March 8th: Puerto Rico @ Boston Red Sox, Lee County, Florida
All 20 countries will start with exhibition tune-up games against non-tournament opponents. Though this matchup between Puerto Rico and the Red Sox will not count towards crowning the eventual WBC champion, it has plenty of intrigue for Red Sox fans.
It is no secret that Red Sox manager Alex Cora takes great pride in being from Puerto Rico. When he was hired, he was just the fourth Puerto Rican to be named a Major League Baseball manager. He often speaks of the importance of his heritage and is an advocate for baseball in the country. When an earthquake devastated the island, Cora led a relief trip to his hometown of Caguas. Next week, he will get to coach against his home country in this exhibition game and this matchup will carry much pride for him.
Team Puerto Rico also includes Red Sox infielders Kiké Hernández and Edwin Díaz. Hernández is coming off a busy offseason where he has embraced a leadership role with the team. On the field, Hernández is transitioning from playing centerfield to shortstop. Red Sox fans may get to see a different look to Hernández besides the position change. There are reports (see below) that team Puerto Rico will be "going blonde for the tournament".