Thirty-two countries. One winner.
The field of 32 is set.
Growing up in the mountains of Venezuela, Johan Santana has always been just as much of a fan of soccer as baseball. So Santana jumped at the opportunity to start a 2010 World Cup pool in the Mets clubhouse.
At Santana’s behest, group of 32 Mets players, coaches and personnel picked their teams out of a hat. A clubhouse attendant then ordered miniature flags of each country for the players to post on their lockers.
Some of the selections were apt. Ryota Igarashi, for example, drew his home country of Japan. Others were random. Angel Pagan selected Serbia — an unfortunate draw despite the country’s status as a dark horse.
“They’re actually pretty good,” said Pagan, a Puerto Rican native wearing his newfound Serbian pride on his sleeve.
Jose Reyes did even worse, selecting New Zealand — one of the biggest underdogs in the entire World Cup.
“I’m confident in my team, man,” Reyes said. Then he burst out laughing.
Nearly all of Reyes’ teammates enjoyed better draws. David Wright, for example, drew perennial Cup favorite Brazil. Jason Bay selected France, Luis Castillo landed Argentina and a couple of rookies, Jenrry Mejia and Ike Davis, managed to pull popular picks England and Spain out of the hat.
And then there was Santana. The pool’s organizer, Santana somehow managed to select defending World Cup champion Italy. Suspicious, anyone? But with his native Venezuela not in the field of 32, Santana still plans to root for the various other teams on his home continent of South America.
“It’s fun to watch,” he said. “The whole world watches it.”
Here’s the list of all the players involved, and their draws:
Jason Bay: France
Henry Blanco: Algeria
Luis Castillo: Argentina
Alex Cora: USA
Ike Davis: Spain
Elmer Dessens: Netherlands
Pedro Feliciano: Mexico
Jeff Francoeur: Denmark
Ryota Igarashi: Japan
John Maine: Ivory Coast
Jenrry Mejia: England
Jon Niese: Paraguay
Fernando Nieve: Nigeria
Angel Pagan: Serbia
Mike Pelfrey: Uruguay
Jose Reyes: New Zealand
Johan Santana: Italy
Frankie Rodriguez: Greece
Hisanori Takahashi: Honduras
Fernando Tatis: Ghana
David Wright: Brazil
—–Follow along on Twitter @anthonydicomo.