By TOM STAD
July 18, 2008
As the dog days of summer set in, the national baseball scene is still as busy as ever. USA Baseball‘s collegiate national team beat Cuba 4-1 in the championship game of Haarlem Baseball Week in The Netherlands Sunday afternoon. The Cuban squad was nearly identical to the one that won the gold in the 2004 Olympics and the silver at the 2006 World Baseball Classic. It will also represent Cuba at the Beijing Olympics next month. Sunday’s victory marked the first time a U.S. collegiate national team had beaten a Cuban Olympic team in a tournament title game. They’ve beaten Cuba twice on their way to a perfect 14-0 record this summer.
In both wins over Cuba in Haarlem, Vanderbilt lefthander Mike Minor started and got the win, and Baylor righty Kendal Volz got the save. USA pitching held Cuba to just an unearned run on 10 hits while striking out 16 in 18 innings in the two wins.
Team USA reached the finals after beating Chinese Taipei 5-2 in the semifinals on Saturday night. San Diego State righty Stephen Strasburg picked up the win in that one, allowing two runs on four hits while striking out 11 over seven strong innings. Miami shortstop Ryan Jackson led the offense, going 2-for-3 with two RBI.
In other Olympic news, USA Baseball announced 23 of the 24 members of its 2008 U.S. Olympic Baseball Team on Wednesday. The squad will compete in the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games from Aug. 8 to 24. The 24th and final member of the Olympic Team will be named before the July 22 cut-off date.
The 23-member roster includes San Diego State’s Strasburg. The rising junior had a 23-strikeout performance against Utah on April 11. Strasburg was the only collegian selected for the team, which will be managed by former Mets and Orioles skipper Davey Johnson. 14 of the team’s players are currently playing in triple-A, seven in double-A, and one in Class A. Johnson managed the USA team to a gold medal last November at the 2007 IBAF Baseball World Cup in Taiwan.
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. Historically though, the U.S. has not fared as well as you would think. Since baseball was recognized as an official medal sport in 1992, the U.S. has finished fourth in 1992, third in 1996, brought home gold in 2000, and failed to qualify in 2004.
Checking in back down on Cape Cod, we recently learned of some sad news. Late Sunday night a pitcher with the Brewster Whitecaps sustained serious injuries after he was pinned beneath a truck that police say was driven by a teammate.
Both 20-year old pitchers involved have ties with teams in the College World Series. B.J. Dail, who was injured, was suspended from the North Carolina squad in February for a violation of team rules. Ryan Woolley, who has been charged in the incident, pitches for Georgia but did not make the 25-man roster for the CWS.
Dail was admitted to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston in critical condition late Sunday with injuries to his legs and head, though his condition has since been upgraded to serious. In Orleans District Court yesterday morning, Woolley pleaded not guilty to operating under the influence of alcohol resulting in serious bodily injury, negligent operation of a motor vehicle and minor in possession of alcohol. Police say Woolley failed field sobriety tests, and that alcohol breath tests he took at the scene and again at the Brewster Police Station registered twice the legal limit. An 18-pack of beer was also found in his black 2000 Ford Ranger pickup truck. Woolley, of Montclair, Va., was released from the Barnstable County Correctional Facility yesterday after posting $500 bail.
Police say Dail and Woolley spent Sunday evening drinking beer at the home of another player’s host family. Woolley told police he decided to stay overnight at the residence, and went outside to move his truck from the driveway to the street. As soon as he reached the street and was moving forward, Dail ran out in front of his truck and jumped on the hood, he told officers. When Woolley hit the brakes, Dail fell off and somehow became pinned under the left front tire, according to police reports.
Woolley is a sophomore righthander who appeared in three games for Georgia this season, giving up five runs and five hits in 1 2/3 innings. Dail is a sophomore righthander from Raleigh, N.C., and was drafted in the 32nd round in 2006 by the Baltimore Orioles.
Sorry to keep things on a somber note, but remember that early March morning in 2007 when we woke up to the horrifying news that a baseball team bus had crashed? There is new information in the crash that killed seven people, including five Bluffton University baseball players. A report released by the National Transportation Safety Board says confusing highway signs and poor safety features led to the crash. The report says the bus driver thought he was in an H.O.V. lane, when he drove up an exit ramp instead. That caused the bus to turn over on its side. Nothing earth shattering here, but I just thought people would like to know.
On a more positive note, Florida State catcher Buster Posey is going to need a pretty big moving truck when he moves into the new house he will undoubtedly buy when he finally signs a professional contract. The fifth overall pick in this year’s amateur draft by the San Francisco Giants added yet another award to put on his ever-expanding resume on Wednesday, winning USA Baseball’s Golden Spikes Award. Posey received the award at a ceremony in the Sports Museum of America in New York, beating out fellow finalists Georgia’s Gordon Beckham, Missouri’s Aaron Crow, San Diego’s Brian Matusz and Arizona State’s Brett Wallace. Posey swept every major player of the year award in 2008.
Posey becomes just the second catcher to win the Golden Spikes in the award’s 31-year history, joining the 1994 recipient, Georgia Tech’s Jason Varitek. Posey led the nation in batting average (.472), on-base percentage (.572) and slugging (.908) and led Florida State with six saves without giving up an earned run. He helped the Seminoles get to the College World Series for the first time since 2000 and 19th time in school history.
Another great story comes out of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League on Long Island. The league has seen its share of major leaguers come through, as Craig Biggio, John Valentin, Doug Davis and current Kansas City Royals shortstop Mike Aviles all logged some innings in eastern New York. Last week, Hampton Whalers right-hander Phil Klein threw just 71 pitches while setting down all 21 batters he faced in an 8-0 victory. The Youngstown State freshman became the first Whaler in history to throw a perfect game. It’s the first such feat in the modern era of the ACBL, which dates back to 1977. Klein appeared in just nine games for the 23-33 Penguins last season.
Tom Stad’s Amateur Hour runs every Friday here on National Pastime.
Be sure to check out our previous Amateur Hour columns: To sign or not to sign?, Summer on Cape Cod.