Colombia doesn’t have Israel’s undefeatedness or Venezuela’s "still-in-the-tournament"-ness, but before and after their elimination from the World Baseball Classic, they were praised for what they had done for baseball in their country.
Twenty-three-year-old Phillies catcher Jorge Alfaro was a big part of their success, playing first base, catching, and serving as a DH. In three games, he hit a big game-tying home run and threw out a runner with the gall to try and steal on him. Those are just two things. But in a tournament like the World Baseball Classic, you don’t have a lot of time to make an impression. Alfaro actually made one, and it was similar to the one he made shortly before departing for the WBC on Pete Mackanin.
"He's got tremendous power potential," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "He kind of has a tendency to inside-out the ball, and if he can learn how to get the head out, he's going to be a monster."
That monster emerged against the Dominican Republic, sending a game into extras that was supposed to be over, but instead went on for 11 innings, and yes, opened the door for the D.R. to turn a 3-2 win into a 10-3 win. But progress is progress, depending on what your definition of "progress" is.
I know what you’re thinking. "Isn’t this just zeroing in on one moment? Shouldn’t we be thinking more about consistency right now?" But here’s the thing, we can do whatever we want.
Fernando Rodney entered the game for the D.R., trusted with holding the lead in the eighth so the Dominican Republic could get out of there with time to spare. Rodney, a bland figure with no ego or personality, is not someone who is fun to beat, so it was going to be a rather mundane task of heroism.
During the DR intros, Fernando Rodney took a giant golden platano out of his pants, waved it to crowd, then shoved it back in his pants #wbc— David Lennon (@DPLennon) March 9, 2017
Colombia's backs were against the wall, as they were predcited to have been in a pool with the U.S. and the Dominican Republic. And unlike the Dominican, Colombia still had, and has, something prove on the international baseball stage. The sport is less popular there, and while it is developing along the northern coast and a new facility is being opened, a win here would have gone a long way.
At the moment that Alfaro connected for this home run, tying the game, a win was still on the table for Colombia.
This hasn't even been Alfaro's favorite pitch to hit. He didn't hit righties well in 2015 (.244 BA) or older pitchers (.254 vs. pitchers older than him), but in 2016 those numbers went up to .296 and .277. Rodney, at 39, is both of those things. It's the WBC, so these sort of stats don't really matter; Rodney may not have been throwing his best stuff and Alfaro was probably eager to take a hack at anything he liked. But the end result was, for now, the most resounding moment for a Phillie in the 2017 WBC yet.
In fact, Alfaro’s fan base expanded, after he mimicked Rodney’s infamous bow-and-arrow celebration.
Jorge Alfaro is now my favorite player after doing Rodney's arrow thing after hitting the game tying home run.— OverTheMonster (@OverTheMonster) March 12, 2017
The day before vs. Canada, Alfaro showed off his strength on the other side of the ball.
This time the victim was Canada's Freddie Freeman, trying to do something he has done successfully in his six-season career fewer than twenty times. Freeman can probably get accustomed to being nailed on ill-conceived base running tactics as Alfaro enters his division full-time in the near future.
With Colombia eliminated, Alfaro is headed back to spring training, where for a few more weeks, the Phillies will be spinning their tires as they prepare for the regular season. Alfaro’s fellow eliminated WBC participant, Nick Pivetta of Canada, was optioned to minor league camp right out the gate. Alfaro himself rejoin his Grapefruit League stats, which are that he is 2-for-8 with a pair of doubles and three strikeouts.
The future is monstrous for young Jorge, and we can only hope that the power he put on display on the global stage is not one day turned against us.