VIERA, Fla. — Washington Nationals outfielder Roger Bernadina will leave the team’s camp on Feb. 24 to fly to Taiwan and join the rest of his Netherlands teammates for the World Baseball Classic.
Bernadina and Gio Gonzalez, who will play for Team USA, are the only two Nationals playing in the tournament. Second baseman Danny Espinosa intended to play for Team Mexico but decided to pull out of the tournament recently to focus on his rehab from a torn left rotator cuff. But while Gonzalez will only have to venture to Arizona for the first round, Bernadina will make the journey to Taichung, Taiwan.
The distance didn’t daunt Bernadina’s excitement whatsoever.
“I’m looking forward to playing in that tournament,” Bernadina said Monday. “Last time, I heard it was good, so I want to play myself this time.”
Bernadina, who is originally from Curacao and spends his offseasons in Amsterdam, has played for the Netherlands before, participating in the 2007 European Baseball Championships in Spain. That experience, and the idea of playing for his country, made the WBC an appealing opportunity for Bernadina.
“It is different (playing for your country),” Bernadina said. “Of course it is.”
“Of course, it’s mixed feelings,” he added. “You want to be with your team, too, but I made the decision to go there and play over there. That’s the decision that I made and I’m not looking back on it.”
Bernadina had an opportunity to play in the WBC in 2009 but opted instead to focus on the coming Nationals’ season. After putting together a strong season off the bench for the Nationals in 2012, Bernadina feels more confident about his role on the 2013 Nationals than he did four springs ago.
“At that time it was different,” he said. “I had to make the team. Now, I don’t say I don’t have to make the team now, but it’s a different situation than before. It’s something that I wanted to experience myself and see what happens.
“Nothing is guaranteed (here) but things are a little bit different. We’ll see how it goes. I made the decision that I want to play for my team…. But I have a different feeling than in years before. I know what I can do.”
The Netherlands will play on March 2, 3 and 5 in the first round of the tournament. Should the team advance to the second round, they’ll move to Tokyo, Japan to play those games. The final round will be in San Francisco at AT&T Park.