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March 10, 2006

Anibal Reluz


Q. This is Panama's first time participating in such an event, and it goes without saying that maybe the results that were obtained were not the ones that were expected; however, how is Panama foreseeing the possibility of including the very best Major League Baseball players from Panama so that they will be able to participate in this baseball tournament, the World Baseball Classic, for the next time around?
ANIBAL RELUZ: First of all, good afternoon to all of you. I would like to personally publicly congratulate Martis here for his wonderful performance, how wonderfully well he played today and what a good player he is.
For us, you have to bear in mind that it was a very difficult position for us. After the fourth inning our team was lagging behind and Martis was in a very good position in the game to continue. We still continued to fight onward. To answer the question that you asked, we are still going to continue to fight and do everything possible that we can, but it was very difficult to continue today.
As you saw, we have our players here today, and we have 17 players here, and after the two losses that we've had, it was really difficult to continue with the drive and the motivation to have all of our players give it 100 percent all of the time.
For us, the opportunity to be classified here -- rather to be part of the world baseball tournament here is a wonderful experience, not only for us as a team, Team Panama, but rather for the entire country of Panama because the Panamanian president himself supports this endeavor 100 percent all the way. Yes, indeed, we did suffer some ups and downs during this baseball match. For example, our first baseman, who hit 38 home runs in Japan, wasn't able to participate here today. Macias, our second baseman, he also played wonderfully well in Japan. He wasn't able to play today. Chavez is another example. Rivera wasn't able to come here.
So as you can see, there was only about 60 percent of our team who was actually here playing for us. We did not have the other players that we really needed. I still, despite that, think that we did provide an adequate performance, and we did well, and we look forward to another opportunity.
Q. As far as I'm concerned you played rather competitively, the very first two games that you played, especially the one that you came very close to winning, the game that you played with Cuba. I think that maybe you weren't able to recover from that match with Cuba from an emotional standpoint, and maybe you would have played differently, bearing in mind or knowing that there was a possibility of you being able to qualify had you won this game. What do you think?
ANIBAL RELUZ: For me I personally was on the baseball team that beat Cuba in that historic event, and for us it was incredibly important to have won and to have beat Cuba yesterday. Over the last 28 years, yesterday was the closest team that we actually came close to beating Cuba.
Had we been able to qualify, maybe today's game might have turned out differently than it did. Maybe the scores would have been completely the opposite. I needed something here because in September and October we do have a competition against Cuba where only amateurs are going to be participating. It is a game that we will be able to qualify for the Pan American games and also for the Olympics, as well.
So the players who were on the bench who weren't able to play, I needed them to be able to have something, to bring back something with them, to boost their morale for the future event. It's very difficult to manage a team where there are professionals and there are amateurs. The way we treat our professional players and our amateur players are quite different. When we work with the professional players, we treat them, act with them based on their salary, based on their contracts, based on monetary issues.
When we deal with the amateurs players we have to be careful with them, the way we deal with them because they lose heart quite easily and we have to keep that motivation up and that momentum up at all times. We have to continue to have them believe in their team, in their country and in their manager, and as I said today, I told my players today that even though we had already been eliminated from this event, I believe that my players were still going to be giving their all, that they were still going to be playing 100 percent for this game, and I still believe whole-heartedly that we have a very good strong amateur team.
Q. This question that I have for you is twofold. The first question is do you find it unfair for Panama to be judged as a team based on the results that were achieved in this tournament? And also, on the performance that was provided in this tournament, in light of the fact that many of the players on your team were absent? That's the first part of my question. The second part of my question, do you think that Panama will be invited for the next World Baseball Classic? And in your opinion, would the results be different?
ANIBAL RELUZ: I think that it is more than unfair. If someone were to just judge a team only bearing in mind the last few games. You have to understand that anybody that knows about baseball knows that you cannot really judge a team based upon a short series that only goes three days. And you also have to bear in mind that over a two-day period within a 14-hour stretch we played the most difficult two teams here on this tournament. And you also have to not forget that the Netherlands hadn't even played.
I am not here to cast blame on anyone. I would like to give some advice that comes from my heart. We are a team; we have five outfielders and one first base man, second baseman, shortstop. There are other teams where they are fighting between them. It's a very different case scenario in Panama.
What I would like to tell the organizers of the Major League Baseball, this tournament can be played 15 days after the World Series, and everybody should be on an equal footing for all, and I want our baseball players from our country to play for our country. I do not want to remove -- I don't want to say that any country does not deserve what it deserves. I respect everybody tremendously.
But had we had a complete team, things would have turned out quite differently. This is not any type of excuse for the first two games. We lost those games.
Q. The question I have is for the manager. All of us here, the media, we are covering this wonderful event, and we wanted to ask you about how you felt, if you were well-prepared for this. I asked you the same question previously when you were on the field and how prepared you were. Also, when you were trying two years ago when you partook in the Caribbean, the series for baseball, what is your opinion on that?
ANIBAL RELUZ: Well, what I'd like to say is that our presence here at the World Baseball Classic was a very important event for us. It was a very important event for our team and for our country. Panama didn't win the games, but rest assured, participating in this does provide a tremendous amount of prestige for my country because we have realized it's very different playing at an amateur level and playing at a professional level. We saw that during the first two games.
And without a doubt, the country of Panama has come to realize how important it is to play at a very professional level. This is something that we are in dire need of. We need that.

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