Pablo Sandoval leads team to title
CARACAS, Venezuela -- Just three months after becoming the first Venezuelan to win the World Series MVP award, Pablo Sandoval is celebrating a new feat -- the championship win of his team in Venezuela's professional league.
The 26-year-old slugger helped lead his team, the Navegantes del Magallanes, to an 11-9 win on Wednesday night in the final game of the championship series over the Cardenales.
Sandoval hit one home run and two doubles, and had two RBIs. He was selected most valuable player for the series, and his team won its first title since 2002 in the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League.
Sandoval said afterward while celebrating that it was an experience to remember, right up there with October's World Series win with the San Francisco Giants.
"There's nothing like being champion here in Venezuela with the Navegantes. Although it can't be compared with winning the World Series, because they're different things. But it's very special to be champion here," Sandoval told reporters.
Sandoval batted .300 with three home runs and nine RBIs in the series. Sandoval's team will go on to represent Venezuela in the upcoming Caribbean Series in Hermosillo, Mexico.
He said it had been worth the effort of securing permission from the Giants to play in Venezuela. Sandoval and other major leaguers often come home to play in the offseason, even though their better-paying U.S. teams frequently discourage it because of the chance of injury.
Sandoval said the Navegantes' loss in 2010 in the championship had been like a "little thorn" irritating him for the past three years. In that series, Sandoval didn't want to miss the seventh and decisive game, and he flew in at the last minute, rushing by helicopter from Caracas to the city of Valencia. He got a hit, but his team still lost 7-2 to the rival Caracas Leones.
"This time I did everything I could so that the Giants would let me play, to take this team to the title. It's a dream come true," Sandoval said. "Being champions with the Magallanes and with the Giants the same year is something very special. I feel very happy to have contributed and to have been selected as MVP."
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press
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