Team USA Optimistic About WBC

When the marriage between Major League Baseball and USA Baseball (the national governing body for the sport) took place in 1999, a New Jersey native and former college soccer player named Paul Seiler was second in command of the USAB operation, behind long-time MLB executive Dan O’Brien Sr.

Joe Torre and Tommy Lasorda discuss strategy

Joe Torre and Tommy Lasorda discuss strategy

Seiler and O’Brien worked together to introduce the two organizations to one another, and help the MLB executives that were chosen to guide USA Baseball through the player selection process for the first-ever professional Team USA, that would represent the country at the 1999 Pan Am Games. That event would serve as the qualifying event for the 2000 Olympics.

One year later, after Team USA had successfully qualified for the Olympic Games in Sydney, O’Brien stepped down, and the USAB Board of Directors gave the job of CEO to Seiler, on an interim basis. They wanted to see his leadership ability, as the 2000 Olympic Team was being put together.

With the help of current New York Mets GM Sandy Alderson, former New York Yankees GM Bob Watson, Hall of Fame Manager Tommy Lasorda and a host of many other talented individuals throughout various MLB club front offices, Seiler guided the organization to their finest moment – a gold medal victory at the 2000 Olympic Games.

He has been the Chief Operating Officer ever since – now going on 13 years – and yet he still is looking for that next crowning achievement in the organization’s history.

“What that group of players in 2000 did for USA Baseball as an organization, was give us that world championship that we could hang our hat on,” said Seiler.  “In the history of Olympic baseball, it would have been a shame had the United States not won a Gold Medal at least once.  With our victory in 2000, we can always say that we climbed to the top of the mountain and got it done, that we were the very best baseball team in the world for one moment in time.” (as quoted in the book Miracle on Grass).

Seiler is fully aware of how difficult it can be to get back to the top of the international baseball mountain. In the 12 professional level major international baseball events that have taken place since 2000 – all of which USA Baseball and MLB collaborated on the roster selection process – Team USA has won exactly……….twice.

Although they have had success getting deep into the events and having chances to win, it just hasn’t happened often enough. They were able to win the low-profile, IBAF World Cup in back-to-back attempts in 2007 & 2009, beating Cuba both times. But three losses in gold medal games, and three other third place finishes (including the 2008 Olympics and the 2009 WBC), have added up to it being over 12 years now, since Team USA has won it all on the biggest stage, with the spotlight on the game.

Here are the results of the 14 professional USA Baseball teams that have taken the field.

1999 Pan Am Games 2nd place Silver Medal
2000 Olympic Games 1st place Gold Medal
2001 World Cup 2nd place Silver Medal
2003 Olympic Qualifier Lost in Qtrfinals
2006 World Baseball Classic Lost in 2nd Round
2006 Olympic Qualifier Qualified for 2008 Olympics
2007 Pan Am Games 2nd Place Silver Medal
2008 Olympic Games 3rd place Bronze Medal
2009 World Baseball Classic 3rd Place
2010 Pan Am Qualifier 3rd Place Bronze Medal
2011 Pan Am Games 2nd Place Silver Medal

Seiler saw first-hand the unique brand of motivational speak that the legendary Lasorda used on a group of unheralded minor-league players at the time. But finding the right blend of talent on the field, personalities in the locker room, and a coaching staff that can drum up the same level of success as Lasorda did, with a roster full of proven, veteran big-leaguers, has proven to be much more daunting than he would have originally thought.

For obvious reasons, Seiler is hoping that his manager this time around – Joe Torre here at the 2013 World Baseball Classic – can find that magic in a bottle, and carry the Red, White and Blue to a championship in San Francisco. As MLB.com writer Barry Bloom suggested in his column on Sunday, Lasorda’s Olympic gold has set an example for Torre, and that a WBC triumph for Team USA would get USA Baseball back to the top of the mountain, where Seiler knows they belong.

David Fanucchi is the author of “Miracle on Grass” – How Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda led Team USA to a shocking upset over Cuba, capturing the only Olympic gold medal in USA Baseball history. He was the official Team USA Press Officer for both the 2000 USA Baseball Olympic Team and the 2006 USA World Baseball Classic Team. More information about Fanucchi and Miracle on Grass can be found on his website at www.davidfanucchi.com.  You can follow him on Twitter at @miracleongrass.

Author: David Fanucchi

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