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March 6, 2009

Tommy Lasorda


THE MODERATOR: Hall-of-Fame Manager, Los Angeles Dodgers Tommy Lasorda here serving as the global ambassador for the World Baseball Classic.

Q. Tommy, I've asked some of the players about watching other world tournaments, soccer, hockey, basketball, and the idea of baseball having its own tournament now. You as a baseball guy who's traveled a lot, how do you feel about having an international tournament?
TOMMY LASORDA: I think it's great. You know, when we got knocked out of the Olympics, baseball and the girl's softball, it was a disgrace. Why they knocked us out, nobody seems to know. So the commissioner come up with this similar pattern. Every fourth year, we have this 16 teams, 16 different countries now, and we're hoping that the next ten years are going to be a few more countries involved in baseball.
So it's become a global game. And you see they're starting to play it a lot of places that would never have ever played baseball. So I think it's been successful. The first one, we went beyond anybody's expectations. We had great attendance. We had great reviews from the television. And I think it's going to be better this year.
And it's an opportunity to see some of the greatest players in the world perform in this classic.

Q. Tommy, you spoke yesterday in New York about Team U.S.A. taking more ownership of the sport. You know, this is the U.S.A.'s game, and the performance in '06, was not up to snuff. Do you see in this team, the Team U.S.A. that is here now, more of what you want, more of an attitude to go out and to be successful?
TOMMY LASORDA: Oh, yeah, definitely. When I hear that a guy refuses to play, that disappoints me a great deal, because it's an opportunity to do something for your country. I mean, when I took the Olympic baseball team, to me, it was a privilege and an honor to do that, to represent our country. And when we went to Australia, I took a bunch of young guys that I had never seen play, out of the 24 players we had on the team, 23, I had -- the only guy I knew was Pat Borders, and I met him first when he was here at Toronto, and I was still managing. So I wanted to go to the Olympics.
I tried try to tell people that's the greatest thing that ever happened to me. You know, I managed in four World Series, and all-star games, 63 playoff games, but to me, this was bigger. And people thought I was whacky for saying something like "bigger than the World Series."
I said, Hey, when you are in the World Series, the Dodger fans are happy, the Giant fans aren't. The Cincinnati Red fans aren't. Padres fans aren't. But you win that gold medal, and the whole country's happy. The whole country's proud of it. That's, to me, what it meant.
You know, they said, Well, coaches don't get medals in the Olympics. And people start feeling sorry for me.
I say, Hey, don't feel sorry for me. I got my medal when I saw them put the medal around those players. I got my medal when I saw them raise that American flag. I got my medal when I heard our national anthem being played, because I cried because I felt very happy that I had done something for my country.
And when I hear a guy doesn't want to perform, that irritates me very much.

Q. The guys in this clubhouse, are they ready to embrace that, are they ready to take that on the way you want them to?
TOMMY LASORDA: Absolutely, sure. I want them to -- see there's 16 clubs, right? 15 of them, they all want to beat the United States. So if they want to beat us real bad, then we got to be real bad about beating them. That's the way I think our team's got to perform. They got to go out there thinking, Hey, we're the best. You don't get cocky, you just get self-confident, and you believe that you can win. We have great talent without a doubt.
The other countries are starting to become better. When I first went over to Japan in 1965, I went over and spent three weeks working with the Tokyo Giants, teaching them every phase of the game. And they wind up winning ten championships. Now I'm teaching guys that want to beat me. That's the way it is. And I figured if I'm teaching them, then we got to be better than them because they're learning from us, and that we want to beat them if that's the way it is.

Q. What from your experience with Davey Johnson, knowing him and seeing him over the years, what makes him especially qualified to handle a team like this?
TOMMY LASORDA: Well, Davey, first of all, his record in the major leagues is very good, number one. Number two, he's been involved with some of these games with the teams, the U.S.A. team. And I thought they couldn't have given it to a better guy, unless they gave it to me (laughter). So I thought very much, thought very highly of Davey. There isn't any doubt in my mind that we picked the right guy.

Q. You talked about American pride, what would it do to American pride if Canada happens to beat the Americans for a second time tomorrow?
TOMMY LASORDA: Give me that again.

Q. What would it do to American pride if Canada happens to beat the Americans for a second time tomorrow?
TOMMY LASORDA: Listen, Canada's got a good ball club. Don't sell them short. I mean, I saw them in the first one. They scored a lot of runs. If they could have pitching, they could have won it. And they might just do that if they come up with a pitcher or two. They got some guys that can swing that bat.
I said in the first one, I said, I thought Japan had a good shot at winning it and they did. But I thought we would win it before them. But we didn't win it. So I thought Japan would be the one.
But Canada represented themselves in great fashion. They scored runs. They were tough. And all they needed was a little bit of pitching they could have gone all the way.
THE MODERATOR: Tommy, thank you very much; we appreciate you being here.
TOMMY LASORDA: Well, enjoyed being here. And hope it gets to be a real good series. I hope that this thing will grow and grow in time. I've traveled all over the cities in the first one, at the four brackets, which was Tokyo, Phoenix, Arizona, Orlando, Florida, and San Juan. And now you have the four brackets of Tokyo, Mexico City, Toronto, and San Juan. I've been to San Juan. I've been to Mexico city. I'm here now. I'll be watching the game in Puerto Rico in a couple days.
So I've been traveling around all over the place spreading the word, letting people know how good -- the first time that he made me the ambassador, Collin and myself, we went to San Diego where the semi-finals and the finals were to be played, before they even start playing, through the press, television, radio, press conferences, one day they called me that evening and said, We sold 28,000 tickets.

Q. Do you get a percentage?
TOMMY LASORDA: No. I get the satisfaction of knowing that I made it available, what it's going to be like. And that's what a lot of people are not aware. When the first, a lot of people didn't know, and a lot of people thought it wasn't going to work, but it did work. It went beyond expectations. And that's what I said. I think this one is going be better. What kind of crowd are we going to have here tomorrow?
THE MODERATOR: I'm told the attendance might be close to 40,000 for the U.S. and Canada game.
TOMMY LASORDA: There you go.

Q. Tommy, if Jonathan Broxton and Russell Martin face each other in tomorrow's game, who do you think will be more successful?
TOMMY LASORDA: Who am I going to pull for (laughter)? Well, I'll tell you something about Martin, what a scrappy young player he is. I saw this young man in spring training when they converted him to a catcher. I mean, getting bounced balls off of him and learning how to block balls, and all that hard work had paid off for him. He became an outstanding catcher. He has an outstanding arm, and I think a little bit more experience on how to handle a pitching staff. And he's going to be extra special.
We like him very, very much. And I'm proud to know him. He's done a super job for us.

Q. I guess the question was, is it hard for a pitcher to pitch to one of his teammates in this tournament? I mean, these guys, they're a battery in the late innings in L.A. Here, he's got to pitch to his teammate.
TOMMY LASORDA: Well, I think that when you face a player of the opposing team, you want to get him out just as much as you want to get anybody else out. I think if you are a hitter, I think you want to hit off that guy who is your teammate because that's the way it is. Our team is playing your team. Our team is going to beat your team. We don't talk about our friendship. We don't talk about we are on the same team. We talk about, right, today, I want to get you out. And he must say, I want to hit it off this guy.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much.

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