TEMPE, Ariz. -- Erick Aybar spends entire offseasons in his native Dominican Republic, has frequently played in their winter ball leagues and had always wanted to represent his native country in the World Baseball Classic.
So this offseason, when the Dominican team's general manager Moises Alou called him about taking part in the 2013 event, the Angels shortstop hardly even thought twice about it.
"Representing your country, and to be placed on the roster to represent your country, is an incredible honor," Aybar said in Spanish. "… It's a great honor to play with all the stars in the World Baseball Classic, and I think it's very important for a player to do that."
Aybar is the only Angels player taking part in the Classic, which means he'll probably be the only regular getting some playing time in the first week of Cactus League games, which start Feb. 23. In the first week of March, he'll head to San Juan, Puerto Rico, site of Hiram Bithorn Stadium, which is also hosting Venezuela, Spain and Puerto Rico as part of Pool C.
The championship game is March 19 at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
The Dominican team, as expected, is stacked, with the likes of Adrian Beltre, Melky Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Edwin Encarnacion, Alexi Ogando, Fernando Rodney and Edinson Volquez all listed on the provisional roster. Jose Reyes is the starting shortstop, so Aybar will serve primarily as a back-up.
"There are a lot of great players in the Dominican," Aybar said. "I think with the team that we have, we have a good chance to get to the finals."