Benji Gil didn’t hold back. When asked about the World Baseball Classic’s decision to move up Mexico’s quarterfinal game against Puerto Rico to Friday, the Mexico manager bluntly contended that it was unfair.
The plan had been for the winner of Pool C to play Saturday against Pool D’s runner-up. Mexico won Pool C. Puerto Rico finished second in Pool D. But there was some fine print: Team USA would play Saturday’s quarterfinal game if it advanced from Pool C no matter what — whether the Americans finished in first or second. As a result, Team USA will face Venezuela, the Pool D winner, Saturday while Mexico had an off day after a cross-country flight snatched away.
“It’s a disadvantage,” Gil said a few hours before first pitch Friday. “100%.”
The hindrance ultimately didn’t matter. Mexico came from behind to beat Puerto Rico 5-4 after falling behind 4-0 in the first inning for the country’s biggest victory in international baseball competition. With it, Mexico advanced to the WBC semifinals for the first time to play Japan on Monday.
“We are showing what Mexican players are capable of at the highest level,” Gil said.
Gil is known for his (relatively) unfiltered thoughts on topics. One is his future. He played eight seasons in the majors — four each with the Texas Rangers and Angels — as a utility infielder and nearly two decades in the Mexican winter league. Now he wants to become a major league manager. It’s what he’s working toward. It’s a reason why he took a job on the Angels’ coaching staff before last season and a reason why he chose to manage Mexico in the WBC.
“Anything that keeps you getting closer to the end goal,” Gil, 50, said. “And the end goal is to manage at the big league level some day and win a world title.”
Gil isn’t the only manager in the tournament who could end up heading a major league dugout in the future. Puerto Rico manager Yadier Molina began his managerial career in the Venezuelan winter league immediately after retiring at the end of last season following a 19-year career with the St. Louis Cardinals. Team USA manager Mark DeRosa had never managed before this tournament, but he’s interviewed for multiple major league…
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