Team Venezuela generous to Hall of Fame after loss in Classic

Horn_90.jpgBy Brad Horn

As Hall of Fame skipper Earl Weaver was known to have said during his managerial career for the Orioles, “Nobody likes to hear it because it’s dull, but the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same — pitching.”

No one could argue Earl on that point and have a realistic shot to win the debate. Consider Saturday’s World Baseball Classic semifinal at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. The Venezuelan roster boasted 22 players currently active on Major League teams. The Koreans? Just one. Still, just 20 minutes into the first of two Classic semifinals, it was clear the Korean team had a significant mental edge and a superior starter over the Venezuelans, jumping to a 5-0 lead after the first half inning.

By the time the dust cleared Saturday night at Chavez Ravine, the Koreans swung a mighty stick with a 10-2 victory to advance to Monday’s Classic final against Japan.

3-23-09-Horn_Cabrera.jpgPitching had a large role in Saturday’s contest. Korean pitcher Suk Min Yoon dazzled, baffling Venezuelan sluggers and surrendering just six hits thorugh his first six innings against a lineup of potent bats featuring Bobby Abreu, Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez, among others.

Even though the Venezuelan team fell short to the Koreans on Saturday, ending its Classic bid, humility in defeat and graciousness permeated the Venezuelan clubhouse following the loss.

As we in Cooperstown strive to document and preserve the game’s history, the collection of artifact donations from current-day stars as these historic moments unfold is critical to our ability to tell the story in a timely manner for our visitors. We hope to represent all four semifinal teams in Cooperstown from the 2009 Classic through artifact donations from the teams and their players, and Saturday, Venezuelan stars Cabrera and Felix Hernandez were more than willing to help us commemorate this historic event.

Shortly after the loss, Cabrera donated the helmet he wore in the tournament to us. Excited for the opportunity of having his first item in Cooperstown, Cabrera didn’t think twice in handing his helmet to me. The pain was evident, though, in his eyes, after falling short in a quest for the Classic title. A powerful sense of national pride was visible in members of all four of the semifinal teams here in Los Angeles. The Venezuelans are very proud countrymen, and returning to their Major League camps and going home early surely was not their plan on this night.

3-23-09-Horn_San Diego.jpgAlso after the loss, the Venezuelan team donated the cap worn by Hernandez in his two wins during Classic tournament play. If one word summed up King Felix in this Classic, it was excellence. His pitching line reads like a masterpiece: 2-0 in 8 2/3 scoreless innings, with five hits, six walks and 11 strikeouts. Opponents hit just .172 in his two starts. If I’m a Mariners fan, I have to be hopeful about this ace heading to Opening Day.

Sunday, the artifact chase continued with an acquisition from the USA. Prior to last night’s game, the Hall of Fame received the bat from David Wright, whose ninth-inning, game-winning base hit on Wednesday night propelled the U.S. past Puerto Rico, punching its first semifinal ticket in Classic play. It will be the first artifact from Wright’s young career to make its way to Cooperstown.

Today, we’ll also solicit artifact donations from both teams in the finals. The only things constant in baseball are winning and losing, but we’ll be hoping for continued generosity from the international baseball world so that these treasures can be viewed for generations, only in Cooperstown.

Brad Horn is the senior director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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