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Colombia celebrates as native son wins World Series MVP

BOGOTA, Colombia — Venezuela and the Dominican Republic are crazy for beisbol, as the game is called in Spanish, and their baseball academies have sent legions of players to the U.S. major leagues. But the game has never really registered in Colombia where soccer is king.

Today, however, the front pages of Colombian newspapers are dominated by news of the Great American Past Time and, more specifically, the contributions of native son Edgar Renteria.

One of just eight Colombians in the American big leagues, Renteria hit a three-run homer Monday night to lift the San Francisco Giants to the World Series title. He also took home the Most Valuable Player trophy.

It’s the second time Renteria has come through with a clutch World Series hit and the second time he’s been named series MVP. Playing for the Florida Marlins in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series, he smacked a run-scoring 11th-inning single to give his team the title. His bat from that game now rests in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

With Monday’s blast into the left-field seats at Rangers Ballpark, Renteria joins such rarified company as Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Yogi Berra as the only players who have had the winning hits in two clinching World Series games.

“Let the names sit on your tongue for a minute, then contemplate how perfectly improbable it is,” wrote Jeff Blair in the Toronto Globe and Mail.

Indeed, Renteria grew up in on the wrong side of the tracks in Barranquilla, a Colombian port city on the Atlantic coast. Baseball was his ticket out of the slums and he was later dubbed "El Niño de Barranquilla," or the Barranquilla Kid, for his boyish looks.

Renteria didn’t feel so young earlier this year. Injuries kept the 35-year-old shortstop on the disabled list for large chunks of the season and he often contemplated retirement. But he was included on the Giants’ post-season roster due to his big-game experience.

And now, for the second time in 13 years, Renteria’s timely hitting set off celebrations in his hometown where his mother, Visitacion Herazo, exclaimed: “Thank God!” and the neighbors broke out the whisky.