Many Major Leaguers who represented their respective countries in the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006 have since hung up their cleats, but a select few have not only played in all three tournaments -- '06, '09 and '13 -- they'll be back for a fourth in 2017.A few were
Many Major Leaguers who represented their respective countries in the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006 have since hung up their cleats, but a select few have not only played in all three tournaments -- '06, '09 and '13 -- they'll be back for a fourth in 2017.
A few were already star big leaguers before the first WBC began and others had yet to break out, but by the time the next two tournaments rolled around, they'd made their names in the Majors.
• World Baseball Classic schedule, tickets
Before the 2017 WBC begins at stadiums around the world in March, MLB.com looks at some of the biggest names who will likely be playing in their fourth Classic.
:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::
Jose Cabrera, OF/1B, Venezuela
WBC stats: 17 G, .270 BA (17-for-63), 5 HR, 5 2B, 12 RBI, 11 R
When he played in the first Classic, Miggy was already a Major League star with the Marlins despite not even having turned 23. In his first WBC game, hitting cleanup for Venezuela, he went 2-for-3 with a home run against the Dominican Republic. In his next game, against Italy, he went 2-for-4 and homered again. He had his fair share of big games in 2009, too, when Venezuela made the semifinals. In the second round, Cabrera homered against the Netherlands and went 3-for-5 with a double and two RBIs in a win over the U.S. As the 2013 WBC began, he was coming off his first MVP Award and a Triple Crown season. But Venezuela couldn't make it out of pool play, although Miggy did go 3-for-5 with a home run and three RBIs in the team's lone win. Cabrera's five WBC homers are tied for the second most in the tournament; he can add to that total when Venezuela opens pool play against host Mexico, Italy and Puerto Rico in March.
They said it: "It makes me proud a lot, because it's the only time we can put Venezuela on the front, so we're very proud to represent Venezuela," Cabrera told the Detroit Free Press this July. "Hopefully, we can do a good job so hopefully we can win."
Carlos Beltran, OF/DH, Puerto Rico
WBC stats: 21 G, .274 BA (20-for-73), 3 HR, 6 2B, 9 RBI, 13 R, 15 BB, 4 SB
Beltran, 28 and in his prime in 2006, helped Puerto Rico sweep through World Baseball Classic pool play, going 3-for-5 with a homer against the Netherlands and launching a three-run shot against Cuba before his team was eliminated in the second round. In 2009, although Puerto Rico again fell short of the semifinals, Beltran went 3-for-3 with a homer, two RBIs, three runs and a stolen base in a second-round win over the U.S. The 2013 WBC was Beltran's worst at the plate, but he did tie for the tournament lead with four doubles as Puerto Rico advanced to the finals, and he went 1-for-3 with a walk in a win over Japan in the semis. The 39-year-old, who has the most lifetime appearances for Puerto Rico, will be back for one more go in 2017.
They said it: "As Puerto Ricans, we have gone through tough times, but at the end the day, the game of baseball brings a lot of joy to our fans and to our countries," Beltran said during MLB's goodwill tour in Puerto Rico in December.
Yadier Molina, C, Puerto Rico
WBC stats: 14 G, .289 BA (11-for-38), 1 2B, 3 RBI, 3 R
Molina was a light-hitting 23-year-old entering his second full MLB season when he joined Puerto Rico for the inaugural WBC. He backed up Ivan Rodriguez, going 3-for-5. (Later that year, Molina's Cardinals beat Pudge's Tigers in the World Series.) In 2009, Molina, who had just won his first Gold Glove Award, split catching duties with Rodriguez and Geovany Soto. His lone hit was a game-winning two-run double against the Netherlands. Molina took over as Puerto Rico's starting catcher and cleanup hitter in 2013 following his fourth straight All-Star season and a fourth-place MVP finish. He made the All-Tournament Team after leading a young pitching staff to the finals; he will look to take his country one step further in 2017.
They said it: "When you're playing for the World Series, it's a big thing. But when you're playing for your country, that's a big thing, too," Molina told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in August. "In that tournament, you've got to be ready from the first pitch."
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Mexico
WBC stats: 14 G, .267 BA (12-for-45), 3 HR, 3 2B, 12 RBI, 9 R, 12 BB
Gonzalez had played only 59 Major League games when he debuted in the 2006 WBC at age 23, and he scuffled at the plate. But by 2009, he was an All-Star for the Padres, and he helped Mexico advance to the second round of the WBC by winning back-to-back elimination games -- including a monster game against South Africa in which he went 3-for-4 with two home runs, a double and six RBIs. Mexico was knocked out in pool play in 2013, but Gonzalez led his team to a win over the U.S., knocking a two-run homer off R.A. Dickey and drawing three walks. Mexico will host its pool in Guadalajara when the 2017 WBC begins, and if Mexico makes the championship, Gonzalez will be playing in his home park, Dodger Stadium.
They said it: "We're having fun and enjoying every moment but not losing sight of the fact that we're here to win games and represent Mexico the way it needs to be represented," Gonzalez said during the 2017 qualifiers.
Justin Morneau, 1B/DH, Canada
WBC stats: 8 G, .455 BA (15-for-33), 8 2B, 6 RBI, 8 R
Although Canada has never made it out of pool play, Morneau has done his country proud. Of players with 30-plus at-bats in the WBC, he ranks second in batting average, and his eight doubles are tied for the all-time WBC lead. In 2006, a 24-year-old Morneau helped lead Canada to an upset of the U.S., going 3-for-5 with two doubles. (He also went on to win the American League MVP Award that year.) He'll be almost 36 in March when Canada begins pool play against the U.S., Colombia and the defending champion Dominican Republic.
They said it: "I wouldn't be here if not for where I came from and the people that influenced me," Morneau said of playing for Canada in 2013. "I grew up in the junior baseball program, and we're supposed to come back and help the program that helped us start a professional career. It's an honor for me, and I'm happy to do it."
Jose Reyes, SS, Dominican Republic
WBC stats: 15 G, .260 BA (13-for-50), 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 10 R, 2 SB
Reyes was a breakout 22-year-old with the Mets in 2006, but on the Dominican Republic team, he backed up Miguel Tejada at shortstop. Reyes was an All-Star by 2009, but he split time with Hanley Ramirez. Reyes took over as starting shortstop and leadoff man in 2013 and helped lead the Dominican Republic on an undefeated run to WBC gold. He went 4-for-5 in an opening win over Venezuela, 2-for-5 with a homer in the second round against Italy and 2-for-4 with a double and triple in the championship game against Puerto Rico. Reyes, named the shortstop of the All-WBC team, is on the D.R.'s preliminary roster for 2017, although he hasn't confirmed participation.
They said it: "This is an unforgettable moment," Reyes said after winning in 2013. "Having taken the D.R.'s name and shown the world what we're capable of. ... This is one of the greatest moments of my career and my life."
David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.