Pagan: 'We gave it our best; we lost against the best team'
Puerto Rico advanced to the 2013 WBC final, but lost 3-0 to the Dominican Republic. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Angel Pagan pulled the trifecta during the World Baseball Classic. He got a hit off all three of his Giants teammates who faced him: Jeremy Affeldt, Ryan Vogelsong and Santiago Casilla.
But those aren’t the bragging rights that meant the most to him.
“The best memory is that I gave honor to my country,” said Pagan, who hit .364/.447/.485 for Puerto Rico, which lost to the Dominican Republic in the championship game on Tuesday. “That was my plan from day one: be in the best shape possible to bring a positive message to my country.”
The U.S. isn’t the only place where interest in baseball has declined among youth. Pagan lamented that kids in Puerto Rico “aren’t really interested in sports anymore.” A country that has produced legends such as Roberto Clemente, Orlando Cepeda and Carlos Beltran is sending fewer players to the big leagues. The legendary Puerto Rican winter league even suspended operations three years ago due to a lack of financing; the league started back up after a year's absence (Johnny Monell led the circuit in slugging last winter), but it's a shadow of its former self.
“We want to show baseball is still alive and it hasn’t gone anywhere,” Pagan said. “Some of the guys are taking the wrong turns and that’s sad to say. I want to be the best example to follow and leave the best legacy for the kids.
“We didn’t win but I think we made a difference. We made a statement and I’m happy with that.”
Pagan said he and Cepeda, now a Giants special assistant, went to dinner more than once and have developed a fast friendship. Perhaps Cepeda passed along some hitting tips, because Pagan tripled for the only hit that Casilla allowed in five WBC appearances.
Affeldt only gave up two hits in his three WBC outings. Pagan had one of those, too. At least Vogelsong managed to strike out Pagan in his last confrontation.
“On a nasty pitch,” Pagan said. “And Casilla, he was lights out. … I told him I was waiting for a curveball. He’s lucky I was looking in between."
Ultimately, Casilla’s side emerged atop the medal stand. Pagan acknowledged the Dominicans belonged there.
[RECAP: Dominican Republic 3, Puerto Rico 0]
“I have to say the Dominicans, they were the best team,” Pagan said. “They showed a lot in this tournament. They went out and got the respect from everybody. Every time we had an opportunity to score, they got the pitch they needed.
“That’s how you execute. That’s why they’re the champions.”
Pagan returned to Giants camp on Friday and originally was in the lineup to play center field and bat leadoff against the Rockies at Salt River Fields. But the club opted to give him another day to settle in. Gregor Blanco will start in center, instead.
[RELATED: Casilla returns with more than WBC medals]
"Now it's about getting ready for the season and winning another World Series," Pagan said.