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March 9, 2009

Rick Magnante

Gift Ngoepe

Anthony Phillips


THE MODERATOR: It's been a great tournament for South Africa here the last couple of days, and we'll part ways so that Mexico can come in and have their post game press conference.
I'd like to introduce you quickly from your far right, the manager of South Africa Rick Magnante, in the middle our shortstop today Anthony Phillips who was 1-for-5, and on your far left our second baseman with two triples today, Gift Ngoepe.
Skip everything's said and done, your team this year, unlike 2006, came a long, long way progressively. Can you talk about the progress you guys have made in three years.
RICK MAGNANTE: Well, certainly first I want to say congratulations to Mexico, and we wish them all the best as the tournament moves forward. We had a formidable opponent out there today, and I think the scoreboard basically told the story. Through six innings, a 3-2 ballgame and we're in it and we're playing well, and we just didn't get the chance to play a full nine, and it got away from us there at the end.
Very proud of the boys. We have, as Rob said, come a long, long way. I know sometimes the score doesn't always reflect that, but I know in my heart we've definitely put a better product on the field, and we look forward to an invitation four years from now, and hope to be able to participate once again in the World Baseball Classic.
THE MODERATOR: Anthony, you and your brother actually yesterday became the first South Africans in WBC history to both collect a hit in the same game. Today you were 1-for-5. Can you talk about the camaraderie this South Africa team has? It seems like everywhere we go the fan base appreciates the genuine effort that you put forward.
ANTHONY PHILLIPS: We do a lot of hard work and everything, and we get along as a team. We spend a lot of time together. We do everything. Even when you look at the hotel, we've got the lounge and everything. Everybody is always together. We like hanging around and stuff and just try and have fun playing.
THE MODERATOR: You played in the Northwest League in the A class ballclub your first season. Can you talk about the fact that three years ago there were only two, if I remember, players with Major League affiliation; this year there are ten. Can you talk about the progression in the North American game as you see it as a South African.
ANTHONY PHILLIPS: Playing at home is always a lot different. Coming here is always tough; it's hard. The baseball is quicker, it's faster, pitching is better. Playing at home we only see a couple of good pitchers maybe once, twice a month, and coming here has been a good experience. I enjoy it, and hopefully I can progress and go further.
THE MODERATOR: Gift, two triples today. Can you take us through either of those at-bats. I think everybody here realizes you've got a lot of speed.
GIFT NGOEPE: I just came out with a plan today in my at-bats, and it kind of worked. I got my foot down early and made sure everything worked, and kept my hands back and made sure I hit the ball. I thought about the team. The team is expecting me to hit, and that's what I did.
THE MODERATOR: Can you as a South African talk about the pride that you have watching your team fight against Cuba yesterday, and I thought a pretty good game against Mexico today, as well.
GIFT NGOEPE: South Africa as a team put up a good fight against them. We tried our best, nothing we can do about it. They have Major League players, and some of us here are Minor League players on the team, and some of us just play in South Africa. So it's kind of different playing against pro ballers, and the experience they have is not the same experience we have. The pitching and everything is just spectacular for the other team. We're just developing slowly.

Q. There were a couple of miscues in the 7th that eventually broke the game open, but pretty much you overplayed Mexico defensively on their home field. How did you react to the field, the altitude and also the weather?
RICK MAGNANTE: I do have to admit that we did play very well defensively. We had a miscue with the bases loaded. If we had been able to execute that double play, that would have taken us out of a big inning. We worked very hard when we were in Scottsdale for the 12, 13 days we were there to get on manicured, big-league surfaces and take lots of ground balls and work on our outfield defense. That I thought was pretty good, as well. It's just an opportunity to practice and work on fundamentals, and repetition is what this game is all about. If you put in the hard work and if you take the ground balls and if you make sure you can execute the fundamentals, I think it does show up in the ballgame, and it was certainly reflected in the way we played.

Q. What's the big thing you learned from this trip to Mexico City?
ANTHONY PHILLIPS: I would have to say definitely with the pitching, it's a lot more -- there's a lot more experience than Minor League baseball. In Minor League baseball they try to just throw it like past you all the time. Here it's everything. They're spotting up and throwing off-speed pitches for strikes. We just have to be quicker, quicker with everything.
GIFT NGOEPE: I experienced a lot. I mean, it's my first World Baseball Classic tournament, and I experienced a lot. Other teams, their pitching was good. It's almost like my first year switch-hitting, so I saw everything left-handed this tournament.
RICK MAGNANTE: I just think that you have to look at who we are and the age of the players, the experience level, and take that all into account when you try to evaluate how we perform out here. We are not at a level -- the bar is extremely high for this club, and all we can really do is just come out and execute our game to the best of our ability, and I think for the most part we did that.
The more opportunities we have as a nation to play in these types of international tournaments and face the best competition in the world, all we can do is get better, and I think we've done that.

Q. How was the overall experience playing before this crowd in Mexico City?
RICK MAGNANTE: Well, I think that's huge. I think one thing that comes into play is the raucous fans and the support that they get and the noise, it can be a distraction if you've never played in the Caribbean. Most young players who play in the States played before larger venues, but it's not as loud, and the fans aren't as vociferous as they are here. You really have to focus in and not let the outside distractions take you out of your game.
That's a part of the learning experience, a part of focusing, maintaining your poise, not have the fans get in your head and take you out of your game, and that just comes with time and experience.
THE MODERATOR: On behalf of Rick, Anthony and Gift, we'd like to thank everybody here in the media and the city of Mexico City for being so hospitable to us, and we look forward to seeing you in 2013.

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