MAYAGUEZ, Puerto Rico -- Three teams had a stake in the final game of round-robin play at the 2011 Caribbean Series at Isidoro Garcia Stadium on Monday.
But as is the case every year, there could be only one winner.
The Yaquis from Obregon are this year's Caribbean Series champions. The Mexican club finished with a 4-2 record to mark the first Caribbean Series title in franchise history and the first championship for the country since taking the crown in 2005 in Mazatlan, Mexico.
"To be able to win the Caribbean Series is not only important for me, but it's for the entire country of Mexico," said outfielder Justin Christian, who recently signed with the Giants. "To be able to compete and play against the Latino countries is amazing."
Christian and his teammates were in street clothes for the celebration because the Yaquis left the stadium after their 3-0 victory against Venezuela in the afternoon. Team Mexico returned in time to see the Dominican Republic's Toros del Este top Puerto Rico's Caguas club, 3-0, thus avoiding a potential tiebreaker game against Puerto Rico on Tuesday.
The fiesta on the field was one to remember. Obregon celebrated their title near the third-base line, then danced around home plate and ended up on the first-base line. The Caribbean Series championship trophy was passed to each player before eventually making its way into the hands of the loyal Mexican fans in the stands.
"It's more than what people actually realize," Christian said. "To me, it's very special."
Caguas and the Toros each finished the round robin with a 3-3 record. Neither team was overjoyed with the finish. A team from Puerto Rico has not won the round-robin since 2000. Including last year's Caribbean Series, a team from the Dominican Republic has won the Caribbean Series title 18 times since 1970 -- the most among teams in the tournament.
"Obviously, it didn't end the way we wanted it to because we thought we had a chance with our pitching," said Dominican Republic manager Dean Treanor, the skipper at Pittsburgh's Triple-A club in Indianapolis. "We just didn't score enough runs when we needed to. It's a great experience for all these guys to go through and I'll never forget this experience."
As for Venezuela, the Caribes won only two of their six games. There was a possibility that all four clubs could have finished play Monday with records of 3-3, but Mexico's victory in the matinee eliminated both Venezuela and the Dominican Republic from title contention.
"There have not been many series this close, and not every series has the opportunity to have a four-way tie on the last day," said Sadi Antonmattei, president of the Puerto Rico Professional Baseball League. "In terms of competitiveness, it's been a very close series and it was up to par."
It's been quite a run for the Yaquis. Obregon also represented Mexico in the 2008 Caribbean Series, clinching its first Mexican Pacific League title since 1981 that year, but it finished 2-4 in the round robin.
A team from Mexico has won the Caribbean Series six times since it began participating in 1970. Hermosillo, which became the first Mexican club to win the title in '76, plays host to the 2013 Caribbean Series. Next year's round robin will be held in the Dominican Republic.
"We wanted to see more fans here, but we know that Monday is a tough day," Antonmattei said. "We expected a bit more, but it's been great all series. It's been an example that not everything has to be in the metro of San Juan. We just need to keep on working here with the leagues in Puerto Rico to reestablish baseball to what it was."
Caribbean Confederation commissioner Juan Francisco Puello was pleased with the six-day event and is already looking forward to next year's tournament. He's not ready to change the format from a round-robin to a double-elimination tournament.
"We had teams that had the same record, but a tie is not a punishment," Puello said. "We have to enjoy tie records and embrace them."