Nate Schierholtz, Chris Valaika & Mike Hessman is possible for USA

July 9th, 2008

For the second straight year, Toledo Mud Hens’ third baseman Mike Hessman has been invited to participate in the 2008 Triple-A All-Star game’s home run derby, and he is one of the possibility for Team USA in Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

So does Fresno Grizzlies right fielder Nate Schierholtz.

Fresno Grizzlies right fielder Nate Schierholtz didn’t do anything special Wednesday night, he did what he normally does. And that’s why he’s a candidate for the U.S. Olympic baseball team.

Schierholtz drove in two runs to tie the score in the ninth inning and Scott McClain ended the game with a run-scoring single to center field to give the Grizzlies their fifth straight win, 8-7, against the Portland Beavers at Chukchansi Park. It was Fresno’s third walk-off victory in four games.

Schierholtz went to the plate with the bases loaded and the pitcher pressing. His hit to right field began hooking toward the chalk.

“I was just hoping it would stay fair,” Schierholtz said. “I guess it hit the line. The umpire told me I hit it in just the right spot. I guess it was my lucky night.”

Or just another ordinary night.

Coming into the game he was batting, .293 with 53 RBIs, 12 home runs, nine triples, 18 walks and nine stolen bases. He went 3 for 5 with two RBIs and two runs scored.

Some say the only reason he’s not in the majors is because Randy Winn is playing right field for the parent San Francisco Giants. (Ironically, Winn and Schierholtz both went to San Ramon Valley High.)

“He’s a total package waiting to be opened up,” Grizzlies manager Dan Rohn said. “Hopefully he gets a chance here pretty soon.”

That’s why Schierholtz called his situation win-win. If he doesn’t make the Olympic team, he can come back to Fresno and concentrate on getting called up.

He’s eligible for the U.S. Olympic baseball team because he was chosen for the Futures Game, which takes place Sunday at Yankee Stadium. The Olympic team roster will be finalized July 16.

Until then he’ll enjoy his time at Yankee Stadium.

“It’s going to be pretty neat to play where the Babe and everyone played,” Schierholtz said. “I know it’s only one day, but it’ll be a day I bring my camera and have a lot of fun.”

And Chattanooga Lookouts shortstop Chris Valaika.

A Hart baseball product has a shot at being named to the U.S. Olympic baseball team, which will play in Beijing, China.

Whether he ends up being chosen or not, Chris Valaika will play in one of the shrines of Major League Baseball.

On Thursday, Valaika was named to the Team USA roster to play in the XM All-Star Futures Game. On July 13, he will play in Yankee Stadium, in a game against the World Team that is part of All-Star Sunday.

Valaika plays shortstop for the Chattanooga Lookouts, a Class AA-level team of the Cincinnati Reds.

“That’s big-time,” said Hart High School baseball head coach Jim Ozella said. “It qualifies him to make it to the U.S. Olympic team. Pro people think very highly of him.”

Valaika is hitting .269 for Chattanooga and .311 overall with 11 home runs this season. He was called up after hitting .363 with Saratoga in the Florida State League.

“He’s rising to the challenge,” Ozella said.

Valaika holds the Hart Indians’ school record for most career home runs with 18.

He earned All-Foothill League honors his sophomore, junior and senior seasons. He received first team All-State and first team All-CIF honors as a junior and senior.

Valaika was drafted by the Reds in the third round of the 2006 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.

He won gold medals at the Pan-Am Games in Santo Domingo and at the 2004 World Championship in Taiwan.

Valaika also played for UC Santa Barbara, where he was named Big West Freshman of the Year.

Looks like more challenge for other teams.

Matt Rogelstad is expected in Team Canada

July 9th, 2008

From BOB MACKIN, 24 of 24 Hours Vancouver, New Westminster’s Matt Rogelstad is expected to be named third baseman for Canada’s Olympic baseball team.

“The excitement’s definitely building and I’m getting antsy,” Rogelstad told the Potomac News, which said Baseball Canada has sought Rogelstad’s temporary release from the Washington Nationals’ organization to play in the Beijing Games. Rogelstad was promoted yesterday from the single A Potomac Nationals to the double A Harrisburg Senators.

And Robert Daski of Potomac News has more.

As it gets closer to the day when Matt Rogelstad boards a flight for Beijing, he gets giddy when speaking of the opportunity he has to play in the Olympics.
“The excitement’s definitely building and I’m getting antsy,” the Potomac Nationals’ infielder said.
Rogelstad, who is from New Westminster in British Columbia, is likely to play third base for Canada in the Olympic Games. Canada’s roster is supposed to be officially released in the next day or so.
A Canadian baseball representative has contacted Washington Nationals officials to request Rogelstad’s services for the Olympics and Washington officials have granted him permission to play in the games.
“We anticipate he will be selected for the team,” Washington director of player development Bobby Wil-liams said.

