When Ehire Adrianza’s team won the right to represent Venezuela in the Caribbean Series three years ago, the round-robin between winter-league champions took place in Hiram Bithorn Stadium in Puerto Rico. So Adrianza knows what the Twins should expect during his return engagement this week in San Juan:
Noise. Ceaseless, earnest cheering and booing. Cowbells, whistles and a cacophony of voices.
“It’s going to be really loud. The fans, they will be going crazy at the games,” said Adrianza, the Twins utility infielder, before the team departed for Puerto Rico, where it will play the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday and Wednesday. “You will see the emotion and excitement they have about baseball. You will see everybody having a good time.”
That atmosphere of noisy passion is an obvious difference between professional baseball in the continental United States and in Latin American venues, Adrianza and a handful of his Hispanic teammates said. “Cheer and boo, every pitch. Yell at the umpire, every pitch,” joked third baseman Miguel Sano, a native of the Dominican Republic. “Here, you cheer when something happens. There … all the time.”
Puerto Rico natives Jose Berrios and Eddie Rosario can expect to be mobbed and adored by their countrymen, said Eduardo Escobar, another Venezuelan who has played in San Juan. “But they’ll love having all of us there,” Escobar said. “They love baseball, and they’re proud of [Latin] players making it in the major leagues.”
That may be partly because they feel like they helped them get there. “Without a doubt, they let you know about every mistake. They celebrate your good plays. They’re the best at bringing it out of you,” Adrianza said. “If you can handle the pressure over there, you will be good playing the game.”
The players get caught up in the atmosphere — or even egg it on, Adrianza conceded, with bat-flips and exaggerated reactions — and he is interested in seeing if that winter-league fiesta is replicated in what are, after all, regular-season MLB games. “It’s a different culture. We don’t take offense,” Adrianza said. “People are always smiling.”
Going to the Caribbean, even for just a two-game series, is a real treat, even for the non-Puerto Ricans, Escobar said. “The food, the language, the weather,” he said. “It’s what we grew up with.”
And it makes them a little jealous, too. “I would love to play a big-league game in Venezuela,” Adrianza said. “I know it cannot happen any time soon,” he said, acknowledging the political and economic unrest in his home country. “But it’s really good” for his Puerto Rican teammates.