SAN FRANCISCO -- Baseball-loving Venezuelans from the Bay Area to South America celebrated Tuesday the most anticipated World Series in their long history with America's pastime.
A euphoria spread across the nation the moment countryman Marco Scutaro put his stamp on the postseason Monday night by lifting the Giants into the Fall Classic.
This is a milestone moment for a South American country that has a serious love affair with a game that has nothing to do with soccer.
"They waited for this moment," Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval said.
Sandoval and Scutaro are two of nine Venezuelans on the rosters for the 2012 World Series, which begins Wednesday at AT&T Park with San Francisco playing the Detroit Tigers.
Also on the Giants' active roster are Venezuelans Hector Sanchez, Jose Mijares and Gregor Blanco. Slugger Miguel Cabrera is joined on the Tigers by Anibal Sanchez, Avisail Garcia and Omar Infante.
"It's going to be exciting playing against players you know for a long time," Cabrera said Tuesday. "I think it's going to be extra motivation."
In a year of chest-pounding achievements for Venezuela, the latest came Monday night in the rain when Scutaro was named NLCS most valuable player. His wife held up a Venezuelan flag as he received his trophy.
"Venezuela Grows Giant," blared the headline Tuesday in the sports daily Meridiano.
"The entire country is having a party," Oscar Eduardo Izaguirre,
The South American country known for oil, chocolate and coffee has been at the forefront of the Latin American influence on Major League Baseball.
Venezuelans comprise the second largest group of foreign-born athletes in the majors after the Dominican Republic with a reported record 66 players on opening day rosters this year. And what a year it has been.
Cabrera became the first player to win the prestigious Triple Crown in 45 years. In August, the Seattle Mariners' Felix Hernandez became the first Venezuelan-born player to throw a perfect game. Also, Johan Santana became the first New York Mets pitcher to throw a no-hitter.
And Omar Vizquel, 45, concluded a four-decade career as one of the game's greatest shortstops this month.
"I don't think there is anything else people want to talk about other than baseball," said Vizquel, who played with the Giants from 2005-08. "It is just amazing to see the impact these people can bring to a game."
Cabrera gave a nod to Venezuelan trailblazers such as Vizquel. "We've got to keep going what they did -- try to open more doors," he said.
"You never can forget where you come from," Scutaro added.
American oilmen introduced baseball to Venezuela in the 1920s. Although part of South America, Venezuelans relate to Caribbean countries such as the Dominican Republic and Cuba, which also have unsurpassed passion for baseball no matter where it takes place.
In Venezuela's biggest event of the early baseball season last weekend, fans turned away from action on the field to watch a scoreboard showing the Giants-Cardinals playoff game.
Never mind Navegantes del Magallanes -- Magellan's Navigators -- were playing hated rivals Caracas Leones at the time. The crowd chanted in unison for Scutaro and Sandoval.
"It was very emotional," said Ismael Granadillo, Venezuela Professional Baseball League spokesman.
There is little like baseball to unify Venezuelans who experienced a divisive election Oct. 7 in which populist President Hugo Chavez remained in power.
The Winter League that began four days after the election was like a salve, said Venezuelan lawyer Arturo J. Marcano Guevara, co-author of "Stealing Lives: the Globalization of Baseball and the Tragic Story of Alexis Quiroz."
"It's like going to a spa to forget about everything for three hours," he said.
Now fans have the World Series to occupy their time. That includes about 2,600 Venezuelan immigrants living in the Bay Area, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.
"We root for Venezuelans to make something good of themselves inside or outside the country," said Adriana Lopez, owner of PicaPica Maize Kitchen in San Francisco's Mission District.
"But we're over the moon that Scutaro is one of the top players right now."
Follow Elliott Almond on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.