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Arenado might be World Baseball Classic's biggest fan

Team USA third baseman's family has watched event closely since 2006
MLB.com

Nolan Arenado fell in love with the World Baseball Classic early. Now, he finally gets to play in it.

The tournament had everything to pique a young Arenado's interest. It had baseball -- which he was rabid about -- and countries representing everything he identified with. Arenado, who is American, was born to a Puerto Rican mother and a Cuban father. When Cuba made the inaugural final against Japan in 2006, it was a big deal in the Arenado house. Nolan was just 14 at the time.

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Nolan Arenado fell in love with the World Baseball Classic early. Now, he finally gets to play in it.

The tournament had everything to pique a young Arenado's interest. It had baseball -- which he was rabid about -- and countries representing everything he identified with. Arenado, who is American, was born to a Puerto Rican mother and a Cuban father. When Cuba made the inaugural final against Japan in 2006, it was a big deal in the Arenado house. Nolan was just 14 at the time.

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They threw what Arenado now calls "basically like a Super Bowl party" at their house in Southern California for the final, which Japan won, 10-6.

:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::

"There were Cuban cigars being smoked out in the backyard, and lots of homemade Cuban food," Arenado writes in a recent piece for The Players' Tribune. "The party vibe died down in a hurry, and I just remember a couple of my family members being really sad. It was like their team had lost the World Series. This meant something to them. It was important. They took it hard."

Arenado, the Rockies' perennial National League MVP Award candidate, details this memory and more in an article entitled, "Why The World Baseball Classic is Awesome," published Thursday -- a day before Arenado and Team USA begin pool play against Colombia at Marlins Park in Miami (6 p.m. ET, live on MLB.TV and MLB Network).

Arenado is amped up about representing his country for the first time, and he will play a major role for an American squad looking to advance past the second round for the first time in their World Baseball Classic history.

Video: Team USA is getting ready for the Classic

Arenado has led the NL in home runs, RBIs and total bases while winning Gold Glove Awards and Silver Slugger Awards at third base in each of the past two seasons. He'll anchor an infield that includes fellow All-Stars Brandon Crawford, Ian Kinsler, Daniel Murphy, Eric Hosmer and Paul Goldschmidt.

"This is going to be a blast," Arenado said. "And I plan to enjoy every minute of it. This tournament is going to be special for me."

Arenado is most excited about representing his country, but he's also looking forward to playing alongside regular-season rivals like Crawford and Buster Posey.

Video: USA@MIN: Crawford starts a nice 6-4-3 double play

"They're still on the Giants. And, as a Colorado Rockie through and through, I still don't like the Giants at all. But now those dudes are my brothers," Arenado wrote. "Welcome to the 2017 World Baseball Classic."

For Arenado, loving the Classic was easy from the start.

"My dad was born in Cuba, and my mother's family is Puerto Rican," he wrote. "But my parents are both extremely proud to be American citizens, and they raised me to take pride in being from this country. I grew up in Southern California, not too far from Dodger Stadium. And my entire family loves baseball."

In a lot of ways, Arenado has been waiting more than a decade for this moment.

"I'm taking this super seriously," he said. "And I know for a fact that my teammates are, too. Baseball is our national pastime, and the U.S. has never won this tournament. That's gotta change, and we're going to do all we can to make it happen."

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.

United States, Colorado Rockies, Nolan Arenado