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July 10, 2000
DAVID FANUCCHI: My name is David Fanucchi, I'm the Press Officer for the 2000 USA
Baseball Team. I'd like to introduce our staff who is here with us today and thank them
all for coming. Our staff, to our left immediately, is Mr. Tommy Lasorda. To his left is
Bob Watson, the Co-Chairman of the Committee for USA Baseball. And to Bob's left is Paul
Seiler, the Executive Director CEO of USA Baseball. Also seated in front of us here are
several of our coaches. First, I'd like to introduce Phil Regan, who will be our Pitching
Coach in Sydney. Also Reggie Smith, our Hitting Instructor and Hitting Coach. And Eddie
Rodriguez, who will be our Third Base Coach. Mr. Ray Tanner, who's the Head Coach at South
Carolina University. And Mr. Dick Cooke, who's the Head Coach at Davidson University. Also
with us is Steve Cobb from Major League Baseball, who serves as our Team Coordinator. I'd
like to open this up first off by announcing to you all how we're going to go about the
process of announcing this team that will travel to Sydney to represent America in the
Olympics. The Olympic Games are September 17th through 27th. That's the actual baseball
portion of it. The actual games are the 15th to the 30th. USA Baseball will announce our
first ever professional roster of 24 players and 6 alternate players on August 23rd.
That's a Wednesday afternoon. It will be a live -- in a live press conference at the Regal
Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. That will happen at 1:00 Los Angeles time, 4:00 Eastern. We
will have a written press release on this information available as soon as the press
conference is over, giving you details on how to arrange phone lines and set up your
cameras, and who to contact at the Regal Biltmore Hotel for that afternoon's press
conference. Also, for worldwide media who are covering the Olympics, the audio feed from
that press conference will be heard on majorleaguebaseball.com, the official website of
Major League Baseball that afternoon real audio time. So media around the world can catch
that on the website of Major League Baseball. In attendance at that press conference will
be all of our staff, including Bob Watson, Paul Seiler, Tommy Lasorda, and we will also
try to have as many players as possible that we choose that afternoon. There's no
guarantee that players will be available to be there in Los Angeles on the 23rd, being
that they're professional players and that they're still going to be in their Minor League
season, wherever they're playing around America. If we can get them in there, we will most
definitely do our best. Also, I'd like to introduce Mr. Bill Bavasi who's joined us as
well. He's another Co-Chairman of our Selection Committee, in case you have questions for
him afterwards. I'd like to start off by having Mr. Lasorda now go into his feelings very
briefly on his selection to manage the 2000 Olympic Team.
MANAGER TOMMY LASORDA: Thank you very much, Dave. Thank all of you for coming. When he
said for me to express my feelings, I just want everybody to know that this is one of the
most exciting things that happened to me. I've been fortunate enough to manage the Dodgers
for 20 years. I had a lot of great, great times, a lot of winning teams, World
Championships. But to me, this is bigger. It's bigger because it's the United States of
America. When a person has the privilege and an honor of directing a team into the
Olympics, I think it's just wonderful. You know, I watch the Olympics, and I see these
winners going up to the podium and receiving their medals, and they play the National
Anthem, then you see the losers depressed, and they worked so hard to get there, but still
represented the country in the highest degree of class, dignity and character. I'm very,
very happy. I'm happy with the people I'm surrounded with -- people who have worked so
very, very hard to try prepare to come up with a team that's going to be very successful
over in the Olympics. They have worked very hard in trying to select the best players that
we can get, and I think with their knowledge of the game and their willingness to work
real hard, that we're going to come up with a team that this country's going to be very,
very proud of. So I know one thing, people may think I'm whacky or something, but, by
golly, I stood up in that ball field many times and looked up at that flag and had tears
in my eyes knowing it symbolized that I was fortunate enough to be born in the greatest
country in the world. Now they've handed me the reins to take this baseball team over
there and perform in the Olympics. So you're looking at the happiest, most grateful, most
appreciative guy in the whole world. Thank you.
DAVID FANUCCHI: Thank you, Tommy. Next, Bob Watson, our Co-Chairman, will discuss very
briefly where we are in the selection process and how we go about determining the players
that will make up this baseball team for the United States.
CO-CHAIRMAN BOB WATSON: Thank you, David. For the first time in the Olympics, baseball
is going to be using professional players. Last year, I was fortunate to be part of the
committee that selected players for the Pan Am Games, who also, for the first time, used
professional players. So with that being said, we're going to select and have selected
from a pretty good pool of players, both Minor League, 40-man roster guys who are slated
not to be in the Major Leagues on September 1st. Also, we've added another level of
player, and that's the recently retired player. We're down to -- I don't know -- where are
we? 70 players -- something like that. We've had meetings here; we're going to continue to
have meetings with all of the Major League Clubs tomorrow, and up until the future here.
