The Brazilian National Baseball team began a weekend-long training session Friday at SJC Long Island’s Outdoor Field Complex in preparation for the World Baseball Classic Qualifier, Sept. 22-25 in Brooklyn.
In six hours, and spread over two sessions, the Brazilian squad and its manager, Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, worked out on the home field of the Golden Eagles’ baseball and softball teams. Brazil will compete at MCU Park in Coney Island with Pakistan, Great Britain and Israel for the final spot in 2017 WBC in March.
MLB International Game Coordinator Caleb Santos-Silva said Brazil chose to practice at St. Joseph’s College’s OFC in Patchogue because of its convenient location – on Sunrise Highway one mile east of SJC Long Island‘s campus – and also because the synthetic turf infield at the complex’s Gregg Alfano Field is the same surface as the infield at MCU Park.
The team’s performance at the WBC qualifier holds an underlying significance to Brazil as a nation.
“This is the 100-year anniversary in Brazil for the introduction of baseball, so I think this year is a very important year,” said Larkin, 52, the Cincinnati Reds’ shortstop for 19 seasons. “This would be just a rounding achievement if we were able to advance and play in the WBC. The fact they’ve been playing baseball for 100 years in Brazil is very significant,” added Larkin. He led Brazil to the nation’s first WBC appearance in 2013.
Barry Larkin Instilling Camaraderie
After each practice session, the team is dining for lunch and dinner at SJC Long Island’s campus on Roe Boulevard. Eating and practicing together is all part of becoming a team, said Larkin.
The manager noted that Friday’s practices were the first time the players had gathered as a group. Nine of the players just finished minor league seasons in the United States. Others traveled from Japan, where they play in professional leagues.
If Brazil advances to the 16-team WBC tournament, the team will look to add major-leaguers Yan Gomes with the Cleveland Indians and Paulo Orlando of the Kansas City Royals. For now, Larkin will rely upon a team of hungry, if unproven, players. Among them are right-handed pitchers Andre Rienzo, a former Miami Marlin, and 15-year-old phenom Eric Pardinho. The youngster throws 94 mph.
“These guys just arrived from Brazil yesterday, so it was important for us to get together and have kind of a mini camp talk about some of the things we’re going to try to do as a team, talk about the philosophies and just kind of build the camaraderie,” said Larkin. The Hall of Famer is assisted by two-time MLB All-Star Steve Finley as Brazil’s hitting coach and 21-year MLB veteran LaTroy Hawkins as the team’s pitching coach.
The Brazilian team will continue training Sept. 17 and 18 at SJC. The team will then relocate to MCU Park Sept. 20 and 21, to practice onsite before the qualifying round. The qualifying round opens Sept. 22 with a doubleheader showcasing Pakistan vs. Brazil and Great Britain vs. Israel.