baseball there,” he said, “and when I come back I’m going to play baseball again.”