Jesse RogersESPN staff writer4 minutes to read
SCOTTSDALE, AZ — Team USA manager Mark DeRosa has left no stone unturned in his preparations to manage a favorite to win this month’s Baseball World Cup Classic. He even sought advice from another coach who had some experience handling All-Stars.
“I spoke to Mike Krzyzewski before I came here because he had a dream team and he did ‘Payback Team’ on Netflix — and I watched it,” DeRosa said of the former legendary player. Duke men’s basketball coach who also led the men’s national team to three consecutive Olympic gold medals. He said, “Make them understand: You are not playing with the United States; you are the United States.”
“I thought that was a strong message for these guys.”
DeRosa, 48, spoke to reporters before an exhibition game against the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday.
He will be a coach for the first time when Team USA takes on the field on Saturday against Great Britain in the first round of the tournament. The team’s first workout was on Tuesday, as players left their spring training camps this week in both Arizona and Florida.
“Dealing with them has been one of the highlights of my life,” DeRosa said.
Filling the lineup for a team full of World Series Champions and All-Stars may be DeRosa’s biggest challenge.
“You don’t want to offend anyone,” DeRosa said with a smile. “There’s no wrong answer, really. We’ve looked at it a million different ways. We’ve tried to split left and right.”
Team USA is led by Mike Trout and Mookie Betts, and features 2022 National League MVP Paul Goldschmidt, along with fellow St. Louis Cardinals Nolan Arenado.
DeRosa admitted that getting the pitchers involved was no easy task. Some of the upper arms, like Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, don’t play in the WBC.
“I wanted to create a team,” DeRosa said. “I didn’t want guys to come and go. I didn’t want any of that. I wanted us to close the doors and become a group.”
“For a man, every single person I spoke to longed to put the United States on their chest and be a part of it.”
The United States is the defending champion, bringing back 10 players from the 2017 team that won it all. The Americans are deep, except at second base, where Bates is likely to see time. Bates appeared in just 30 games at this position.
“I can’t get Jeff McNeil to the ground,” DeRosa said. “Mookie will play again.”
The Betts should get some help on this side of the diamond, as the championship games will be played under old MLB rules, where changes are allowed and there will be no clock on the field. Bat flips are also common in international competition.
“Tim Anderson and I had discussed it,” DeRosa said. “We really did it… I’m into it, if it’s done the right way… I have a 13-year-old son who wants to flip him to the moon when he gets deep.”
Team USA will play Saturday through Monday and again on Wednesday in pool, which includes games against Mexico, Canada and Colombia, along with their game against England. The two best teams advance.
“Now it’s starting to get real,” DeRosa said.
He said he is not concerned about motivation but simply when he changes pitchers. He will be counting on coaches Dave Rigetti and Andy Pettitte to help out in this department.
As for driving, DeRosa has the best player in the world over the past decade for it. In fact, both Trout and DeRosa are from New Jersey.
“There’s a little bit of correlation there,” DeRosa said. “I’m a Cowboys fan, and he’s an Eagles fan. We went toe-to-toe all season.
“He’s been our leader until now.”
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