An Interview With: ALEXIS RIOS & GIANCARLO ALVARDO
Q. Giancarlo, there is no doubt the responsibility you have tomorrow is a big one against the Spain team. How do you feel with this great chance that life has given you in such an important event like this one?
GIANCARLO ALVARADO: Well, I don't know much about the team, only I know that they are quite an aggressive team. I mean, I feel very thankful to God and to life for being here with such great baseball players and my country and pitching, and showing my country that I can be one of the pitchers that I wanted to be. I have been blessed. Thank you so much for the opportunity.
Q. Alexis, do you feel some kind of pressure playing in your own country? And how do you see the Venezuelan team?
ALEXIS RIOS: Well, I don't think we feel any pressure. We're going to be very excited. It'll be a huge adrenaline rush. I believe that the thing here is to know how to manage those we've got the talent, the veteran talent. We've got young players with great talent that I believe they're going to do the job. I think that we're very balanced and we have the talent. Here the key is execution. We have to execute everything that we try. We've got to play the small game, small ball. We've got to score runs in any way; not depend simply on power that the team may have to be able to win a game.
Q. Alex, Edwin was saying that if he were a TV analyst, he would possibly place Puerto Rico as a third favorite in this group, taking into account the rosters that Dominican and Venezuela have. Do you guys as players use that as motivation to show that despite the other teams may have more recognized names, Puerto Rico should not be underestimated?
ALEXIS RIOS: Of course, of course. It's a combination of young and veteran talent. It's a good combination for us. Venezuela and Dominican Republic may have more players in the Big Leagues and some more than the Puerto Rico team, but we have talented players. I believe that we have what we need to play well.
Q. Can you talk about managing those emotions and how you still can balance having fun.
ALEXIS RIOS: Well, I believe that's one part that is the most difficult part to achieve, trying to quiet your emotions, because it's exciting. When you're playing with the Puerto Rican uniform on and in front of your family, friends and all the fans from Puerto Rico, it's something that makes us very proud and it's very exciting. If we can control those emotions and keep them under control, we should be fine.
Q. Giancarlo, you said you did not know much about the Spain team, but I imagine the scouts that already saw them must have told you more or less what kind of pitching they'll use, and about their lineup.
GIANCARLO ALVARADO: Yes, I understand that they're contact batters. I have to keep myself in my game because that is the only thing that's going to let me produce. I can't be thinking too much other than maybe a few pitches, so I've got to work there's 65 pitches. We don't have that pitch count that we usually get, and that's what I have to work with, the 65 pitches.
Q. Alex, the Puerto Rico team has a lot of young players, and you have some veterans in the Big Leagues, Pagan, you and Beltran. What advice can you give the younger players with a full stadium to control their emotions and not do more than what they can do?
ALEXIS RIOS: Well, as I said, it may be the part that may be a little bit more difficult to contain because that excitement is part of the game, and more so when you're in your own country. We'll tell them just to relax. It's a game like any other. If you look at it, in theory it's the same as a Spring Training game. But when you have the Puerto Rican uniform on and you're representing your country, these emotions, really they get heightened, they go up, and the adrenaline gets going. If you can control those emotions, in the end it's a regular game, any Spring Training game.
Q. Alex, you mentioned that Puerto Rico does not have so many figures as it did in previous Classics. I wanted to ask about your theory, why is that, that Puerto Rico doesn't have so many Big League players? Do you see any indication in Puerto Rican baseball that the pendulum is being moved in the other direction?
ALEXIS RIOS: Well, that is a question that could be a little bit complex to answer. There was a gap and a time with not many players being produced in Puerto Rico, but I believe that the young players that are being brought up now with the baseball academies and better baseball programs are helping us to develop better players, to develop young players with a little bit more maturity with regards to baseball. As I said, we do have very limited players in the Big Leagues. We don't have so many as Dominican Republic and Venezuela. They have better baseball programs, they have baseball schools, and the Major League teams have baseball schools in those countries. And I think that's why they develop more baseball players. Now we are incorporated with the baseball academies and all that, and I think that's going to help us develop more players with the maturity to get to the Big Leagues.
Q. For both of you: The game relies on fundamentals and execution, the players and location, placement. How do you combine all that with heart and courage, playing with your team?
ALEXIS RIOS: These are short tournaments. The talent I don't think is a factor that is so important. I mean, in these short tournaments, anything can happen. It's like a playoff series; in a playoff series, any team can win. In these short series if you make a mistake and it costs you two runs, you may lose the whole tournament. In these tournaments I believe that we should focus more on the execution of plays, on the mental game, on not making errors, mistakes. They're basic. I mean, in order for you to minimize that risk of being eliminated early on in the tournament.
GIANCARLO ALVARADO: I'm really very focused. I love what's going on. I'm not looking at it like with nervousness or anything. I just love the environment there is here and the people that are watching everything that's going on and really happy. I'm not thinking about any of that.
Q. Alex, talk about the exposure and interest of baseball for Puerto Rico that comes from playing on a stage this big.
ALEXIS RIOS: Well, I think this tournament is very important because here in Puerto Rico you don't get to see baseball at this height, at this level of competition. It only happens every once in a while. For example, now with the Baseball Classic, it happens only every four years. I think when people get to see that more often, it motivates people to come to the field, it motivates them to watch and follow the game, and that's a good thing. When you get people to come to the ballpark and follow the game, it draws interest, and that's what we need right now, that interest in the game.