Tellez looks forward to Team Mexico 'winning it all'

March 8th, 2023

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- is already picturing what a celebration could look like.

The Brewers' first baseman was split between two options: joining Team Israel or Team Mexico for the World Baseball Classic. He qualifies to compete for either team, based on his parents’ roots, but he decided to honor his paternal side -- something he’s envisioned since the last time this tournament was held in 2017. Finally, he had his chance and put the uniform on for the first time in Team Mexico’s 6-0 loss in an exhibition game against the Guardians on Wednesday at Goodyear Ballpark.

“It’s really humbling,” Tellez said. “My family’s from Mexico, so it’s really nice to be able to represent the country that they’re from and where they grew up. … We got a really good team and we’re gonna make a push deep into the Classic.”

So much of the focus during this event can go toward rosters loaded with Major League Baseball’s biggest stars like Team USA, the Dominican Republic or Japan. That can unintentionally cause clubs like Mexico to fall under the radar.

Tellez is ready for his group to prove that’s a mistake. How? With the youth of Mexico’s roster -- a strategy that served Mexico’s first opponent, Cleveland, well in 2022.

“We’re very underrated,” Tellez said. “We’re super young. If I’m one of the oldest position players we have in terms of playing in the big leagues, it’s a little different.”

In both age and experience, somehow Tellez seems like an elder statesman of Mexico’s position players. He’ll turn 28 next week. Only three position players on the roster were born before 1995. And as the Guardians showed the baseball world last year, age is but a number. When a team is young, the narrative shifts to focus on the downfalls that could come with inexperience. Yet, the Guardians demonstrated that it can be a benefit.

Mexico is ready to do the same in the Classic, and started to give a glimpse of what it can bring to the table during Wednesday’s exhibition matchup.

Tellez led the way with two agile diving catches toward the first-base line to rob Steven Kwan and Josh Naylor of base hits in the first inning. In the fourth, center fielder  (just 22 years old), showed off his athleticism by leaping for an Oscar Gonzalez line drive in the right-center-field gap and making the grab as he tumbled on the ground. Maybe Mexico’s pitching wasn’t as sharp as it would’ve hoped, but the team hasn’t entered the tournament yet and the defense showed it could be entertaining to watch.

“We’re a scrappy team that’s gonna put together good at-bats and have fun,” Tellez said. “I think that’s what a lot of people don’t realize. We are young, but we have a lot of experience in the same way.”

Tellez is confident he put himself in a spot for success, all while honoring his grandfather along the way. His grandfather passed away in the 1970s, long before the two had a chance to meet. But Tellez has learned of the history, knowing his grandfather played baseball in Mexico and eventually in Colorado for the Greeley Grays, founded by migrant farmers.

“My dad and his siblings are all excited for me to be a part of this, get to be a part of something that they really never could be a part of,” Tellez said. “I get to represent a country and get to represent my family, so it’s gonna be really special for all of us.”

It didn’t seem like it took much to twist Tellez’s arm to have him commit to Team Mexico, but it certainly didn’t hurt that Milwaukee teammate  was going to be on the same roster.

“It’s way easier to have a teammate with you,” Tellez said. “I mean, you play against a lot of these guys coming up and in the big leagues. But baseball is one of those tight-knit groups, so everywhere you go, no matter what, you’re friends.”

And of course, it all came back to his grandfather.

“As much as I wish he could see me, even my grandma,” Tellez said, “it is really special to play for their country.”

The tournament is just days away. Mexico will play its first game on Saturday against Colombia. So, what’s Tellez most looking forward to?

“Winning it all,” Tellez said with a grin. “Maybe go back to Mexico City and celebrate.”