Four years ago, Roger Bernadina passed up a chance to represent the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic because he wanted to focus on securing a spot on the Washington Nationals’ roster, his job security far less secure.
This season, his spot as the fourth outfielder all but assured after the best season of his career, Bernadina didn’t decline the invitation and was the first Nationals major leaguer to commit to playing in the World Baseball Classic.
“I’m excited,” he said, standing at his locker in the Viera, Fla., clubhouse on Monday, four days before position players report to spring training “I’m looking forward to playing in that tournament. Last time I heard it was good so I want to play myself this time.”
Bernadina, who is from Curaçao which is part of the kingdom of the Netherlands, represented his country in the 2007 European Baseball Championship, which his team won. He was named to the all-tournament team.
But to play for the Netherlands this time, Bernadina will have to leave Nationals camp and miss at least three weeks. He leaves for Taiwan on Feb. 24; his country’s team will play their first game there on March 2 against Korea. If the Netherlands were to advance, the second round would be in Tokyo from March 8 to 12 and the WBC semi-finals and finals from March 17 to 19 in San Francisco.
“It’s mixed feelings,” Bernadina said of missing time with his teammates. “You want to be with your team, too, but I made the decision to go there and play over there and that’s the decision that I make and I’m not looking back on it. Still, I have some mixed feelings. I want to be with my team, I still feel confidence from what happened last year, and I want to be here to support my team, too. I came here early to be here and to get myself ready for the season.”
Bernadina said playing for in the first round of the WBC would be like jumping straight into a season but he is prepared for it. On Monday, Bernadina looked as muscular and built as ever having spent his offseason in Amsterdam working with his trainer. He isn’t worried, he said, of getting injured with such intense baseball activities earlier in the year than normal.
“I prepare myself every year with my trainer,” he said. “I feel good. It doesn’t matter, today or tomorrow, mentally I’m ready for it.”