And that future, as was stated, on August 23rd, we will announce our club. We feel that to
compete, we needed to add the professional player, because most of the countries that
we're competing against, say from Cuba, they have a club that's played together for a
long, long time. The Japanese are sending an All-Star Team from their respective leagues,
one player from each club. The Koreans are shutting down their Professional League and
sending an All-Star Team. The Host Team, the Australians, are going to be some solid
competition headed up by David Neilson, who was an All-Star catcher for the Milwaukee
Brewers. I think also the Italians are going to have a number of the Minor League Italian
players that have parents who are from the old country. So the competition is going to be
key. We have our work cut out for us. Mr. Lasorda has given me the marching orders. He
said: "I'm not going 6,000 miles to lose." So we are going to try to give him
the best thing we can.
DAVID FANUCCHI: Thank you, Bob. I'd like to add a couple of things to Mr. Watson's
comments and let you know that the lone chance for American media here in the United
States to see the American Baseball work out in the United States will come on September
2nd. That is the day the United States Baseball Team will leave America to go train in
Australia. We will have -- we are tentatively scheduled and are hoping to have one workout
session in San Diego, California, in uniform. It hasn't been determined fully yet. There
is not a date or -- the date has been set, but the time has not or the place has not been
determined yet. But we are hoping that our American baseball players on our roster will be
able to work out and practice on that morning or afternoon of September 2nd in San Diego
somewhere. From there, the team leaves California, travels to Australia, lands on
September 4th, and will then travel to the Gold Coast of Australia, the opposite side of
Sydney, and will work out in the Gold Coast from the 5th to the 13th of September. In
those workout games, there will be exhibition games played against several other Olympic
baseball teams, including South Africa, the Netherlands, Italy, and a couple of other
teams that might make it over there. We'll be playing exhibition games on the Gold Coast
from the 5th to 13th and working out, preparing for the Olympics in Sydney. After that,
I'd like to go to Mr. Paul Seiler, the Executive Director and CEO of USA Baseball who will
give us some brief comments on the relationship between USA Baseball and Major League
Baseball joining hands for the first time.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR PAUL SEILER: Thank you, Dave. Just very quickly, who is USA
Baseball, and what's their role in this process? In the Olympic Games, for those of you
who may not be educated in our world, every Olympic sport, whether it's the Summer or
Winter, has a NGB, National Governing Body, who is responsible for identifying, selecting,
and training the Olympic athletes in that sport. You have the Five Rings of Colorado
Springs in the Olympic movement, but Colorado Springs does not pick the baseball team.
They do not pick the best synchronized swimmer, or track and field stars. USA Baseball
does it for the sport of baseball. We have National Teams this year, four different
levels, including 15-, 16-, 17-, 18-year-olds -- our College and National Team, and of
course, this year our Olympic Team, made up of professional players. Our role in this is
really as the pipeline, the conduit, the connection between the U.S. Olympic Committee,
Olympic Committee, Major League Baseball, and the Players' Association. We're the
organization that all of that communication, contact, cooperation, procedure, process goes
through in the Olympic movement. Very quickly, also, why did the United States decide to
use professional players in the Olympics? The United States did not decide to use
professional players in the Olympics. The way that process is, we are governed as a sport
by an International Federation, the International Baseball Federation, the IBAF. There are
100 countries that are members of the International Baseball Federation. At the conclusion
of the Olympic Games in 1996, it is IBAF that put to its member countries the vote of
opening the Games to professional athletes much like FIBA did with basketball prior to the
Dream Team coming on the scene in 1992. The United States was one of those 100 votes, and
the votes were unanimous within our International Federation to open up major
international competition to the inclusion of professional athletes. So basically the
rules have changed since the conclusion of the Games in '96, and this is something that
USA Baseball has had to deal with on a very unique level, because if you think back to
1984 when Rod Dedeaux had Mark McGwire and Barry Larkin, some of the guys here tonight,
then in '88 with Robin Ventura and Tino Martinez, then Nomar. There's traditionally been
the college athlete that's represented the United States in International Competition,
including and up to our pinnacle of competition, the Olympic Games. When that changed, we
had to make the change to integrate the professional athletes, and it's really been
through the cooperation of Sandy Alderson and Major League Baseball's Executive Offices,
as well as Donald Fehr and the Players' Association to lend the support, not only in
support but in manpower, to go out, look at the players, have a Bob Watson involved and a
Bill Bavasi, so that when the United States and Major League Baseball is represented in
Sydney, it's with a quality club. You know, it needs to be said publicly that USA Baseball
could not do what we're doing today without the cooperation of Major League Baseball and
the Major League Baseball's Players' Association. As far as I stand, as the Executive
Director and CEO of this organization, we feel very confident in the team we're going to
take to Sydney. People say: "Are you going to win a gold medal?" I don't know
that we're going to win a gold medal. But it won't be for a lack of trying. We've said it
before with Tommy -- I want him to know it here in a public Forum. There's no doubt in my
mind the athletes and coaches we take to Sydney will know why they're there, what their
role is, how they're going to conduct themselves, and what their expectations are. We look
at sins of our forefathers in terms of basketball, and maybe the things that happened in
Japan with the Hockey Team, and I think it's safe to say that you're going to see a team
that all of America is going to be proud of the way they're represented, not only our
country but our pasttime. So that's kind of where USA Baseball stands on the issue.
