By Bob Nightengale
They gathered together for the first time two weeks ago, unsure what to expect in the World Baseball Classic, with a sense of insecurity that they even made the right choice to play in this international tournament.
Now, here they are after defeating Japan, 2-1, on Tuesday night, going where no USA team before them has ever gone before.
For the first time since this tournament started 11 years ago, Team USA is playing for the championship, facing Puerto Rico at 9 p.m. ET on Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium.
It might seem like a glorified exhibition game to most of America, but for the USA team, it means more than anyone could have possibly envisioned when they began this journey.
“Besides making my first All-Star Game, which was in Minnesota where I grew up,’’ said USA reliever Pat Neshek, who got the biggest out of the game Tuesday, “this is the best thing I’ve done. Nothing can beat this.
“You know, I’ve never been a prospect. Nobody really ever considered me for a Team USA. You get here, and you see these other teams, and how much fun they have. It pumps you up.