olympicbaseball 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.”
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.