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Renteria hopes to make Colombia proud in Classic

It didn't take long for Edgar Renteria to make his mark on Major League Baseball.

The Colombian shortstop burst onto the scene in 1996, finishing second in the National League Rookie of the Year voting. One year later, he delivered a bases-loaded, walk-off RBI single in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series to lift the Marlins to the franchise's first title.

Now at 37 years old, the Barranquilla native is hoping to have that same immediate impact on the Colombian national team.

Renteria will represent Colombia for the first time in his career when the nation opens play in its World Baseball Classic qualifying round on Nov. 16 against Nicaragua in Panama City. The other two teams in the four-team bracket -- Brazil and Panama -- will square off one day earlier in the double-elimination pool.

The winner of the Panama City qualifier round will earn a bid in next spring's World Baseball Classic, which runs from March 2-19.

"People here in Colombia, they're excited to see the national team go to the World Baseball Classic," Renteria said. "And, to me, it'd be nice because I've been in a World Series before and now I have a chance to play for my country with Colombia."

Renteria will be looking to add to a stout list of career accolades that already features five All-Star selections, two Gold Gloves, two World Series titles and the 2010 World Series MVP award with the Giants. Yet for all his accomplishments on the field, Renteria has been just as busy off the diamond, particularly in Colombia.

In 2005, Edgar teamed with his brother, Edinson, to create the Renteria Family Foundation, a non-profit organization aimed toward helping Colombian youth through both sport and education. The organization helps keep Colombian children off the streets, while also providing baseball clinics and proper gear.

Renteria is also a strong supporter of 4Life, which offers immune system support to more than 50 countries across the globe. He endorses the company without any monetary compensation as a member of Team 4Life.

"Edgar's just such a great guy," said Calvin Jolley, vice president of communications for 4Life Research. "Outside of athletic talent, the other area that we look at -- and what really impressed us about Edgar -- is his general integrity. And the manifestation of that integrity is his philanthropic work.

"I had the opportunity to go to Barranquilla and go to the stadium where they run that youth league. The day I was there, there were 50 kids out there in new uniforms, learning how to play ball and, more importantly, learning the lessons that sports teach individuals."

Now, Renteria is hoping Colombia can take the next step on the international stage by qualifying for the Classic.

Colombia -- which won six medals at the Baseball World Cup from 1945-74, including gold in '47 and '65 -- last placed in the top 10 at the tournament in 1980. The country is also currently ranked just 20th in the International Baseball Federation rankings.

"To me, playing in these games is great because I've never played on a Colombian team," Renteria said. "It's going to be the first one for me and it's so exciting right now. I would love to play in the World Baseball Classic with this team."

For Renteria, the qualifiers have the potential to add to what has been an exciting first year away from Major League Baseball.

In October, the former Major Leaguer had the pleasure of throwing out a ceremonial first pitch for Game 2 of the National League Division Series between his two most recent ball clubs, the Giants and Reds.

Less than a month later, the Giants captured their second World Series title in the last three years. The other, of course, came in 2010 when Renteria hit what turned out to be game-winning home runs in Games 2 and 5 of the Fall Classic en route to his MVP honors.

"It was exciting because I still have a lot of friends on the Giants," Renteria said of San Francisco's most recent championship. "It's nice to see them win the World Series again and get the trophy. It was exciting for me too, just watching those guys play and win it again. Now, I want to go win games for Colombia."

Colombia, Edgar Renteria