The World Baseball Classic is unlike any other international tournament, in that players can choose to play for a country not only if they’re a citizen, but also if they are even eligible to become one. That leads to idiosyncratic nationality choices, like Anthony Rizzo playing for Italy in 2013, or the entire Israel team being more or less American Jews. It also leads to players choosing to represent their motherlands instead of the nation of their birth. Case in point, Brooklyn-born Yankees pitch Dellin Betances chose to represent the Dominican Republic instead of the US in this year’s edition.
Of course, with the rules of the WBC being what they are, Betances has every right to choose to play for the island nation. Whether it’s a sense of identity pride, the desire to play for the reigning champions, or just a personal choice for what team fits him better, his decision is well within the bylines of the competition. He informed Joe Torre, the United States manager, early on that his decision was to play for the country of his parents, and that he’s excited to represent the criollo nation on the international stage. Let’s also not forget the fact that it’s not that much of a stretch to play for your parents’ country in the tournament; otherwise, teams like the aforementioned Italy and Israel would not be participating at the level that they are.
That didn’t stop reporters from hounding the 28-year-old reliever about his choice in the lead-up to the Plataneros’ first game on Thursday, against Canada. Despite it being a storyline in the lead-up to the tournament, it seemed pretty clear that Betances was playing for the DR due to his parents, and therefore reporters should have moved on to asking him about something related to the actual games, such as facing Canada’s big bats, which include former home run king and MVP Justin Morneau.
It’s no surprise then that the frustration bubbled over for Betances on Monday, when he decided to clap back. When asked about his “papers saying [he was] born in the United States,” he answered succinctly that “Dominicans are born wherever the hell they want.” If that doesn’t put an end to the questioning, nothing will.
Between this nationality headache and the very public press battle the reliever had with the Yankees over arbitration last month, Betances is not having a great time with journalists at the moment.