Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Anticipation is Building

By: Dick Cooke
The mood has changed as the opening game stands one day away. Everyone's a little more reserved, a little more zeroed in on Korea. Not many folks wander from the hotel for any length of time.

11:30 a.m. - Our security guys - Joe Chan and Leroy Hawkins - accompany Blundell and myself out to the Olympic Village to pick up Lach to bring him back for our meeting with the scouts. We make a stop in at the Olympic Super Store to check out the merchandise. The store is in the midst of a good number of the Olympic venues including the Bird's Nest (the main stadium) and the Water Cube where swimming is held. Every Olympic venue is impressive. The Chinese have done a great job with that aspect.

We pick up Lach and head back to the hotel where we have a one and a half hour meeting with our scouts about Korea.

Mike Larson, who works for the Major League Scouting Bureau, takes the lead as he has just come from five days in Korea watching Korea, Cuba and the Netherlands play. We go over every hitter, every pitcher, who can run, bunt, defensive strengths, etc.

The Bureau has sent four scouts to serve as advance scouts for this tournament, which is something they have done to some level since 1999. They do a great job compiling tons of information but presenting it in a concise way.

It's the task of the coaches to determine how much information should be shared with the players so as to avoid "paralysis by analysis." This is the first of daily meetings on each of our opponents.

Larson is impressed by Korea. They have shut down their major league season to send their best 24 players over. They are a mix of professional veterans and young, talented prospects. A good number of their roster have had time in Major League Baseball in the States.

We'll most likely see a left-hander who throws 90-93 with a very good slider. He can get the ball up in the strike zone at times and lose some command, so our hitters have to be patient and wait for mistakes. They are solid offensively set up in a traditional manner. Two table setters hit one and two, and they have legit power guys in the 3-6 spots. As most Asian teams do, they fight off two strike pitches and try and work deep counts. It's an experienced line-up. We'll start Brandon Knight, and he and our bullpen will need to be on their 'A' game.

4 p.m.  - Van leaves for the ballpark. We have a bit of a wait while Korea finishes their practice. All the teams are working out on the practice field today, which is adjacent to the two game stadiums. All three fields are outstanding - big league caliber baseball facilities.

5:20 p.m. - Stretch and throw.

5:40 p.m.  - BP. Anticipating a left-hander starting tomorrow, I throw the first two groups, which are made up of the projected starters. They are, in no particular order, Hessman, Brown, Gall, Schierholtz, Tiffee, LaPorta, Nix, Teagarden and Barden. Each group hits for 15 minutes, the hitters then run a few easy sprints, and we're done.

Lach takes a couple of minutes to talk with the pitchers. Eck and Reggie talk to the hitters about approach and to go over signs, and Davey steps in with the hitters to tell them to relax and try not to do too much. Take the walk if you get it, as there are guys behind you who can hit as well. He's very aware of not creating an increased sense of urgency. He wants them to be able to play to their strengths while staying relaxed.

Lach tells the pitchers we have a chance if we play to our potential, but this tournament will be very tough. We all know what we need to do in each element of the game. The adrenaline will flow and the tempo picks up tomorrow.

7:45 p.m. - Dinner with Seiler, Blundell and Roly at a TGI Friday's in a nearby hotel. Blundell is in heaven and feels as though this Friday's is an oasis. Seiler, who runs USA Baseball, is starting to get that edge that he will live with for the next two weeks and the one he gets at each and every tournament. All of us have it.

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