Spring training road trip: Rays' Chris Archer thrilled to represent 'what America's about'

Chris Archer pitched in the U.S.'s opening game in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He tells Sporting News why he cherished the opportunity to be part of the squad.

Sporting News baseball writer Ryan Fagan is on an eight-day, 11-game, 15-team road trip through Florida’s spring training sites. He’s updating a daily quick-hit bloghereand filing longer pieces — like this one — on a regular basis.

SARASOTA, Fla. — Chris Archer made a start Wednesday evening, though it probably wasn’t the game he really wanted to start.

Instead of letting him travel to Los Angeles with Team USA in the World Baseball Classic this week, the Rays kept their All-Star right-hander in spring training camp to keep him on track to start opening day for the Tampa Bay franchise. So Archer started for the Rays on the road against the Orioles, at Ed Smith Stadium, in front of a much smaller crowd.

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His 5 2/3-inning stint ended about an hour before the first pitch of the championship game of the WBC.

You know he was watching that game — Marcus Stroman got the start for Team USA — both on his way home and when he arrived.

Even though Archer only made the one start for Team USA — he threw four hitless, walkless innings against Colombia in the Americans' first game, on March 10 — he has talked often since about how much he enjoyed the experience. It was one of his most fun baseball experiences ever.

After his start against the Orioles on Wednesday, I asked him what it was about the WBC experience that he enjoyed so much.

“Coming together and doing something that’s bigger than just you. You’re representing a lot,” he told me. “You’re representing what America’s about, with the diversity. You look on the team and there’s Puerto Rican-American guys, there’s black American guys, there’s Cuban-American guys. That’s very unique, because other countries are usually one-dimensional when it comes to ethnicity. So, just representing what we’re all about, and representing the Rays’ organization, representing my family and representing myself. It was just special on all those accounts.”

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That was refreshing to hear.

Earlier in the day, of course, Ian Kinsler’s comments about “the right way to play” debate stirred up even more controversy, in part because he specifically referenced the Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic teams showing emotion on the field. More on that here, with updated clarifying comments from Kinsler. Archer chimed in on Kinsler on Twitter a couple hours after his start.

Anyway, the lesson, as always, is this: Archer is a breath of fresh air.

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