Read the Spanish-language version of this story here.
SAN DIEGO -- A week after having made it into the book of the most famous phrases in the Dominican Republic's history, pitcher Dellin Betances admitted having said what is being said that he said, though with a slight variation.
Betances, who was born in New York, chose to honor his parents by playing for the Dominican Republic, instead of the United States, in the World Baseball Classic. The tournament rules allow players to choose their teams via the following options: the national team of their country of birth, the national team of their parents' country, or the national team of the country where they reside or are citizens.
“Los dominicanos nacemos donde nos da la gana (Dominicans are born wherever we want),” Betances was quoted as saying before the first game of Dominican Republic, against Canada, last week at Miami's Marlins Park. The phrase spread like wildfire through social media, and turned itself into a slogan of the Dominican fans. Last Tuesday, at San Diego, some fans and friends of the Dominican Republic delegation used a T-shirt with the phrase.
“I said it, but without the foul word,” said Betances making reference to the word “maldita (hell).” “I told a reporter a couple of things, but without cursing,” added the pitcher before the first game of the second round in San Diego against Puerto Rico.
“They kept asking me a lot of questions and I wanted to say that I am a Dominican, that my blood is Dominican and that it does not matter where I was born,” said Betances, speaking in Spanish.
For many sons and daughters of Dominicans, who were born outside the island, particularly in New York and Puerto Rico, the American passport they receive at birth is just a mere convenience. Even though they speak English as their native language and receive the benefits of being U.S. citizens, most of them are as Dominicans as those born in Dominican Republic.
“We Dominicans are born wherever we like,” Betances said once again. “It is a way of somehow explaining the meaning of living in the country where you were born but, at the same time, having your parents' country at home, every single day. I did not intend to be rude when I said what I said.”
Ever since it was created in 2006, the World Baseball Classic has many examples of dual national Dominican and United States players having to choose one of the national jerseys. Baltimore Orioles young star, Miami-born Manny Machado opted to play for the Dominican Republic, like Betances.
One notable exception was the New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodríguez, who opted to play for Team USA in 2006. But the criticism coming from the island was so strong, that A-Rod switched to represent Dominican Republic, even playing an exhibition game, before a hip injury sent him to the operating room, depriving him of playing in the World Baseball Classic and the first month of the regular season.
“It was not difficult for me, I was raised eating plantain and salami. Both for me and my family it is a great honor to represent our country," said Betances, who was born in Manhattan's Washington Heights neighborhood, where a large concentration of New York's Dominican community lives. “Washington Heights is Dominican. It is like a Dominican Republic town.”