Bill Kinneberg and the USA National Baseball Team head to the Netherlands for the World Port Tournament.
July 31, 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: Team USA begins the World Port Tournament against Japan. It's been about three weeks since Japan won the five-game series over your team. What has the team learned since playing Japan back in early July?
A: First of all, there will only be a few of the same players on this Japanese team that we saw earlier this year. We will play an industrial league team which is similar to their minor league all-star team. With that said, anytime you face a Japanese team, you know you're going to see great defense and solid pitching. We'll definitely have to pick up our game against them.
Our biggest concern right now, though, is the travel. We fly to Newark tonight, get on a plane for the Netherlands and we don't land until Wednesday morning. Then, we play our first game on Thursday night. Our goal is to get our feet back under ourselves because our strength may be an issue in that first game.
Q: The team just finished playing a grueling nine games in nine days. How is the team's energy heading into the final tournament of the summer-long tour?
A: We really started to show signs of fatigue in the last game against the Netherlands (USA lost, 9-3) and Russia (USA won, 6-0). We're tired. Our bats are slow and we haven't been as quick lately. We need some time off but unfortunately, we don't have it. We have to gather ourselves and see how we do in these last couple weeks of play.
This has been the toughest part of the whole year. The end of the tour, with the scheduling and the travel, has been hard on everyone but we're still looking to end everything on a positive note.
Q: As you enter the last couple weeks with this team, how far has it progressed since you began play in mid June?
A: I think that we've shown, at times, that our hitters are adapting to the use of wooden bats. The first game against the Dutch (a 14-0 USA win) was as well as we have swung all summer long.
The pitchers have been consistently good the entire tour. We just added three new pitchers and that has brought a freshness to the pitching staff and to the team.
We've been together for two months now and we're solid group of guys. We now have one more opportunity to win a championship (at the World Port Tournament) and every one of us is looking forward to it!
Q: The World Port Tournament has Team USA playing a wide range of teams in terms of talent. How do you keep the team up for every single game?
A: Now, it's just a matter of going out and playing baseball. We are going to see many different styles of baseball over the next two weeks. Japan and Taiwan are quick teams that are fundamentally sound while the Dutch and Cubans are strong and powerful teams. It's going to be very interesting to see how well we adapt to the different styles and how well we play against them.
Q: Your team just won two out of three against the Netherlands, the same team that is going to host the World Port Tournament. What kind of boost does that give you guys as you head over there?
A:The Netherlands will be a different team, playing them on their home soil in front of their home crowd. I think we saw the Dutch team's full potential in Game 3 (a 9-3 Dutch win). They're an older, more physical ball club.
The Netherlands' third starting pitcher is good. We're not sure who will match up against him in the tournament but we're thinking Tyson Ross (3-0, 0.91 ERA, 33K's, 5 BB's). But, needless to say, it's going to be interesting to play them on their soil. I know they weren't expecting to lose two out of three against us last week.
We've made a solid impression on the international stage. Aside from the Japanese team we played earlier this month, we have played all professional teams. A lot of those teams think they can waltz in and take care of the college kids from the USA. And, our opponents have been shocked that we've been able to turn the tables around on them.
Every team we played against at the Pan American Games was a professional team. Not too many people picked the USA to even win a game down there because we were a bunch of college players. Teams like Nicaragua and Brazil thought they could show up and beat us because of our youth and it turns out they were wrong. And the Netherlands was pretty upset that a bunch of college kids won two-out-of-three against them!
Note: The USA National team (21-8 overall) heads to the World Port Tournament in the Netherlands from Aug. 2-12. USA opens the tournament against Japan on Aug. 2 and also faces the Netherlands (Aug. 4), Taiwan (Aug. 5) and Cuba (Aug. 6). It's a double round-robin tournament so the National Team will face every one again the following week. The WPT concludes the summer-long, 37-game tour.
Team USA and its record against teams it will play in the WPT:
- Japan won three out of five. USA won the last meeting, 5-1, on July 8.
- USA won two out of three against the Dutch. USA lost the last meeting, 9-3, on July 29.
- Cuba won the lone meeting, 3-1, in the gold-medal game (July 20) at the Pan Am Games.