DAVID FANUCCHI: At this time, I'd like to open the floor up to questions for our three
gentlemen up here.
Q. Have you ascertained which players are going to be available to you, regardless of
the call-up situation with Major League teams?
CO-CHAIRMAN BOB WATSON: We've identified the players that, you know, we would like to
have. We will talk with clubs on a one-on-one basis here in the very near future. But
that's still no guarantee we will have them. There's injuries, there's call-ups, there's
trades, you know, that affect that. But, yes, to answer your question. Yes, we've
Q. What's the level of cooperation been? I know during the Pan Am Games teams like the
Yankees were not willing to send some of their players. Have you run into any problems
DAVID FANUCCHI: The question was, they've asked me to repeat it. The question was: What
is the level of cooperation from all the Major League organizations in this process.
CO-CHAIRMAN BOB WATSON: The cooperation has been very good. There's some players from
every ballclub that are not going to be available. The clubs have told us, you know,
they're not going to be available. But for the most part, I mean the cooperation has been
better than we could have expected.
Q. Better than it was in the Pan Am Games?
CO-CHAIRMAN BOB WATSON: Yeah. I mean, sure, you would like to have certain players, but
that's not possible. So as I sit here and tell you, we're pleased with the cooperation.
Q. Did you have to work out any kind of compensation with the Players' Union? How did
that work out?
CO-CHAIRMAN BOB WATSON: Well, the details are still being worked out. As they say in
the legal terms, they're dotting the I's and crossing the T's. There's a compensation
package that is significant for the players; and, you know, as soon as they do all of that
and sign it, I'm quite sure you guys will be notified what it is.
Q. Will service time be part of that?
CO-CHAIRMAN BOB WATSON: I'm not going to tell you that until they dot the I's and cross
Q. A lot of guys at the Pan Ams last year said if it comes to a choice between the
September call-up and going to the Olympics, as great an experience as the Pan Ams was,
they would expect -- particularly first-time players who haven't been in the Big Leagues
-- would take the call-up. As you're scouting and as the Committee is scouting, are you
also trying to sell the idea of doing the -- taking the Olympics over a September call-up,
if that choice is presented to these kids?
CO-CHAIRMAN BOB WATSON: That question has been asked before, and the answer that I will
give today is that, you know, the choice is not the player's. It's the club's choice, you
know, to call them up or not. Yes, if it was in the player's hands and he's a first-time
call-up, he signs to be a professional ball player, it's a dream to be in the Big Leagues.
But it's not the player's call; it's the club's call. The clubs are trying to evaluate
their players, and clubs that are in the pennant race are going to, you know, do the best
thing they can for the integrity of the game. You know, I believe even the clubs that are
not in the pennant race have a moral issue to put the best team on the field to play those
clubs who are in the pennant race. So, you know, it's the club's call.
Q. Are you looking more at the advanced Minor Leaguer, or would a kid like a Josh
Hamilton, a 19-year-old kid who was here in the Futures Game be a possibility?
CO-CHAIRMAN BOB WATSON: It's a possibility, but we're going there to win. Yesterday's
Futures Game is just that: Kids of the future. We're in the now. We want to go there with
the best club that is prepared to win now. There might be some veteran players that might
not run as fast or throw as hard, but they know how to play the game, and they're
professionals. And, you know, the upside for Josh Hamilton or any of the kids that are out
here yesterday is tremendous. But we're going to take a serious look at ten or twelve of
those guys that are out there, no doubt. There's a couple of college guys who had
outstanding years. He's (Paul Seiler) got a couple on his National Team right now that are
going to get consideration. Chances are, you know, slim. But to answer your question, they
will have some consideration. But the veterans have a better shot.
