MIAMI -- Compared to previous World Baseball Classics, Dominican Republic general manager Moises Alou sees a more solid commitment from his country.
Long before the Dominican team started workouts on March 3, its key players were training.
"This year, this team came prepared to play," Alou said on Saturday morning. "There were a lot of guys who played winter ball. Guys who hadn't played winter ball in years. Guys are in better in shape. Guys want it more this time."
Position players like Hanley Ramirez, Nelson Cruz, Carlos Santana, Erick Aybar and Miguel Tejada gave up parts of their offseason to see game action. Ramirez, the Dodgers' shortstop, participated in the Caribbean Series in the weeks leading up to the start of Spring Training.
Even closer Fernando Rodney was pitching in games into early February.
The investment is what has changed over the years.
Alou recalls participating in the 2006 Classic as a player.
"I remember the first Classic," he said. "There was a lot of hype about it. Guys were excited about it, but they weren't in as good a shape as they are now.
"I came to the Classic with no at-bats in Spring Training, no winter ball. Even though I did OK, it wasn't me. I wished I would have been in better shape to play. These guys came ready to play this time."
The five-day Round 2 at Marlins Park featured big crowds and entertaining games.
The upset of the week is that Team USA isn't advancing to the semifinals, which begin on Sunday at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
The fact the United States didn't win, Alou said, doesn't diminish the effort displayed by the team.
"I know the United States did not make it, but they played great," Alou said. "You could see an American team more together, a team that wanted to win. A team that came prepared and played outstanding baseball. They just got beat by teams that played better baseball that day."
Hanley's impact goes beyond performance
MIAMI -- More than the numbers tells the impact Hanley Ramirez has made for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.
Ramirez, the Dodgers' shortstop, has had his ups and downs in the tournament. But when he's come up big, he's been a difference maker.
In his first five games, Ramirez was 3-for-15 (.200). Two of the hits, however, were home runs.
Ramirez connected on a mammoth homer off R.A. Dickey on Wednesday in the Dominican's 3-1 win over Team USA at Marlins Park.
What's pleased Dominican Republic manager Tony Pena is how Ramirez has been agreeable to whatever role he's asked.
"I think Hanley has handled everything great," Pena said. "We had a tough decision when we began the WBC, because I had three shortstops."
Pena's challenge entering the Classic was how to split time between Jose Reyes, Erick Aybar and Ramirez at short.
"I wanted to play all three shortstops in one game," Pena said. "Hanley said, 'I can play third.' Everybody adjusted right into this. He's been doing great.
"Maybe average-wise, he's not swinging the bat the way he's capable of swinging, but the two home runs that he hit meant something for the ballclub."
Marlins Park has had international flavor
MIAMI -- Horns blowing and drums beating in the stands have given Marlins Park an international feel this week.
The spirit inside the building, in fact, reminded Puerto Rico manager Edwin Rodriguez of San Juan.
Rodriguez spoke to Dominican Republic manager Tony Pena about the atmosphere.
"I was talking with Tony Pena and the other players from the Dominican," Rodriguez said. "It did feel like we were back in San Juan again, playing that first round."
The passion and emotion in an international event is a bit different than a regular big league game.
"I think the Latin Americans and Hispanic culture is more involved," Rodriguez said. "More noisy places, more music, they're more involved emotionally in the game. They transfer that to the game.
"In the United States, Americans are little more under control, if you can call it that. They kind of control themselves a little bit more."