Arenado to realize dream of representing Team USA

Colorado slugger turned childhood disappointment into motivation to don his country's colors

Arenado to realize dream of representing Team USA

This time, Team USA called Nolan Arenado's name.

Being selected to represent the United States in the World Baseball Classic allows Arenado, the Colorado Rockies' star third baseman, to finally realize a dream that was sparked when he was 13. Then a budding shortstop from Southern California, he enjoyed what he thought was a strong performance in a Junior Olympics tournament in Arizona. Afterward, organizers would choose an all-tournament team that carried with it an invitation to represent the U.S. in an international competition.

World Baseball Classic

"I didn't make the team," Arenado recalled. "They picked other players.

"If you performed well at this tournament, they would invite you to play. I played really well. I hurt for a long time. At a young age, I was kind of devastated. But it fueled my fire to work harder and get an opportunity again. Now, I'm here, and I'm playing in the World Baseball Classic."

To think back, years ago Arenado didn't receive even one call. But this time, he actually was pursued by two Classic teams. Arenado's mother, Millie, has Puerto Rican roots, which made him eligible for that team. In fact, he also had the chance to play for Puerto Rico in 2013, but turned it down to concentrate on making an impression in Spring Training in advance of his MLB debut.

Arenado on WBC team selection

Now 25, Arenado left little doubt about his worthiness in this competition. The third baseman slugged 42 home runs in 2015 and 41 in '16, tying Bryce Harper and Chris Carter, respectively, for the National League lead each of the past two seasons. Arenado also led MLB in RBIs each year, with 130 in '15 and 133 last season.

Defensively, Arenado is the first third baseman in history to win a Gold Glove Award in each of his first four seasons, and he has taken home the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Award and the Fielding Bible Award at his position the past two years.

Arenado has yet to experience a playoff atmosphere with the Rockies, but the team's offseason moves are igniting those aspirations. Who knows? Maybe the Classic, with its high-stakes play and international pride, could be preparation.

"I've heard the atmosphere is pretty intense," Arenado said. "[The games are] pretty crazy. I'm excited for that opportunity to play. It's only going to make me a better ballplayer. When you're representing your country, it's a big thing, as close to the playoffs as you can get. It's going to help me in the long run."

The World Baseball Classic runs from March 6-22. In the U.S., games will air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN will provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. will have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. Internationally, the tournament will be distributed across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games at Marlins Park, Tokyo Dome, Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Mexico, Petco Park, as well as the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.