Saturday, August 2, 2008

USA vs. Canada: Second Exhibition, First Win

By: Dick Cooke
12 p.m. - We have an extensive signing session of bats, balls, posters - you name it, we signed it. Much of this has been set up by USA Baseball to help with fund raising, saying thank you to corporate sponsors, etc. But we sense the players are ready to have the normal rhythm of a game day that they are accustomed to. Others would argue that the rhythm they know will be no where to be seen in China.

2:30 p.m. - Bus leaves for the training complex in Cary. I ride with Rick Eckstein, Davey and Lach (Marcel Lacheman). We take advantage of the four field complex to work on some PFPs (pitchers' fielding practice) on a back field and to introduce and go over our bunt defenses. They are fairly simple and similar to what these guys are used to with their pro clubs. We break a good sweat and, once Davey is satisfied we're in sync, we head over to the main diamond to take BP.

I throw to the same guys again. Matt Brown in particular has a great round of BP and, while that doesn't always translate to the game results, it's clear his stroke has gotten into a groove the past two days. After BP we head over the Durham Bulls park where we play the next three games.

Pat Gillick, currently the GM for the Phillies, is in the dugout before the game. He was the GM for the first USA team I was a part of in 1999, the team that qualified for the 2000 Olympics. He's one of the best baseball minds around having constructed the Blue Jays' world champion teams of '92 and '93. I've spoken with Pat a few times but haven't seen him since our time together in '99. It's great to get a chance to visit. He's here to watch two of his organization's players with us, Donald and Marson, as well as two players on the Canadian team.

7:05 p.m.  - Dexter Fowler (Rockies, AA) opens the game with a triple, we score two in the first, and tonight it seems easy. Four strong innings from Trevor Cahill (A's, AA) allowing one hit with three Ks.

Jeremy Cummings (Rays, AAA), who is with the Durham Bulls this year, goes four and pitches well, and Casey Weathers (Rockies, AA) pitches a perfect ninth. Nine hits including two triples and a home run give us a nice cushion throughout the game. Matt Brown indeed has a good night, going 2-for-3 with four RBI and a triple.

I ride back to the hotel with Davey, Eck, and Lach, and we spend the entire ride projecting lineups. Fowler will be a critical piece as the lead-off guy as Davey desperately wants a reliable "table setter."

He's struggling to get a feel for the 3-5 spots but tonight helped him get more comfortable with some options there. He'll juggle the lineup some more over the next two days.

Canada again Sunday at 5 p.m., then once more Monday night before we leave the country.

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