Hungry, dancing D.R. squad set to show Plátano Power to the world

March 9th, 2023

FORT MYERS, Fla. – It’s no secret that the Dominican Republic has one of the most stacked rosters the World Baseball Classic has seen since its inception in 2006.

And the baseball world is about to get a taste of what the island nation and all its “Plátano Power” has to offer. It’s a country that loves its food and music -- plátano is Spanish for plantain -- and all of it is intertwined with baseball.

“We want to show the American people and everyone in the world that don’t exactly know,” said the team’s general manager and designated hitter Nelson Cruz, "what comes with being a proud Dominican.”


You might have seen the video circulating on social media of a handful of Dominican players eating and listening to Bachata and Merengue – two of the traditional genres of music from the island – while traveling from Spring Training in Arizona to the site of Pool D in Miami.

That trip was put together by Padres third baseman Manny Machado. He invited Cruz to join him and told him to invite other players in the area. Ketel Marte, Teoscar Hernández, Luis García and Julio Rodríguez took them up on the invite.

Rodríguez didn’t have much of an appetite, so he asked for a small portion of ribs and Moro de Guandules, a maroon-colored rice that is mixed with pigeon peas, a traditional Dominican dish. As Rodríguez took his first bite, his eyes widened. The rice was just like the one from back home in the Dominican. The ribs were seasoned to perfection. The man behind the delicious cooking is David Cruz, the personal chef and cousin of Nelson.

“[Julio] took one bite,” David laughed. “And he started yelling that he wanted more.”

From left to right: Julio Rodríguez, Nelson Cruz, Teoscar Hernández, Luis García (in the back), Ketel Marte (in the front), Manny Machado and David Cruz

For a lot of players, especially those who spend the season in West Coast cities where Dominican culture is harder to find, they sometimes go weeks or months without eating the dishes they grew up on.

That’s where Nelson’s cousin, David, comes in. David has worked for the Twins and Rays over the past eight years. Because the team has catered food in the clubhouse, David hasn’t done much cooking since arriving in Florida, but the players know he’s there when they need him.

In the past, David says even Nelson’s non-Dominican teammates have asked for food. Twins center fielder Byron Buxton used to approach him regularly asking for ribs and Moro. And David said Minnesota’s chief baseball officer Derek Falvey fell in love with Dominican food during an event in Minnesota in 2019.

For Dominicans, the most famous dish is “La Bandera,” which translates to “The Flag.” The dish is simple, consisting of white rice, red beans and steak. A couple of players have already said they’re looking forward to eating Mangu, a green plantain mash topped with red onions and vinegar, as soon as they get to Miami.

“That food can’t be missing,” Nelson laughed. “We just want everyone to be as comfortable as they can. At the end of the day, we want them to feel comfortable so all the players can go out and give it their best.”


Aside from food, the Dominican team is preparing to play in front of a raucous crowd. The fans in attendance will have trumpets and drums ready to play music throughout the game. Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman said playing against the Dominican team in the 2017 WBC was a memory that sticks out to him about the tournament. The same goes for Machado, who experienced wearing the Dominican uniform for the first time six years ago.

“It’s an awesome event and we get to enjoy that type of atmosphere with our people,” said Machado. “It’s just a great experience and it’s really hard to even put into words.”

Starting with this year’s Classic, the show will be taken to a whole new level. Nelson Cruz and the Federación Dominicana de Beisbol made a deal with Josell Hernández, an in-game performer for Licey in the Dominican Winter League.

“He’s the best in the Caribbean and he would easily compete with any in-game person in the big leagues,” Cruz said.

Hernández just completed his second season with Licey and has caught the attention of many people with his performances, which often include props and costumes. Hernández will be at every Dominican game in the Classic with a band behind him.

Josell Hernández (L) and Nelson Cruz. (via Cruz's Instagram)

“My goal from all of this is to show everybody in attendance about Dominican culture,” Hernández told in Spanish. “What we’re about, what our music is and just everything we have to offer.”

The goal for the Dominican Republic over the next 10 days is to bring a second title back to the island, after they won the Classic in 2013. Manager Rodney Linares believes his squad has all the tools. On their way to accomplishing that, however, this team expects to dance after each hit, feed off the crowd and eat delicious food.

It’s what Plátano Power is all about.