Bill Kinneberg and the US National team play in the Pan Am Games this weekend.
July 9, 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: What did the National Team learn from the series against Japan last week?
A:We played three disappointing games in the middle of the series there. We had chances to win all three games but their pitching and defense was spectacular. It held us at bay as they were able to just beat us, 3-2, 2-1 and 5-2. So, that was a disappointing three days for us.
Q: How did you get the team to rebound in winning the series finale, 7-3, against Japan?
A: I think Japan helped us out in that win. They were up 3-1 in the seventh and their pitching just faltered. Yuki Saito came on in relief and the pitcher who hasn't lost in long while gave up a couple hits and a couple walks. And then, we were able to put some runs up on the board. Justin Smoak (South Carolina) followed all of that with a bases-loaded double in the seventh inning as well to clear the bases and that helped us run away with the game.
Q: How far did the Japan series go in prepping your team for the Pan Am Games in Brazil this weekend?
A: I think that the Latin teams will present a different style of play than we saw with Japanese. The Latin teams will be more offensive but with a similar style of pitching. Hopefully, the five-game series against Japan and its pitching will help us be ready for the Nicaraguan, Dominican, Brazilian and ultimately the Cuban teams this weekend. Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and Cuba will be primarily made up of professional or ex-professional ball players.
We haven't focused on the teams we're going to face this weekend, though. Today, we're going to fly to Washington, D.C., and get processed. We've been focusing on Japan and just haven't thought about the Pan Am match-ups yet.
Q: How is the team's energy after three straight weekends of playing ball?
A: I think that our energy is good. We were tired last night and rightfully so. We're going to rest today, practice at George Mason University tomorrow, and then fly to Brazil. Then we'll have a couple of days to rest, and that will give us a chance to get used to Brazil and to get ready for the Pan Am Games this weekend.
Q: What kind of baseball will you expect to see this weekend at the Pan American Games?
A: Like I said, a lot of these teams will be composed of professional or ex-professional ball players. So, we expect the level of play to be very high. I think we'll see a lot of the same things we saw last weekend against Japan.
But, this weekend, there's a lot of pride on the line. Everyone down there is playing for their countries, representing their home. It'll also be interesting to see how the Brazilians support baseball with all the other events down there. If this were Cuba or the Dominican Republic, I have no doubt in my mind that this would be the hottest ticket.
Note: The USA National team plays in the Pan American Games this weekend in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Pool play has The Red, White and Blue playing the Dominican Republic (July 14), Nicaragua (July 15) and Brazil (July 16). The placement games are on July 17 and the semifinals and finals are July 18-19. The top three teams will medal, winning a gold, silver or bronze for their effort.