USA Baseball announced its full roster for the first-stage Olympic qualifying tournament, scheduled for Nov. 15-19 in Phoenix, and Arizona Fall League products dominate the team.
The AFL season wraps up early in deference to the event, and USA Baseball had several top officials, such as general manager of professional teams Bob Watson and national teams director Eric Campbell, in the AFL to scout. USA Baseball also relishes having alumni of its amateur programs on its professional rosters, so AFL players such as Royals outfielder Billy Butler, Braves catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Angels righthander Jered Weaver were among the prominent alumni on the roster. The team features 19 players who were in the AFL, such as Angels middle infielders Howie Kendrick and Brandon Wood, two of the top hitters in the minor leagues.
"It's definitely a huge honor to represent the United States against the best competition in the world," Saltalamacchia said. "It's not a showcase. It's about bringing your best day in and day out on the international stage and hopefully we'll come home a winner--the goal is to win, not just go out there and go through the motions."
The six-team event will also include teams from Canada, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua and Panama. The Canadian roster includes several AFL players as well, such as Orioles lefthander Adam Loewen, Phillies righthander Scott Mathieson and Reds first baseman Joey Votto.
The top four teams qualify for the Olympic qualifying tournament for the Western Hemisphere next year in Cuba. The top two teams in that tournament will qualify for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, though the new qualifying structure also is expected to include a last-chance qualification event in 2007 for the eighth and final spot.
Those Olympics are the last ones where baseball is scheduled, as the International Olympic Committee pushed baseball and softball off the docket. However, Major League Baseball has made moves to get another vote at being put back on the Olympic program for the 2012 Games in London. The IOC vote last summer was 54-50 to oust baseball, and a group of IOC voting members met with International Baseball Federations officials and MLB president Bob DuPuy in Switzerland in October to discuss baseball getting another shot.
“We presented the issues,” DuPuy told MLB.com. “Baseball is the national sport in 14 different countries, and everyone wants a chance to continue to participate in the Olympics. I feel pretty good about getting back in.”
Contributing: Chris Kline.
TEAM USA ROSTER
Pitchers: Stephen Andrade (Blue Jays); Jonah Bayliss (Royals); Dave Haehnel (Orioles); Chris Lambert (Cardinals); Jim Miller (Rockies); Bill Murphy (Diamondbacks); Clint Nageotte (Mariners); Brian Sanches (Phillies); Matt Smith (Yankees); Nick Ungs (Marlins); Jered Weaver (Angels); Steven White (Yankees).
Catchers: Jeff Mathis (Angels); Jarrod Saltalamacchia (Braves).
Infielders: Travis Hanson (Cardinals); Brendan Harris (Nationals); Howie Kendrick (Angels); Bryan LaHair (Mariners); Ryan Shealy (Rockies); Brandon Wood (Angels).
Outfielders: Billy Butler (Royals); Lastings Milledge (Mets); Brad Snyder (Indians); Shane Victorino (Phillies).
TEAM CANADA ROSTER
Pitchers: Chris Begg (Giants); T.J. Burton (Indians); Eric Cyr (Angels); Steve Greene (Tigers); Mike Kusiewicz; Jonathan Lockwood (Mariners); Adam Loewen (Orioles); Scott Mathieson (Phillies); Chris Mears (Cardinals); Mike Meyers (Brewers); Aaron Myette.
Catchers: Russell Martin (Dodgers); Maxim St. Pierre (Tigers).
Infielders: Todd Betts; Stubby Clapp; Lee Delfino; Kevin Nicholson; Matt Rogelstad (Mariners); Scott Thorman (Braves); Joey Votto (Reds).
Outfielders: Sebastien Boucher (Mariners); Ryan Radmanovich; Ben Van Iderstine (Brewers); Jeremy Ware.