BOSTON – The Dominican Republic might well be the most baseball-mad nation on Earth, the reigning champion of the World Baseball Classic. About 10 million people live there.
Texarkana, Texas, is a town of 37,000, tucked into the extreme northeast corner of the state, across the border from Texarkana, Ark.
The Dominican Republic is expected to have two players in the World Series. So is Texarkana, Texas.
“It’s just kind of a miracle,” Texarkana Mayor Bob Bruggeman said Monday.
The St. Louis Cardinals have pitcher Michael Wacha. The Boston Red Sox have third baseman Will Middlebrooks.
“Texarkana is going crazy,” Wacha said. “They’re all saying, ‘We’ve got a World Series ring coming back here no matter what.’ Hopefully it’s a Cardinal one.”
Texarkana is 175 miles east of Dallas and 500 miles southwest of St. Louis. Middlebrooks said he has heard from friends back home that plan to make the eight-hour drive to St. Louis for the middle three games of the series.
Middlebrooks said he expected to visit with Wacha here Monday or Tuesday night. Wacha won National League Championship Series most-valuable-player honors by shutting out the Dodgers for 13-2/3 innings, but Middlebrooks remembered him as a lanky kid with an 86-mph fastball.
“He wasn’t the pitcher he is now,” Middlebrooks said. “He was a tall, skinny, long-armed guy.”
Middlebrooks said he and Wacha would get together for dinner back home, though he declined to say whether the bill would be paid by the guy who played for the losing team in the World Series.
Bruggeman said he knows both players because he is a longtime high school baseball umpire, in a town with three high schools. The mayor said he anticipated the town would stage some sort of celebration when Middlebrooks and Wacha return to their hometown.
“This is a big deal,” Bruggeman said. “This may be a once-in-a-lifetime-type scenario.”