PHOENIX — Randy Arozarena is Cuban. He was born in Arroyos de Mantua along the island’s Northwest coast, broke onto the baseball scene as a member of Cuba’s 18-and-under national team and made his professional debut playing for Pinar Del Rio in Serie Nacional, Cuba’s major league.
But Mexico is Arozarena’s home. It’s where he landed after fleeing Cuba on a small boat in 2015. It’s where he established residency and had his daughter. It’s where he honed his game, got signed by the Cardinals and began his trajectory to the major leagues. In 2022, he became a Mexican citizen, permanently binding his new home with his very identity.
Arozarena jumped at the opportunity to represent Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. The Rays outfielder voiced his desire to do so as far back as the 2020 postseason, when he first emerged as one of baseball’s best big-game performers. Three years later, wearing Mexico across his chest, the burgeoning 28-year-old star took over a must-win game and powered his adopted nation to the WBC quarterfinals.
Arozarena hit two doubles and drove in five runs, and Mexico beat Canada, 10-3, to win Pool C and advance to the second round for the first time since 2009. Mexico will face the Dominican Republic-Puerto Rico winner in the quarterfinals in Miami on either Friday or Saturday.
“It feels beautiful,” Arozarena said through an interpreter. “I’m very grateful because they gave me the opportunity and they trusted me to help them. And thank God with the work that I’ve been doing, today I’ve been able to help them and help them win games.”
Arozarena played a starring role in every moment that propelled Mexico to victory. He got hit by a pitch to lead off the game and came around to score on Rowdy Tellez’s two-run single that gave Mexico an early 2-0 lead. After Canada cut the deficit in half in the bottom of the first inning, Arozarena laced a two-out, RBI double into the right-center gap in the top of the second to re-extend Mexico’s lead to 3-1.
In the sixth inning, with Mexico clinging to a 3-2 lead after missing repeated chances to blow the game open, Arozarena stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and delivered the decisive blow. After he narrowly missed a grand slam when his long fly to left field curved foul, Arozarena drove the next pitch down the left-field line for a bases-clearing double, sending his Mexican teammates streaming out of the dugout and taking the wind out of Canada’s sails.
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