LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Managing his native Dominican Republic in the inaugural 2006 World Baseball Classic was a rewarding, unforgettable experience for Manny Acta.

Nonetheless, he hopes he doesn't have to encore in 2009.

"If I got to do it again, that would be bad news for me," Acta said. "That'd mean I got fired."

Acta's duties as manager of the Washington Nationals will preclude him from returning as Dominican skipper in next March's eight-team international field.

But he will be part of the national committee that will steer the team, including making the decision on who will take over as manager.

According to Acta, the current candidates on a short list are former Major League managers Felipe Alou and Tony Pena, and Felix Fermin, the former big league shortstop who has managed in the Dominican Winter League since 2000.

"It was a tremendous experience, and I was proud to be a part of it," Acta reflected prior to the Nationals' exhibition against the Braves here Tuesday night. "The highlight of my career."

The spring of 2006 was Acta's second as the Mets' third-base coach, and the Dominican gig heightened his visibility, doubtless contributing to his hiring as Washington manager last year.

"To have the chance to manage your own country, and to manage the kind of players and people we had, was wonderful," Acta added.

He paused for a bit, then said with a satisfied grin, "I can always say I was there the first time around. It was a thrill."