SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — It’s the day before he is set to depart for the World Baseball Classic, and Camilo Doval is popping pink bubbles in front of his locker. His first spring outing produced radar-gun readings in the mid-90s, prompting inquiries that manager Gabe Kapler brushed off earlier in the morning, and Doval quelled any concerns with his final tune up before jetting off to Miami. He popped 101 once, and a couple more times at triple digits.
It was nice to be back in the ninth inning, even in a spring exhibition, Doval agreed, before blowing another bubble. (Although the 101 mph pitch was still shy of the franchise-record-setting 104 mph he hit last September.)
Still only 25 years old, Doval has come to embrace the ninth inning and the pressure-packed situations that accompany it. In 2021, he became the youngest Giant in history to save a game in the postseason by recording the final three outs of Game 3 of the NLDS, and he followed that in 2022 with 27 saves (with a 2.53 ERA and 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings) in his first full season in the closer’s role.
Dominican manager Rodney Linares will have an embarrassment of riches in those regards, with Doval headlining perhaps the most fearsome group of relievers in the tournament. The Giants, Kapler said, have an open line of communication with the Dominican team’s training staff and have requested that Doval isn’t used in back-to-back games.
There was nothing bright-lights or big-city about Doval’s upbringing in Yamasá, an agricultural area just over an hour north of Santo Domingo, the capital city. Growing up on his family’s farm, which mostly grew yucca and plantains, young Camilo developed a love for the outdoors and animals — horses, most of all — before he picked up a baseball. He was raised by his mother, Rosa, along with one sister and two brothers, but claims a total of 24 siblings and half-siblings from his father, Sergio, who ran another farm about two hours away.
Doval has also started a family of his own, with a 2-year-old son named Lian Camilo.
Before catching his flight to Miami, Doval reflected on his roots, his rise with the Giants and now the opportunity to wear his country’s uniform in the World Baseball Classic, interpreted from Spanish to English by Erwin Higueros. The conversation was lightly edited for brevity and clarity.
Q: What does it mean for you to represent your country on the world stage?
A: It’s a great experience. It’s something that I have no word to describe what I feel to represent my country in the baseball classic. Just the simple fact that I’m going to be part of it (excites me the most). I’m anxious for the games to get started.
Q: You go back and live there every offseason. What do you enjoy about life there?
A: It’s my comfort place. I like to spend time with my family, with my animals, with my horses. I’m just a nature guy. That’s what I like and why I go back.
Q: What did you pick up first: baseball or horseback riding?
A: Of course horses. Ever since I was little, my grandfather always had horses. Before I even grabbed a baseball, I was around horses. I grew up on a farm. So since I was little, I was around horses, I was around animals. That passion, that love came when I was little.
Q: What about horses do you enjoy the most?
I love galloping. I like riding the horses. It’s like they’re part of me. When I’m around them, I’m happy.
Q: Does it ever feel like you’re galloping in from the bullpen?
A: (laughs) A little.
Q: Was your grandfather, Benaldo, a big influence on you?
A: He was my role model. Ever since I was little, I always saw my grandfather working the farm. He was working really hard to provide for us. So the food that we had came from that land. That’s where I learned that etiquette of work. It’s important to me (to provide for my family). I help them in every way that I can every single day.
Q: You were raised by your mother, with three immediate siblings, but you have 24 total siblings and half-siblings. What was that like growing up?
A: My family is unique. They’re always supporting me in whatever I do. Whether it’s good or it’s bad, they’re always there for me. Nothing changes. We do the same things that we’ve done since we were little. We play around. Even though we’re older, that never will change.
Q: When did you realize you might be able to make a living in baseball?
A: I started playing when I was five, but I didn’t start getting serious with baseball until I was twelve. As soon as I started playing, people started telling me that I had the talent to play baseball. So I believed them, and here I am.
Q: Not enough money in horseback riding?
A: (laughs) Of course. It makes sense, right? If I make the big leagues, I’m gonna make enough money and I can buy all the horses I want.
Q: How many horses do you want?
A: Just a few. Eight, ten. (laughs) Right now I’m only at three.
Q: Do you have a favorite?
A: I do. It’s a black horse. His name is Zorro, just like the movie.
Q: How about Dominican ballplayers: Did anyone inspire you growing up?
A: Johnny Cueto. I saw him and I told myself I want to be just like him. And I’m here.
Q: You got to be teammates with him in 2021 (and will be again in the WBC). What was that like?
A: He was a great influence on us. He always told us what to do, how to behave on the field and he always told us things as they were. He never sugarcoated anything to us. He said to never be afraid to pitch. When you step on the mound, don’t be afraid of anything. Just have faith that good things are going to come, and when good things are going to come, good things are going to happen.
Q: You don’t lack confidence. Have you ever been afraid on the mound?
A: That part of the game is all weakness. It’s all mental. I don’t think about negative stuff. When I step on the mound, I go out there, I have so much confidence in me that I just think I can do whatever I want on the mound. I don’t fear anybody because, well, I have the fastball.