If so, Rogelstad is imagining what it will be like.
“There will be a little bit of nerves, but as an athlete you try and find ways to minimize them and remain re-laxed,” Rogelstad said. “That’s the key. It’s the same game being played over there as I’m playing right here.”
Rogelstad will leave for Toronto on July 28 for three days of team functions and then the Canadian team will travel to North Carolina for a four-day exhibition series against the United States before departing for Beijing.
Rogelstad anticipates marching in the opening ceremonies on Aug. 8. It is then when he will realize the meaning of being an Olympian.
“I don’t think it’ll hit me until the opening ceremonies when we walk into the tunnel in front of 120,000 peo-ple or whatever it is,” Rogelstad said. “The light bulbs will be flashing everywhere and there will be a couple billion people watching on T.V.”
Canada opens play on Aug. 13 against China. It seeks to erase the disappointment of finishing fourth at the 2004 games.
“We have a lot of power in our lineup with the bats and some good pitching,” Rogelstad said. “In a short tournament like this, it’s a sprint to the finish line and anyone can beat anyone on any given day. I think we’ve got a great shot.”
Eight teams, including the United States, participate in the competition. The top four finishers in the pre-liminary round advance to the semifinals on Aug. 22. The gold medal game is Aug. 23.
Rogelstad has much to offer his team. He hit .360 with two home runs during the Olympic qualifying tour-nament. He is hitting .274 with eight home runs and 39 RBI for Potomac and was a 2008 Carolina League All-Star.
Potomac’s postseason will be a week away when he returns. Potomac is a playoff team, having won the Northern Division in the first half and Rogelstad will try to stay focused.
“It’s going to be pretty intense overseas, so you try to maintain it coming back,” Rogelstad said. “But you try to look at the positive side and that we are a playoff team, so we’ll have the playoffs to look forward to when I come back.”

Stubby Clapp gets green light for Olympics

May 18th, 2008

10 days after Stubby Clapp, who known for his grit, hustle and trademark back flip, was turned down a request, Houston Astros changes mind and decide to let the heart and soul of Canada’s baseball team making the trip to Beijing to play.

STAR WIRE SERVICES has more detail.

The Houston Astros had a change of heart yesterday, granting the national team icon permission to play for Canada at the Olympics after initially rejecting the idea.

Nearly a week-and-a-half of delicate talks between Clapp, the hitting coach for Houston’s Class-A affiliate Lexington, Baseball Canada and the Astros took place before the 35-year-old received clearance in a morning conversation.

“Sometimes if you really love something you do what you can do to pursue it hard,” Clapp told The Canadian Press. “Either way if I got to go or not, I’m happy the situation is resolved. I’m happy with the way Houston handled it, they’re a class organization and I’m very happy with the way things worked out.”

The back-and-forth over the issue was particularly hard on Clapp, who dedicated himself to the final Olympic cycle before hanging up his glove for good, but found himself caught between career and country.

With a contract due to expire after the season and the Astros not keen on him missing a month July 28-Aug. 24 for the Olympics, he had to tread carefully.

“I told them that if my job is in jeopardy if I go that I wanted to stay,” said Clapp. “All the credit goes to Houston. I had to think about my team’s needs and about taking care of my family. I have a wife and two kids, my job was my priority.

“This is a great organization, I want to pursue my career with Houston.”

So does Jim Parker of Windsor Star.

“They’re going to let me go,” Clapp said.

Earlier this month, the Astros freed up Leamington-native Danny Klassen and Jimmy Van Ostrand to play for Canada, but turned down Baseball Canada’s request for Clapp because he was a coach in the organization and not a player.

“When they came back and said it was too much time for a coach, it was completely understandable,” said Clapp, who will be gone from July 28 to Aug. 24. “I had no qualms.”

But Clapp, who is the hitting coach for Houston’s Class A team in Lexington, knew he would have a chance to speak to team officials.

Bennett was in Lexington for organizational meetings last weekend and Clapp sat down and proposed a shorter time frame for him to be away from the team.

“He said they would reconsider,” Clapp said.

But the married father of two young boys made it clear to Bennett that he didn’t want to risk his job in the organization to play for Canada.

“My livelihood is on the line,” Clapp said. “I told him, ‘I can’t afford to lose my job. If there’s any issue, just tell me and there’ll be no words. I want to be with the Houston Astros.'”

Bennett came back with more than Clapp could have hoped.

“He said, ‘Don’t worry about your job,'” Clapp said, “‘Just go and finish what you started.'”

The organization imposed no time limit for Clapp, who will use the full timetable.

“I’ve committed to the whole thing,” Clapp said. “I need the (extra) time to get ready (physically).”

Canadian manager Greg Hamilton has his own thoughts on why the Astros had a change of heart.

“I think it was two things,” Hamilton said. “They saw how passionate he was to play and how passionate a nation was to have him play.”

The Astros aren’t saying there was public pressure, but both Hamilton and Clapp know the organization heard from many Canadians.

