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“You have to represent your team,” Gonzalez said. “You see all the news about King Felix not playing for Venezuela and the whole country changes, they get upset that you’re not going to play for your country. They think it’s all about the money but, you know what, we’ve been working since we were 16 years old and we came from Venezuela to represent. Especially King Felix, he’s been playing since he was 16 with Seattle. He’s a franchise player who was about to sign the biggest contract. It’s crazy how people feel bad about it. He has to think about his future, he has to think about his family. I think made the right choice.”

The inaugural 2006 Classic featured a pool-play format, while 2009 was double-elimination _ and this one will be a combination of both. The first round will be pool play, with the top two teams advancing. The second round is double-elimination, and the top two teams will reach the semifinals.

The Americans will play their round-robin games at the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Chase Field in Phoenix.

“I’m not sure that our players weren’t excited,” Torre said of the previous two WBC tournaments. “The guys who have played this before were excited to get back to it. I think it’s still something to get a little used to. Let’s admit it, you play the USA team, MLB, even though there are a number of MLB players obviously playing for other countries, it’s like putting on your Sunday best, you know, `We’re excited because we have a chance to beat them at their own game’ so to speak.”

Semifinals will be played March 17-18, with the championship March 19 in the Giants’ waterfront ballpark.

That’s where Sandoval cleared the fences three times in a Game 1 World Series win against the Tigers.

The guy known as Kung Fu Panda hopes to find his groove again for his country.

“I’m trying to get the Triple Crown,” Sandoval said of the World Series, Venezuelan championship and World Baseball Classic.

Even if it does mean he gets hit by Vogelsong along the way.

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AP Sports Writer Bob Baum contributed to this story.

WATCH FOR:

_Animated crowds so different than the regular MLB supporters, complete with instruments, patriotic chants, face paint and flags. More than 1.5 million fans have attended games in first two WBC tournaments.

_This year’s field went from 16 in previous two events to 28 countries that had a chance to qualify. The top 12 nations from the last WBC were already in, then the other four determined from 28 teams through qualifying. The WBC winner will be named world champion for the first time.

_It’s now a six-game, modified double-elimination format. The inaugural 2006 Classic featured a pool-play format, while 2009 was double-elimination _ and this one will be a combination of both. The first round will be pool play, with the top two teams advancing. The second round is double-elimination, and the top two teams will reach the semifinals.

Story Continues →