Thursday, July 31, 2008

In Preparation of Exhibition

By: Dick Cooke

Yesterday was nothing but travel. 8:15 bus from San Jose State, long wait at the San Jose airport for our flight to Houston. We ultimately arrived Raleigh/Durham at 11 p.m., into the hotel shortly after midnight. The transition from a San Jose State dorm room into the Umstead Hotel and Spa was easy though...

9 a.m. – USA baseball gear and attire distributed. More stuff, more bags, packing challenges. We postponed our first official team meeting until Friday as we were pushed for time.

11:30 a.m. – Bus leaves for the USA Baseball Training complex in Cary. N.C., just 10 minutes from the hotel. We have a meet and greet with the media, do an autograph session and then grab some lunch and finally get on the field for practice at 2:30.

Short workout today as we have four exhibition games vs. Canada over next four days. Stretch and throw and then BP. Shorter BP rounds today as Reggie Smith, our hitting coach, wants the hitters to get acclimated to our allotted BP times in China. Most of the pitchers threw bullpens again and then it was back to the hotel by 4:30.

6:15 p.m. – We head over to the Embassy Suites to join Team Canada for a reception/dinner hosted by the Triangle Sports Commission. Good food and a fast paced event and everyone was out of there by 8:30.

Terry Puhl, the manager for Canada and Bob Watson, a former big league teammate of Puhl’ with the Astros who now serves as the GM for our team, introduce the members of the the respective teams.

All of Canada’s players are currently in the U.S. minor leagues except for two - Rheal Cormier and Chris Reitsma. Cormier had a 15-year big league career and gives them a legitimate late-inning left-handed reliever, and Reitsma is not far removed from being the closer for the Atlanta Braves. Canada always swings it well as a team and now their pitching depth makes them a true concern. Puhl feels like they have a shot at gold.

Tomorrow is our first games as a team, so we spent some time with Davey talking about line-ups and setting up the pitching over the next four days.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

We're Talking about Practice

By: Dick Cooke
The players had an additional two hours of orientation this morning; we took a team photo in Olympic garb at 11:30, then lunch, and then it was drug testing for the players.

2:15 - Bus to Santa Clara. A slight delay as a bicycle rider ran into our bus -- it was parked waiting for us -- so another one had to be sent.

3:00 - This is the first practice for our team. We had 10 of the players at the Futures Game in Yankee Stadium on July 13 but this is our first glimpse of the other 14. Tons of media and fans at Santa Clara to watch us workout. We had a brief team meeting before we stretch and our manager, Davey Johnson, emphasized for the players not to do anything extra - just be yourselves. Our goal is a gold medal, and the players need to play to their strengths and stay healthy. We still have 15 days before the first game of the Olympics.

This is the third time this coaching staff has been together, so there is a familiarity which helps us ease into the practice. Our trainer, John Fierro, takes the team through stretching, then we throw, take a quick round of infield and a very long round of BP. Each group hits for 20 minutes, which is about eight minutes longer than usual with their minor league clubs.

We travel all day tomorrow and practice Thursday, so the coaches want to extend our workout today to get a sense of each player. I throw to the third group which has Jayson Nix (2b), Matt Brown (1b), Jason Donald (ss) and Brian Barden (ss).

All of the pitchers threw in the bullpen and Davey and pitching coach Marcel Lacheman feel like we have a chance to run out a good number of power arms. Davey likes three-run homers and power pitchers who throw strikes (don't we all). He doesn't like to bunt or hit and run and give away outs, but will run when he can and try to give the hitters a a chance to drive in runs. The wind was blowing out hard today so we had some guys put on impressive power displays, which clearly excited the crowd.

After BP we stay around to accomodate the media throng and do a lengthy autograph session for all of the fans. A good day of practice overall and great repsonse from the fans and media. Myself, coach Roly DeArmas, our security guy Joe Chan, Steve Cobb and John Blundell from MLB and Paul Seiler, the executive director of USA Baseball passed on the dining hall food -- which has been outstanding -- to walk to PF Changs. Nice call.

Tomorrow will be a long day. Bus leaves at 8:15 a.m., we fly at 10:30 to Houston, have a significant layover then fly to Raleigh arriving at 10:00 p.m. We'll be there until next Tuesday when we fly to China.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Journey Begins

By: Dick Cooke

onday, July 28

In 2006, I traveled with the USA Baseball Professional National team to Havana, Cuba, for an Olympic qualifying tournament. Top two teams qualified. We won the tourney to qualify for Beijing and the long wait for the 2008 Games began. These Olympics seemed light years away then, and now I sit in San Jose, Calif., just a mere days away from our trip to China and the pursuit of a gold medal.

7:35 a.m. - Depart Charlotte

10:45 a.m. (PST) - Arrive San Francisco where I am met by a USOC rep. We're joined by a track and field coach from LSU, and we drive 40 minutes south to San Jose State Univ. where every Olympic athlete coach and staff member will pass on their way to Beijing.

12:45 p.m. - Check into our dorm rooms and meet players and staff in the lobby.

1:45 p.m. - Over to the processing center where we are given a grocery cart and a clipboard. We navigate a huge room with boxes and boxes of apparel that the coaches and athletes receive. Volunteers peer at our clipboard, toss the appropriate items into the cart and at the end of the line it is all packed into a big piece of rolling USA luggage. I need to implement this system at home.

5:00 p.m. - Orientation. Information about proper attire, drug testing, handling the media and general Olympic protocol. We watch two Olympic videos to get everyone jacked, and then it's off to dinner.

7:30 p.m. - Physicals for coaches and players.

We're all exhausted as we've arrived from all over the country. Our first practice is tomorrow and the coaches are anxious to see what we have.

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