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March 12, 2006

Jose Cruz, Jr.

Jose Valentin

Javier Vazquez

Todd Zeile


THE MODERATOR: Good evening. With us this evening for the Puerto Rico team is Jose Oquendo, manager; Jose Valentin, Javier Vazquez and Jose Cruz, Jr., and for your information our interpreter this evening is Dina Kuriansky.
Manager Oquendo, we would like your opinion of the game this evening as well as the players.
JOSE OQUENDO: It was a well-played game. It was well pitched by Javy. He kept the ball in and out, made only one mistake, but we were able to bounce back, so he did a good job. It worked out for the pitching staff, and key hits by some of the guys.
JAVIER VAZQUEZ: It was, I think, a great job of everybody. We had great pitching, great hitting and great defense. I think it was a teamwork win, and it was a great win for us.
JOSE VALENTIN: The key was when we started early in the game, we started exerting pressure on the Dominican Republic and that made it easier for Javy to stay on the mound and keep on exerting that pressure on the rest of the team.
It all started when we tied the game and started upscaling the advantage that we had over the other team, and then Javy just did the rest of the work. It seems to me that this was teamwork, more runs, started feeling better, started feeling better on the mound, and then more runs and more defense.
JOSE CRUZ, JR.: First of all, it seems to me that we have to give credit to Javy. Javy pitched wonderfully tonight. In every inning we had wonderful plays, very good plays. It just made it difficult for them every time that we started doing our share. So we started exerting more pressure until the very end. 3 in one, 3 in the next one, and that was it; that was the whole game.
Q. (Question for Javier Vazquez.) What about the hitting by the Dominican Republic and does Puerto Rico take on the offense something to prove, come out into the field and really have something to prove by the way they played?
JAVIER VAZQUEZ: No, we know what we have, we know what we can do, more pitchers. We have hitters. We just go into the ballpark, go into the field and do what we know how to do. It doesn't matter who has what, who doesn't have what. What we have to acknowledge is the Dominican Republic has good hitters, strong hitters, but Puerto Rico came into the field tonight to show that we do have good pitching.
Q. This is for Javier. You say you pitched with a lot of confidence out there today in what was almost like a playoff atmosphere. Can you talk about how you felt about pitching today, and how much is the crowd important for you being behind you the way they were?
JAVIER VAZQUEZ: Well, we always play like that. We always come into the field and start playing like that, particularly when we see the fans with this "rivalry" that exists between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico when we play for the Caribbean series, for example. We come into the field and we see the fans cheering and rooting for their teams.
I pitch without a lot of pressure. I just went into the field, and it was not exerting a lot of pressure. One has to be aware of the fact when we play the Dominican Republic, when they do their share without errors, they constitute a dangerous team.
I just kept my pitching low and into the strike zone, and thank God, we won.
Q. Do you think that you'll get any special benefit for having the 80 pitches that you're entitled to in the second round when in some other games you've had 100 and something?
JAVIER VAZQUEZ: Well, I don't bear in mind the fact that I might have had 65 pitches during the first round and 80 pitches during the second round. No benefit is something that you get in return for having 60, 80 or 100 something. I don't change my style in the way I pitch just because I have a specific number of pitches. I just do my work. As I said previously, I kept the ball low and that's it; I continue with my game.
Q. This question is for Jose Cruz, Jr. Looking back at your career, can you put tonight, your performance tonight in perspective, and can you talk about that 6th and 7th inning?
JOSE CRUZ, JR.: I was joking with my wife the other day about I got my first hit with the bases loaded and I thought it was the biggest hit of my career, and that's what it felt like out there. It's as exciting as anything I've ever been a part of.
To do it on this stage is very satisfying, and again, I was talking to his brother before the game, and I said, "I don't care if I get a hit or not, I just want to win the game." Just somehow, whatever, just win the game. I had the good fortune that the ground ball just missed Soriano's glove a couple times and we ended up winning.
Q. This is for Mr. Oquendo. Seems like every team in this tournament has had ups and downs. From a manager's perspective, how much has the home court helped you day in and day out? You've played really consistent ball.
JOSE OQUENDO: I think that question is more for them than me. I think the crowds help you to maintain the high level of intensity, at least I hope. But I think we played an aggressive game, and that will keep the intensity up, just the way we play the game, by being aggressive.
Q. Can we have Jose Cruz comment on that, as well, please?
JOSE CRUZ, JR.: I think the fans help us quite a bit. I can speak personally. It's very exciting knowing that you have a home backing. It's like a responsibility for me that I feel that I need to be as prepared as possible for every game, so, I mean, if it's an advantage, I don't know, but it definitely motivates me to be better prepared.
Q. Bernie Williams has made a statement that this could be compared to having a World Series in the month of March and the criticism that has been heard from fans and owners and having this is sort of like a spring training. What I'd like to know is what is the excitement that you feel outside this whole thing, having the Dominican Republic playing against Puerto Rico at a world level, at a global level like you're doing? How do you feel about this, and how do you see the excitement that the fans bring to you by having this game here in Puerto Rico?
JOSE VALENTIN: I don't realize that. I really don't pay attention to that. I just go into the field, into the ballpark and I give it my best. I just give it due value as it serves. I don't care if this is practice, if it is an exhibition, if it is an official game. I give it my best. I give my full responsibility to the game.
I come into the field like I do here today, and I feel wonderful because I'm playing in my country, I'm playing in Puerto Rico, and I'm wearing the Puerto Rican shirt, the tee shirt, and moreover I'm playing at home, so I attach great value to what I'm doing here. It really doesn't matter what some owners and fans might think about it. Each one has its own reasons for believing what they want to say. For me this is very positive, and only for that I give it my very best and I feel very proud to wear the Puerto Rican shirt.
Q. The first question is for Tony. Tony, you ran to second base after you slid on first base. What happened there and how did you feel?
JOSE VALENTIN: I don't know, I started playing, and when I hit I ran quickly to first base, I slid, and when I started glazing and standing up, the coach there told me second base is all alone, it's empty. So I looked, turned around, saw nobody standing there so I had some time. I started running like crazy to 2nd and all of a sudden I get stopped and they told me I couldn't do it, so I just stopped and returned, went back.
Q. How easy does this make it for the rest of the second round?
JOSE OQUENDO: This was a good win for us but it's not over. The game tonight is not over but not the rest of the round. So we have to think of our next game. We have to plan it, we have to think strong, have to play strong, keep the ball as we did today in the low area and not to trust ourselves in believing that everything will go well. We have to concentrate and deal with the opponents as strong rivals. Cuba and Venezuela are strong rivals, and we have to contend with that.

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