Rodriguez did speak about the adrenaline rush of pitching with "Venezuela" across his jersey. "I feel that right now," he said, "I'm at another level, to wear the Venezuela jersey. It's totally different."
But K-Rod also emphasized that the ankle injury that nagged him last season no longer is an issue. Said Rodriguez when asked about the improved velocity, "This year I feel healthy. I don't have the ankle problem I had last year. I feel totally different. I feel 100 percent healthy. So it's not because I am playing against the U.S. It's because I worked so hard in the winter to make sure I get back to where I should be."
Rodriguez even showed a sense of humor in front of reporters. When asked if he was glad at the moment he was not Dominican, a reference to the Dominican Republic's crushing 2-1 defeat to the Netherlands, Rodriguez replied, "Trust me, a lot of players don't want to be Dominican right now because of that game."
Johnson, then 60, agreed to run the team and immediately flew to Europe.
"The next day, his son died," Johnson said, "and I attended the funeral. It was a very traumatic time to go over there. ... We ended up qualifying for the Olympics."
Eenhoorn returned to manage the team in the Olympics. Johnson served as his bench coach. It was the start of a new chapter in Johnson's life. The experience ignited what has been a successful international managing career for Johnson, who went on to manage the U.S. team at the 2005 World Cup (in the Netherlands), the 2007 World Cup (where it won the gold medal) and the 2008 Olympics (bronze).
"I love baseball," Johnson said, reflecting on how the Netherlands gave him a second act to his baseball managing career, "and it brought back a lot of good memories."
Johnson could see many of his former Dutch players in the Round 2 pool in Miami.