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Classic first-pitch honors have Giant influence

Classic first-pitch honors have Giant influence

SAN FRANCISCO -- AT&T Park is considered a neutral site for the four teams participating in the World Baseball Classic, but that doesn't mean the team that usually resides here -- the San Francisco Giants -- doesn't have a strong presence.

Consider, for instance, who is slated to throw out ceremonial first pitches before the semifinal game on Monday between the Dominican Republic and the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The honorees are affiliated with the teams that will be playing, but they also have, unsurprisingly, San Francisco ties.

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Felipe Alou, who managed the D.R. in the 2009 Classic, and Hensley Meulens, the manager for the Dutch club, will assume first-pitch honors. Alou starred for the Giants during a 17-year career, while Meulens serves as the Giants' hitting coach.

Alou, a three-time All-Star, was a member of the original Giants in 1958. Following his playing career, he stepped into managing, becoming the first Dominican-born manager in Major League history when he was hired by the Expos in '92. After leading the Expos to the best record in a strike-shortened '94 campaign, he was named National League Manager of the Year. Alou currently serves as a special assistant to Giants general manager Brian Sabean.

Meulens, nicknamed "Bam Bam," has been a part of the Giants' World Series championship clubs in 2010 and '12. He holds the distinction as being the first Curacao-born player to reach the Majors, having played for the Yankees for parts of five seasons from '89-93.

Fluent in five languages, Meulens also played three seasons in Japan from '94-'96, and returned to the Majors to play for the Expos in in '97 and the D-backs in '98.

The Classic has no shortage of pomp and circumstance surrounding its ceremonial first pitches. Japanese legends Sadaharu Oh and Tatsunori Hara, both previous Classic managers, were given the honor before Sunday's game between Japan and Puerto Rico. The two were to be welcomed onto the field by Hall of Famer and Giants legend Orlando Cepeda.

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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