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.

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