“There were some haste words and while I appreciate the support, I wish they would have been thought out, but I understand that people don’t know what’s at stake,” Clapp said. “They’re a class organization and I’d say that even if they hadn’t let me go.”

While he’s played just 23 games in the Major Leagues with St. Louis, Hamilton is thrilled to have him on board.

“He’s certainly the face of the program,” Hamilton said. “He’s been front and centre of everything we’ve accomplished.”

He batted .364 in helping Canada earn an Olympic berth at the final qualifier, which was held in Taipei in March.

“He brings a lot to the team,” Hamilton said. “He just brings that never-say-die attitude, that calming presence and at the same time he gives a lift.

“Every player knows he’s given every ounce to get where he has when many people didn’t think he would. He’s a special guy.”

And Clapp is ready to write the final chapter of his playing career and put the disappointment of a fourth-place finish at the 2004 Olympic Games behind him.

“What a way to be able to write the final chapter,” Clapp said. “Go over, write the Cinderella story and win the gold medal, and come home and be done playing.”

So let’s Clapp and his famous backflip are headed for Beijing, and he will keep coaching in the future.

Stubby Clapp not going to Beijing Olympics

May 8th, 2008

One of the most icon of Team Canada, Stubby Clapp did not get permission to play Olympic 2008, according to CBSsports.ca.

Canada’s Olympic baseball team will have to compete at the Beijing Games this summer without its most popular and scrappiest player, CBCSports.ca has learned.

Baseball Canada was informed that second baseman Stubby Clapp was denied permission to play for the Olympic team.

Greg Hamilton, coach and director for the national teams, was told by the Houston Astros, who employ Clapp as a hitting coach for their Class A affiliate team in Lexington, Ky., on Monday that the Windsor, Ont., native would remain with the organization.

“The Houston Astros have turned down our request for Stubby to play for us,” Hamilton told CBCSports.ca. “It’s a blow. Stubby Clapp brings leadership to the team and in many ways is the face of the program.”

Hamilton has spoken to Clapp “three of four times” since Monday’s decision by the Astros and said the 35-year-old veteran was “obviously disappointed” he woudn’t be going to Beijing.

Calls to Clapp and the Houston Astros were not immediately returned.

Clapp is in his second year with the Astros organization after retiring as a full-time player. Hamilton suggested that Clapp might be leary of pushing the Olympic issue with the Astros because his contract expires on Oct. 31.

While Hamilton is disappointed with the major-league club’s decision, he understands the business side of its desire to keep Clapp in Lexington.

“The last thing that I want to portray here is that the Houston Astros are cold,” said Hamilton. “They had to make a tough decision. Their view is that they hired Stubby as a coach. He came to them and applied for that job as a coach, not a player.”

Hamilton also said Clapp may not have been ready to play because the veteran suffered a knee injury during Canada’s last Olympic qualifying game in March against Germany.

Clapp took out the German catcher at home plate but collided knees with his opponent.

Clapp had a couple of MRIs done on the knee and it hasn’t responded well since he left the qualifer, according to Hamilton.

“Stubby has a physical issue that might have precluded him from playing anyway,” he said. “[Neither] he nor our medical people know whether that knee would be good enough to go [for Beijing]. So he’s got that issue even if he was granted permission. If we had to go to the [Olympics] today, he wouldn’t be able to play.

“The worst view is he’s looking at operations and the most optimistic view is he can rehab it and be ready to go.”

The Astros did grant first baseman/outfielder James Van Ostrand the oppotunity to compete for Canada this summer, but Hamilton views the two decisions as separate issues.

“It wasn’t easy for them to say no to Stubby,” said Hamilton, who wouldn’t reveal Clapp’s replacement at second. “They were at a point where they needed him and for Stubby to be gone for another month was very difficult to say yes to. They weren’t comfortable doing it. I have no bad feelings toward the Houston Astros and I understand where they are coming from.”

Clapp has been a longtime member of Canada’s national team.

Drafted by the St. Louis in the 36th round of the 1996 amateur draft, Clapp played 23 games with the Cardinals and spent the rest of his career in the minor leagues.

He first made a name for himself at 1999 Pan Am Games in Winnipeg.

During round-robin play, the underdog Canadians faced the more experienced and talented American team. Clapp walked to the plate with the bases loaded in the 11th inning and the score tied 6-6.

More than cross-border bragging rights were on the line when Clapp blooped a single that dropped between the shortstop and left-fielder to give Canada the unexpected win.

The hit turned Clapp into a Canadian cult hero and was a media darling among Canadian journalists.

Clapp then participated at the 2004 Athens Olympics where he almost helped guide Canada to a medal. The team finished fourth.

Beijing will be baseball’s final Olympic appearance as the IOC dropped the sport for the 2012 Games in London. However, IOC president Jacques Rogge has urged the federation to apply for reinstatement in time for the 2016 Olympics.

Not a good news for Team Canada and Olympic 2008.

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