The schedule for Olympic baseball is out, and the Round Robin tournament begins on Aug. 13 for Team USA when they take on Korea in Beijing to start their quest for a gold medal. Should the Americans finish in the top four in the standings, they would be part of the medal round in which the semifinals will be played August 22 followed by the finals the next day. Team USA will take on Team Canada in an exhibition series stateside Aug 1-4 in North Carolina before heading over to China to win their second straight Olympic gold medal, but first since 2000.
In the 2004 Americas Tournament the US lost to Mexico 1-0. The rub was that the tournament was single elimination, while every other Olympic qualifying tournament was double elimination. Some might say that if the national team had taken care of business, there would never have been an issue. Others were a little irate over the fact that one bad day cost them an Olympic bid and a chance to defend their title in Athens. There was no issue this season as the squad went 13-1 in two separate qualifying tournaments to leave no doubt they'd been making the trip to China next month. Here's the complete Team USA schedule:
Aug. 13 vs. Korea, 6:00 a.m. EST
Aug. 13 vs. Netherlands, 10:30 p.m. EST
Aug. 14 vs. Cuba, 11:30 p.m. EST
Aug. 15 vs. Canada, 10:30 p.m. EST
Aug. 18 vs. China, 7:00 a.m. EST
Aug. 19 vs. Chinese Taipei, 7:00 a.m. EST
Aug. 20 vs. Japan, 7:00 a.m. EST
The team's final roster spot was recently filled as well. Colorado Rockies second baseman Jayson Nix, a native of of Midland, Texas, was named as the team's 24th player. Nix is currently playing for Triple-A Colorado Springs but has spent time with the Rockies this season.
There were also three changes to the original roster. Former West Virginia Mountaineer Jeremy Cummings and Nebraska alum Brian Duensing, both pitchers, and Chabot JC grad Nate Schierholtz, who is an outfielder in the San Francisco Giants organization and has seen time with the big league club, accepted invitations to represent their country next month. They replace pitchers Clayton Richard and Geno Espineli, who were recently called up by their respective major league clubs, and Cardinals top prospect Colby Rasmus, who got hurt and cannot participate.
Down on the Cape, several players continue to impress. One who you might remember is Rich Poythress, who had a tremendous College World Series for runner-up Georgia. Poythress is hitting .345 with eight RBI and a robust .500 on-base percentage for the Orleans Cardinals. Notre Dame rising junior outfielder A.J. Pollock currently leads the league with a .391 batting average and is tied for the lead in doubles with 11. He also ranks among the Cape's top five in hits (45, third), on-base percentage (.474, second), slugging percentage (.557, third), extra-base hits (14, third) and runs scored (29, second).
The Cape League All-Star Game rosters were announced this week. The game is slated for Saturday night, while the most popular event of the weekend (yes, the same one that Josh Hamilton dominated in the majors not too long ago), the Home Run Derby will take place two hours prior to the game at 5 p.m. The East is led by the league's No. 1 hitter, Chatham shortstop Grant Green (Southern California), whose average on selection day was .398 and who has also slugged five home runs to go along with 16 RBI. Green is joined as a starter by five other .300-plus hitters - his Chatham teammate, center fielder Cory Olson (Orange Coast), who's at .380, Orleans third baseman Poythress (Georgia), who's at .364, Y-D second baseman Nick Liles (Western Carolina), who's at .355, Brewster designated hitter Brent Milleville (Stanford), who's at .354 and Brewster first baseman Ryan Wheeler (Loyola Marymount), who's hitting .327.
The rest of the East starters are Y-D catcher Tony Sanchez (Boston College), Y-D left fielder Ryan Ortiz (Oregon State), Orleans right fielder Tim Wheeler (Sacramento State) and Orleans right-hander Matt Thompson (San Diego), who's sporting a 3-0 record and 1.56 ERA to go along with 24 strikeouts.
Harwich has five reserve players: Pitchers Chirs Manno (Duke), Brian Dupra (Notre Dame) and J.J. Hoover (West Virginia), catcher Mark Fleury (North Carolina) and infielder D.J. Lemahieu (Louisiana State). Brewster's two reserves are outfielder Ty Kelly (Cal-Davis) and pitcher Buddy Baumann (Missouri State). Orleans is reprented by Martin Viramontes (Loyola Marymount) and Adam Wilk (Long Beach State) while Chatham sends Brad Boxberger (Southern Cal) and Sammy Solis (San Diego).
The power-laden West squad is led by the top five run producers in the league. Hyannis third baseman Chris Dominguez (Louisville), whose eight home runs led the league on selection day, is also fourth in the league in RBI with 22. Falmouth second baseman Jimmy Cesario (Houston) is the league leader with 26 RBI, while Hyannis first baseman Ben Paulsen (Clemson) and Bourne left-fielder Mark Krauss (Ohio) have driven in 25 runs apiece. Green's total of 22 is followed by the 21 RBI of Cotuit DH Kevin Patterson (Auburn).
