By Larry Fine
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Dominican Republic players were on top of the baseball world on Tuesday after capping a perfect run at the World Baseball Classic to raise the champions' trophy.
The Dominicans swept through baseball's top international competition with an 8-0 record, their 3-0 victory over Puerto Rico on Tuesday handing them the title and bringing a phone call from the Caribbean nation's president.
"He just wanted to say congratulations for the hell of a job that we did," said shortstop Jose Reyes, who doubled and tripled in their victory.
"This win is all about the Dominican Republic. They were hungry waiting for this moment and we did it. We gave everything that we have and we left it all on the field."
Back in the Dominican Republic, tens of thousands of fans gathered outside Quisqueya Stadium in Santo Domingo to watch the WBC action on giant screens.
The victory will have gone a long way to erasing bitter memories of their first-round exit at the 2009 Classic.
"In the DR, we are one of the countries which produces the greatest number of baseball players," manager Tony Pena said. "I had had enough of that shame of not having a trophy like this.
"Thank God this group of men was able to accomplish what we wanted, which is to put our country at the top in terms of baseball. And I think this trophy says it all for the DR."
Second baseman Robinson Cano, who was on the New York Yankees' 2009 World Series championship team, was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament and said the WBC triumph would live long in the players' memories.
"This is always going to be in our hearts for the rest of our lives," he said. "Every one of us who's played in this game will always remember the World Classic. This is such a thrill."
The Dominican Republic, which accounted for about 10 percent of all major leaguers last season, had 20 MLB players on their WBC roster including a slew of All Stars.
"Having taken the DR's name and shown the world what we're capable of and having won ... I'll never forget this," said Reyes, who plays for the Toronto Blue Jays. "This is one of the greatest moments of my career and my life."
Striking a fun-loving note was closer Fernando Rodney, who has taken to brandishing a "lucky" plantain sent to him from home, the banana being one of the popular staples of the Dominican diet.
"It goes back to the plantain. That's how we developed. It's where we eat the most plantains and we produce the greatest number of ball players," he said.
"And this is the greatest gift we could give to our country. This trophy."
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)