Secret behind Puerto Rico’s WBC success? Blonds having fun

A report by Jim Caple for ESPN.

It’s not as if Brad Pitt, Chris Hemsworth or Robert Redford are on the roster, but there is a lot of blond hair in the Puerto Rico dugout.While the Dominican Republic has excelled in the past two World Baseball Classics with the help of “Plantain Power,” Puerto Rico has boosted its own performance this tournament with Blond Bonding. The players have done so by dyeing their hair blond, a move that has also caught on with many of their fans.

“What started as a joke has become a national thing,” Puerto Rico’s Enrique Hernandez said. “There is a big part of the island dyeing their hair, believe it or not. One of my mom’s good friend’s sister went to the pharmacy to dye her hair but there was no hair color or bleach to be found in the pharmacy. That tells you how much everybody is believing in this.

“For us, it started as a joke to show how much we are committed to each other. Now, the whole island doing it means a lot. And we can definitely feel the spirit they’re showing.”

Puerto Rico infielders Javier Baez and Francisco Lindor had dyed their hair blond before the WBC. After catcher Yadier Molina saw their hair when the team gathered in Arizona to train for the tournament, he encouraged everyone to dye theirs as well. Pretty soon, just about everyone did.

“I think it’s awesome. It shows the unity we have as a team,” infielder Mike Aviles said. “It wasn’t something we did just to do, it was like, ‘We’re going to do something together for brotherhood.’ … When you have a team like that, it shows the solidarity with everybody. It shows that unity, that brotherhood, and that’s what we’re all about.

“It’s to the point where people in Puerto Rico, in Little League and things like that, they’re dyeing their hair because they want to show, ‘We’re with you guys. We can’t be there but we’re with you guys.’ It just shows how a small little island can come together and do something big.”

Some players dyed all their hair blond along with their beards, while others just did certain areas. The dyed hair looks good on some players, but it makes Carlos Beltran look so much older than his 39 years that he has been called Santa Claus. “As long as Santa Claus continues to hit, I’m OK with that,” Beltran said.

Hernandez said how the dye looks doesn’t matter.

“It is what it is. We’re not going for looks,” he said. “This is a team thing. So who cares if we look good or not? We’re just trying to win some ballgames.”

And they have. Puerto Rico has won all six games it has played in this WBC so far, advancing to the championship round in Los Angeles this week.

Asked whether he would dye his hair if Puerto Rico wins the WBC, manager Edwin Rodriguez said he would do so before then.

“I have to do it,” he said. “There’s so much pressure from the players, I have to do it.”

The issue for Rodriguez is that he doesn’t have any hair on his head. But perhaps he can find an alternative, as coach Carlos Delgado did.

“I’ve got no hair so I had to dye my goatee,” Delgado said.

The hair-dyeing wasn’t the first thing that brought the Puerto Rican team together, though. Rather, Hernandez said it was when Molina gathered everyone’s cell phone numbers during the winter and had the team communicate via WhatsApp, a social messaging app.

“We all started chatting and sending jokes and making fun of each other. Because that’s what we do in Puerto Rico,” Hernandez said. “Not all of us knew each other, but when we got to Phoenix [for training] we felt like we all knew each other for our whole lives.

“We’re not just playing good baseball because we’re a good team. We’re playing well because we all get along and have a real chemistry.”

Hernandez said that he might retouch his hair for Opening Day if he makes the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ roster, though he said he will not add any blue to the coloring.

So what can other countries’ players do with their hair to improve their competitive odds?

“That’s a good question,” Aviles said. “They can’t do blond because that’s what we’ve got. They’ll have to come up with something different. But it’s definitely fun and cool.”

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