Alex Rios is a 2-time All-Star outfielder who currently plays for the Chicago White Sox. He was a hero for Team Puerto Rico on Monday when he hit a 2-run homer against Japan; those two runs proved to be the difference in the game, allowing Puerto Rico to advance to the Finals.
That's all very interesting, but it has nothing to do with the A's. You might be asking yourself why we have an interview with Alex Rios on Athletics Nation. The answer is that Yoenis Cespedes was not at Subway offering to do an interview, and Rios was. Would you rather I'd said no? That's what I thought. It's awesome that Rios made himself available for this, and I'm personally thankful for his time. Granted, he seems to have gone to what Blez describes as "The Bull Durham School of Media Training," but again, I'll take what I can get. Enjoy this brief interview with a Major League All-Star.
Hall: Hi Alex - we have the same name! I know that you were born in the U.S. but that you spent at least some of your childhood in Puerto Rico, and I was wondering if you could tell me a bit about how playing for your national or cultural pride, rather than just playing for an employer, how that experience is different.
Rios: Well, I've been living in Puerto Rico my whole life, I was just born in the United States, but playing for Puerto Rico is a great experience. The culture of Puerto Rico, it's an unbelievable culture, and when you play for representing that culture, that country, and it's playing for fans and family too...it's great, y'know, we're having a great time here.
Hall: And even better, you got to hit more or less the game-winning home run yesterday, right?
Rios: Yep...that gave us a little cushioning for our pitchers. It was actually a real well-pitched game for both sides, and it was nice that we got that win.
Hall: Playing competitive games this early in the year when you're normally doing Spring Training - I know you've done this tournament before, but how does that change your preparation and your routine for the season?
Rios: You can say that it helps you, it gets you prepared for the season mentally. I've done it a few times, like you said, and it gets you into that "being ready" mindset that you look for when the season starts, and I think you can turn at times to trying to get back that feeling when the season starts after you've done this tournament. So I believe that it's a positive thing.
Hall: And maybe get out to a little bit of a faster start because you're a little more prepared than everyone else?
Rios: Yeah, you could say that. It doesn't guarantee you that you're gonna start doing good right away, because...this tournament, the pressure is high, and sometimes you try to do so much and then you don't focus on the things you have to work on. But it's been a great experience, like I said, and you get your mindset right.
Hall: The WBC, in the past, has been a great venue for international prospects like Dice-K or Darvish or Yoenis Cespedes to make their names. Is there a relatively unknown player on Team Puerto Rico who you think could or will make it big in the Majors?
Rios: Well, we have a bunch of talented young kids that actually are either in organized baseball or independent ball. I believe that it gives them a lot of exposure, which is pretty big in these kind of events and helpful for the players.
Hall: Don't suppose you want to go out on a limb and give me one name who you think is going to make it big?
Rios: From Puerto Rico? Well, I could tell you many names. We have great talent. We have young pitchers who are doing a really good job, like (Hiram Burgos), (Jose De La Torre)...I can keep on going and never stop.
Hall: As long as you're in the Bay Area...I'm an Oakland A's fan, and I was wondering if you could tell me, as an opposing player playing a road game in Oakland, what's it like playing against Oakland versus playing in other cities and other ballparks?
Rios: I mean, when you go to Oakland and you play them, you see how excited the fans are, they're very passionate about their team, and that's something that you look for, to play in a stadium like that, and it's exciting to come here and play. San Francisco is a nice city, and that's where we usually stay when we come here to play Oakland, and so it's a very good city.
Hall: Well thank you! So, the other thing that the WBC is about is all of the different cultures colliding, and my father once told me that Puerto Rico has the tastiest coffee in the entire world. I'm wondering, in your opinion, what's the best thing about Puerto Rico that folks in the States don't know about?
Rios: There's many things, man. You're talking about coffee, and coffee is one of our biggest things. We have pretty good coffee, I guarantee you that! It can be very strong and it can be very rich and flavorful. Our country is very rich, and when you come down to Puerto Rico you can actually see it. Puerto Rico is a great country. We enjoy living down there, that's why I haven't moved.
Hall: Thank you very much Alex, I really appreciate your time. Best of luck, I'm rooting for you guys today!
Well, I did indeed root for Puerto Rico yesterday, but it didn't help - they lost the Championship Game to the Dominican Republic by the score of 3-0. Rios drew a couple of walks in the game, but Puerto Rico's impressive run fell just short of the title. Still, I don't think that many people had Puerto Rico playing in the Finals before the tournament started, so congratulations to Rios and his teammates on a fantastic 2013 WBC!
Thank you to Alex Rios for his time, and to Subway, the Official Training Restaurant of the WBC, for putting this whole event together!