Bill Kinneberg and the USA National Team begin play at the Pan Am Games this weekend.
July 12, 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: You're down finally in South America for the Pan America Games. What has the atmosphere been like down there with the teams, the events and the impending games?
A: We checked into the Olympic village yesterday. They have new apartment buildings for the athletes and they are a nice place for Rio. It has been raining, so we have not been able to get on the field for practice, and they are still building the stadium for baseball as we speak.
But, all of the other nations are here, so it is quite a sight with all the different cultures and colors that teams wear. Opening ceremonies are tomorrow, so we are all excited about that.
Q: You have a fairly young squad. How do you prepare them for something like the Pan Am Games?
A: It is such a short time that we are together and that can be a big disadvantage for us. But, we just have to do the best we can to prepare our guys mentally and physically to do their jobs, and try to put them in situations where they can be successful. They will have to play very good baseball to advance to the medal rounds. The Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Brazil rosters are filled with ex or current major league players.
Q: After the Japan series, a long couple of days traveling, and finally ending up on foreign soil, how is the team's spirit heading into the tournament?
A: Our team's spirit is pretty good. It was a long day of travel on Monday night and Tuesday. We left at 1:00 p.m., from Durham, N.C., on Monday and got to Rio the next day, finally arriving at the village at 2:00 p.m. That was just a long day for everyone. But, we are doing well and the food is good. The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) is taking good care of us.
Q: Playing against some of the top professional and ex-professional players, what have you identified as the keys for Team USA's victory this weekend?
A: It's our pitching that will always be a key to our team, and that's true with all teams. Our guys will be well-rested and should perform well. With the rain, we don't know if there will be any practice time, but all the teams are in the same situation. It's exciting and it will be a thrill for all of us to have on the USA uniform and representing our country.
Q: This has to be a tremendous learning experience, not only for the players, but for you as well. What have learned, be it from the players, the opponents or your fellow coaches, as you near the half-way point of the tour?
A: The biggest thing I've learned is all the different ways in which these athletes are coached at their own schools. That has been the most interesting part. I've also learned from our head coach, Mike Weathers. He is very good with the X's and O's, so I have picked up a few things from him.
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.