The West squad features some other talented batsmen in Falmouth' Pollock, Hyannis right fielder Trent Ashcroft (East Carolina), who's hitting .357 and Bourne shortstop Dusty Coleman (Wichita State), who checks in at .333. The rest of the West starters are Falmouth catcher Trevor Coleman (Missouri) and Bourne right-hander Bryce Stowell (California-Irvine), who was 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA and 40 strikeouts on selection day.
The West has eight pitchers on its 11-player reserve list. They are Wareham's Brandon Workman (Texas) and Dallas Keuchel (Arkansas), Hyannis' Andrew Carraway (Virginia) and Russell Brewer (Vanderbilt), Bourne's Nick McCully (Coastal Carolina) and Eric Pettis (California-Irvine), Falmouth's Ben Tootle (Jacksonville State) and Cotuit's Seth Blair (Arizona State). The remaining bench players are Hyannis catcher Dale Cornstubble (Central Michigan), Wareham infielder Raynor Campbell (Baylor) and Bourne outfielder Jordan Henry (Mississippi).
All-Star Game alternates for the West are all pitchers: Austin Hudson (Central Florida) of Hyannis; Chris Gloor (Quinnipiac) of Falmouth; Nick Hernandez (Tennessee) of Cotuit and Max Perlman (Havard) of Wareham. One position player was named among the East's alternates: outfielder Keenan Wiley (Kentucky) of Y-D. He's joined by pitchers Craig Fritsch (Baylor) of Y-D; Caleb Cotham (Vanderbilt) of Brewster and Willie Kempf (Baylor) of Harwich.
Also announced Saturday were the six players who will represent their respective divisions in the annual Home Run Hitting Contest, always a highlight of the pre-game festivities on All-Star Saturday. The West trio includes current league home run leader Dominguez of Hyannis (8), plus Wareham's Blake Dean (3) and Bourne's Kyle Roller (2). The East's sluggers are Connor Powers of Brewster (5), Joseph Sanders of Harwich (4) and Angelo Songo of Orleans (3).
Coinciding with the All-Star planning was the announcement that the new Cape Cod Baseball League Hall of Fame and Museum opened its doors to the public on Tuesday. The Museum is located in "The Dugout," which is the lower level of the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum at 397 Main St. in Hyannis. Thanks to three major sponsors - Curry College, TD Banknorth, and Bank of America - the almost $80,000 project has been in the works since last fall.
The Hall of Fame, which began in 2001, has a total of 81 members who were inducted in eight classes, starting in 2000. The official home of the Hall of Fame induction ceremony is the Chatham Bars Inn, where the next induction ceremony will take place on Saturday, Nov. 22. The Hall of Fame and Museum features the plaques of all inductees plus memorabilia from the 10 teams in the league. There are many old photos and the original charter of the Cape League. Autographed bats and baseballs with corresponding Major League cards are displayed in cases and show the direct connection between the Cape League and professional baseball. This is one attraction I will surely check out very soon.
The NCAA Baseball Rules Committee met during the past week. They apparently spent the majority of their time discussing the pace of the game and ways to eliminate downtime during contests. The committee again decided to reinforce several rules that are already in place to try and speed things up - in particular, enforcing time limits (a pitch must be delivered within 20 seconds with no runners on base), the batter's box rule (the batter must generally keep one foot in the box during an at bat), handling of conferences (defensive and offensive) and speeding the time between innings and during pitching changes were among the things the committee identified as areas of possible improvement.
There is sure to be some serious debate about this in the coming weeks and I can certainly foresee a few coaches here and there that will be getting the heave-ho for chirping at the umps over enforcement of these rules. The committee also reviewed the baseball code of ethics, which is printed in the rules book. While not a widespread problem, the group believes that in some isolated cases, unsportsmanlike acts are creating a negative image of the college game.
Along the lines of sportsmanship, the committee also made it a point of emphasis for umpires and coaches to be aware of the consequences of some forms of team celebration, particularly during a live ball. In some cases, players from the dugout have entered the field to support a teammate, which the committee does not necessarily view as a bad practice. However, when the ball is live, it can create a potential interference or obstruction scenario.
Also, on the heels of the Mike Coolbaugh incident - Coolbaugh, a Colorado Rockies' minor league coach, was killed last year when he was struck in the neck by a batted ball) - all base coaches are required to wear a helmet when coaching the bases. This rule is in line with the requirement put in place last season by Major League Baseball.
The committee also believes that, in some cases, fields are not being lined properly before play begins. In particular, the batter's box is occasionally too close to home plate and the coaching box is too close to the foul line or home plate. The committee plans to outline the proper procedures for conferences and institutions to follow when lining fields to ensure proper compliance. Additionally, the committee is asking umpires to pay closer attention to field markings before starting play. This is an interesting little tidbit - something that never crossed my mind. But if you have a team of hitters who like to turn on the ball, why not try and get a couple inches for your guys by telling the guys who lay down the chalk to fudge the lines a little? Some will call it cheating. Fans of those teams will most likely refer to it as "home field advantage." I'm all for the rules being equal for everyone and both teams hit from the same spot, so if a coach is getting this done, he better be smart about it and make sure his opponent doesn't like the inside pitch too.