Q. Tommy, what sort of mix do you think is, in terms of the recently retired players
and the Minor Leaguers, would you want as a manager?
MANAGER TOMMY LASORDA: Well, the recently retired players, Bob and the staff have gone
out to look at some of those guys. If they're not playing, I don't see how they could be
ready to play in the Olympics. They have got to be playing in a league. They have got to
be playing to where they're in the top physical condition to play the game. The ones that
we're looking at with much more time are the fellows who are playing during the season,
the guys who are playing a complete season, and their season is over in September. So
we're looking at those guys, and we're talking to some of those guys, but they've got to
be ready to play.
Q. Is it important to have -- you have guys like Steinbach and guys who are playing. Is
it important to have that kind of veteran?
MANAGER TOMMY LASORDA: If we feel that they can help this team, yes, by all means, we'd
Q. Bob, you talked about all these players you're going to be looking at. What type of
scouting system have you set up to evaluate this talent?
CO-CHAIRMAN BOB WATSON: The Committee has at its disposal the Major League Scouting
Bureau. Our Selection Committee numbers 19 guys that represent 24 organizations. So we
have it covered. Plus Billy's out scouting; I'm out scouting. I'm going to send Phil Regan
out scouting, maybe Reggie will go. Eddie Rodriguez is a Minor League Instructor right
now, plus he will have the Staten Island Club; and he's going to be, you know, out there.
So we'll have eyes on, you know -- if you can play, we'll know. Okay?
Q. Tommy, would you take Darryl Strawberry to Australia?
MANAGER TOMMY LASORDA: Well, I don't know what the situation is with him, with his
suspension. I can't make a statement on that as of now.
Q. If he were eligible, would you want him to come with you?
MANAGER TOMMY LASORDA: That's a hypothetical question. I want to see if he's eligible
or not before I answer that. I don't know.
Q. Who are some of the other recently retired players who would fall into the category
of being ready to play at that level?
MANAGER TOMMY LASORDA: There's a few of them.
CO-CHAIRMAN BOB WATSON: I'll answer this because I'm the guy who's out there. You got
next week, I'm going to see Tim Raines, Pat Kelly, Lance Johnson. I've already seen Terry
Steinbach. I've already seen Orestes Destrade and Chili Davis and Wade Boggs have
withdrawn. You know, they've personally withdrawn their names from the consideration. I
think there was an interesting name that was brought up here recently: Orel Hershiser.
We'll see if he's going to play somewhere so we can evaluate him. We'll keep our eyes
peeled on the guys who might get released or traded or whatever, you know, on clubs that
might take them off rosters or something. But that answers your question there.
Q. What about former Major Leaguers that are now playing in the Minor Leagues that were
sent back down, is that somebody you'll be looking at?
CO-CHAIRMAN BOB WATSON: Sure.
Q. The Japanese Team is probably going to have with their All-Star Team the pitching
level is probably going to be the best in the tournament. How are the young hitters going
to be able to compete against that level of pitching?
MANAGER TOMMY LASORDA: We know that they've got outstanding pitchers over there, and we
know that that's what they're going to really set their sights on. By the All-Stars
itself, the majority of them ought to be pitchers, no question about it. But we just feel
that the guys that we're going to select, we're just going to have to be better than them.
We hope that they're better than them. They better be better than them.
Q. Ryan Andersen was a pitcher that they took to the Pan Am Games a couple years ago,
and he did a good job for Buddy Bell. Is he the type of person and pitcher that would be
on that list that you guys are seriously looking at?
CO-CHAIRMAN BOB WATSON: He's a guy that has played on the U.S. Team.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR PAUL SEILER: Junior Team in '96.
CO-CHAIRMAN BOB WATSON: He was with us last year at the Pan Ams. If he's not in the Big
Leagues, he would be a guy we would love to have.
Q. He's a guy who yesterday said that even if he were called up, he would rather take a
call from you guys versus the Mariners, just based on the fact he wants a Gold. He won a
Bronze and a Silver. Does his decision have any weight in that at all?
MANAGER TOMMY LASORDA: He's the kind of guy we want. He's the kind of guy we're looking
CO-CHAIRMAN BOB WATSON: If Pat Gillick wants him, he's going to Seattle, I can almost
Q. Have you seen him pitch?
CO-CHAIRMAN BOB WATSON: Yes.
Q. What are your thoughts?
CO-CHAIRMAN BOB WATSON: He's definitely progressing. He's throwing strikes. He's come a
long way from last year. There's no doubt he's going to be a dominant pitcher in the Big
End of FastScripts