Bill Kinneberg, an assistant on the USA National Team, reflects on the first weekend of play.
June 26, 2007
University of Utah baseball head coach Bill Kinneberg is traveling with the USA National Baseball team, serving on its coaching staff as the assistant coach. UtahUtes.com continues its summer-long Q&A with coach Kinneberg, documenting his experiences with and against the elite ball players of the world.
Q: How did the team look in its first weekend of play?
A: It was a demanding first week of play with all of the travel, practice and playing we got in, and we had a lot of early mornings after late nights. It was nice to see how our players worked through it and competed. It was a tough week, mentally, and I think everyone did a tremendous job getting past it.
But, we now have a good idea of where the team is at. We got the roster down to 22 men and we're back in North Carolina to get the team ready.
Q: This was the first weekend that the kids had used wooden bats (college uses metal bats). How did the switch over to wooden bats go last weekend?
A: There's definitely a learning curve but we are getting though it. I thought that the teams we had played later in the week were further ahead at the plate than we were. So, we need to get as many cuts with a wooden bat as we can. (Brett) Wallace of Arizona State hit a home run in his very first at bat on Sunday. But, for some guys, it's a struggle and they just need the time to learn and get used it.
Q: As pitching coach, you have to be happy with how your pitching staff started the tour. What were some of the things you noticed last weekend that you'll work on this week?
A: The biggest thing we are going to work on are the roles on the team. We have got five starting pitchers now, and we kept Mike Minor (Vanderbilt) on the staff in case we need an additional left-hander. But, now is the time that we need to start working with players so that they all know their in-game roles and responsibilities.
Q: Last weekend was a very offensive weekend for the team. How do you think your offense stacks up against some of the other international powers you will soon face?
A: It will be interesting to see how we do against the pitching. The kind of pitching that we'll face over the next two weekends against China Taipei and Japan will be a lot different than we are used to. Those two teams will bring a lot velocity and have a different pitching style.
One thing that will be key will be the small game ... the drag bunts, the hit-and-runs, the sacrifices. The games in these next two series are going to be close ones so whichever team executes the best is going to come away with the win.
Q: Nine of your 13 pitchers had five or more K's on the weekend and your team ERA was under 2.00. Were you expecting such an impressive start to the summer tour?
A: Having not seen any of the pitchers until last week, I didn't know what to expect heading into play. It was nice to see our staff surrender as few walks and runs as they did. I was especially happy with a situation we had in the last game, where one of our pitchers had to come on in relief to preserve our one-run lead. That was very similar to situations we'll see more of down the road and I was happy to see us rise to the occasion the very first time.
It was a positive week for our pitchers but now it's time to focus and settle into our roles on the team.
Note: The USA National team will play Chinese Taipei from June 29-July 3 in North Carolina. The following week pits the Red, White and Blue against Japan. Japan has never won a series against Team USA on American soil. Check back later this week for Kinneberg's take on their impending first series against an international squad.