Maybe it was because they were humiliated in the first round last time, or because they all come from the same place, or a combination of both. Whatever the reason, Angels shortstop Erick Aybar and first-base coach Alfredo Griffin experienced an uncommon, team-wide unity while suiting up for the Dominican Republic during its championship run in the World Baseball Classic.

"It was everybody, united, since we got to the first game in Florida [for exhibitions]," said Aybar, who finished his first Classic 7-for-21 with one very big hit. "It was everybody together, talking, hanging out together. There were no cliques. It was just one big group that got along very well."

On the very first flight, from the exhibition games in Tampa, Fla., to San Juan, Puerto Rico, home of first-round play in Pool C, the Dominicans were as one. On that charter, Giants reliever Santiago Casilla huddled up the entire team in the back of the plane to read scripture, starting a trend that had him doing that for all 24 other players throughout the tournament and perhaps indirectly setting the tone for an eventual 8-0 run.

"That's the first time I've ever seen that happen, that all the guys accept one player to lead them in prayer the entire time," Griffin, who has served as a coach in all three Classic events, said in Spanish.

"Twenty-five players became one. Amazing."

That was most evident, at least publicly, during the boisterous celebration the Dominicans staged in the later stages of their 3-1 victory over Team USA at Marlins Park on March 14. The jubilance was sparked mainly by Aybar, who notched the pinch-hit, game-winning single in the top of the ninth against Craig Kimbrel.

"[Manager] Tony Pena told me, 'Get ready, because you could get a good opportunity here,'" Aybar said in Spanish. "And it came."