07/16/2008 3:15 PM ET
USA Baseball announces 2008 U.S. Olympic Baseball Team
Matt LaPorta, Stephen Strasburg among 23 players named
2008 U.S. Olympic roster
USA Baseball announced today 23 of the 24 members of its 2008 U.S. Olympic Baseball Team. The Davey Johnson-led squad is set to compete in the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, Aug. 8-24 (baseball competition Aug. 13-23).
The team features 12 pitchers and 11 position players. The 24th member of the Olympic Team will be named in the coming days, ahead of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad's (BOCOG) July 22 cut-off date.
"We are proud of the ball club we have assembled," said USA Baseball Executive Director/CEO Paul Seiler. "The team is strong from top to bottom, and we are confident it will succeed in Beijing. We applaud our coaching staff and selection committee for their tireless work in putting together an excellent team."
The initial roster includes Cleveland Indians OF Matt LaPorta (Port Charlotte, Fla.) and San Diego State University RHP Stephen Strasburg (San Diego, Calif.). LaPorta was recently acquired by the Cleveland Indians as the key piece of a trade that sent 2007 American League Cy Young Award winner CC Sabathia to Milwaukee. Baseball America currently ranks LaPorta as the top prospect in Cleveland's farm system, and the outfield slugger was also a member of the 2005 USA Baseball National Team (Collegiate).
Strasburg made national headlines this year following a 23-strikeout performance against Utah on April 11, 2008 that was part of a breakthrough sophomore campaign. The 19-year-old righty - who turns 20 on Sunday - is currently anchoring the pitching staff on the 2008 USA Baseball National Team. The team of collegiate all-stars is fresh off a first place finish at Haarlem Baseball Week in the Netherlands, which included two victories over the Cuban National Team.
The team is laden with veteran talent - 14 players are currently playing at the AAA-level. Seven players are in Double-A, one in Single-A, and one at the collegiate level.
Bob Watson, USA Baseball General Manager of Professional Teams, said that they were looking for a roster of experienced players.
"We knew we wanted to build a veteran club, a team of players who have been battle-tested, so to speak," Watson said. "But we wanted younger prospects as well, players who have the fire to go out and showcase their talents on the international stage."
The 2008 U.S. Olympic Baseball Team will be led by Manager Davey Johnson (Winter Park, Fla.). Johnson returns to USA Baseball on the heels of a gold medal-winning performance last November at the 2007 IBAF Baseball World Cup in Taiwan. The team included All-Star Tampa Bay Rays 3B Evan Longoria, as well as two players named to the Olympic roster: St. Louis Cardinal OF Colby Rasmus (Columbus, Ga.) and Cleveland Indians RHP Jeff Stevens (Berkeley, Calif.).
Johnson will be joined by the same coaches he has worked with at USA Baseball since the 2005 IBAF Baseball World Cup. Marcel Lachemann (Penryn, Calif.) is the team's pitching coach and Reggie Smith (Woodland Hills, Calif.) will act as the hitting coach. Third base coach Rick Eckstein (Sanford, Fla.) and Auxiliary Coaches Dick Cooke (Davidson, N.C.) and Rolando de Armas (Palm Harbor, Fla.) round out the staff.
"We have an unbelievable coaching staff," said Johnson, who in addition to his international accomplishments, also achieved wide-spread success as player and coach in the big leagues, including leading the 1986 New York Mets to the World Series Championship and being named the American League's Manager of the Year with the Baltimore Orioles in 1997.
"We have worked together for over three years now, and across several international tournaments. With the staff's help I think we achieved the well-balanced lineup that is critical for Olympic success."
In addition to LaPorta, Strasburg, Rasmus, and Stevens, the Olympic Team also features five other USA Baseball alumni, including: Oakland Athletics LHP Brett Anderson (Midland, Tex.; 2005 18U, 2004 16U), Baltimore Orioles RHP Jake Arietta (Farmington, Mo.; 2006 National), Florida Marlins OF John Gall (Stanford, Calif.; 1998-99 National), Texas Rangers C Taylor Teagarden (Dallas, Tex.; 2004 National), and Colorado Rockies RHP Casey Weathers (Elk Grove, Calif.; 2006 National).
LaPorta, Anderson, Arietta, Teagarden, and Weathers were also members of the 2008 XM All-Star Futures USA Team during Major League Baseball's All-Star weekend. The game - which saw the U.S. fall to the World Team 3-0 - served as an Olympic Trials event for Johnson and his staff. Trevor Cahill (Oceanside, Calif.), Jason Donald (Fresno, Calif.), Dexter Fowler (Atlanta, Ga.), and Clayton Richard (Lafayette, Ind.) were also members of the Futures Team who were added to the Olympic roster.
The U.S. last competed in the baseball competition in the Olympic Games in 2000. Tommy Lasorda managed the team in Sydney and guided a squad featuring Ben Sheets and Roy Oswalt to the gold medal over Cuba. Since baseball was recognized as an official medal sport in Olympic competition by the International Olympic Committee in 1992, the U.S. has finished fourth (Barcelona, 1992), third (bronze, Atlanta, 1996) and first (gold, Sydney, 2000). The U.S. did not qualify for the Athens Games in 2004.
USA Baseball is the National Governing Body of amateur baseball in the United States and is a member of the United States Olympic Committee. The organization selects and trains the United States Olympic Baseball Team (and all other USA Baseball Professional Teams); the USA Baseball National Team (collegiate); the USA Baseball 18U, 16U and 14U National Teams; and the USA Baseball Women's National Team, all of which participate in various international competitions each year. For more information, please visit usabaseball.com.