July 21, 2008
Former Lion, and current Cleveland Indian AAA farmhand, Jeff Stevens was named to the 2008 U.S. Olympic Baseball Team, it was announced last week. Stevens is the first LMU baseball player to ever be named to an Olympic roster. The Davey Johnson-led squad is set to compete in the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, Aug. 8-24 (baseball competition Aug. 13-23). Stevens last represented USA during a gold medal-winning performance last November at the 2007 IBAF Baseball World Cup in Taiwan. Along with Stevens, that team included All-Star Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria, as well as fellow Olympian, Colby Rasmus (Columbus, Ga.).
Johnson will be joined by the same coaches he has worked with at USA Baseball since the 2005 IBAF Baseball World Cup. Marcel Lachemann (Penryn, Calif.) is the team's pitching coach, and Reggie Smith (Woodland Hills, Calif.) will act as the hitting coach. Third-base coach Rick Eckstein (Sanford, Fla.) and auxiliary coaches Dick Cooke (Davidson, N.C.) and Rolando de Armas (Palm Harbor, Fla.) round out the staff.
The Olympic Team features 12 pitchers and 11 position players. The 24th member of the squad will be named in the coming days, ahead of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad's (BOCOG) July 22 cut-off date.
Along with rising stars such as OF Matt LaPorta (Port Charlotte, Fla.) and San Diego State University RHP Stephen Strasburg (San Diego, Calif.), the Olympic Team is laden with veteran talent -- 14 players, including Stevens, are currently playing at the Triple-A level. Seven players are in Double-A, one in Class A and one at the collegiate level.
Bob Watson, USA Baseball General Manager of Professional Teams said that they were looking for a roster of experienced players.
"We knew going in that we wanted a veteran club, a team of guys who have been battle-tested, so to speak," Watson said. "But we wanted younger prospects as well, guys with the fire to go out and showcase their talents on the international stage."
In addition to LaPorta, Strasburg, Rasmus, and Stevens, the Olympic Team also features five other USA Baseball alumni: Oakland Athletics left-handed pitcher Brett Anderson (Midland, Tex.; 2005 18U, 2004 16U), Baltimore Orioles right-handed pitcher Jake Arietta (Farmington, Mo.; 2006 National), Florida Marlins outfielder John Gall (Stanford, Calif.; 1998-99 National), Texas Rangers catcher Taylor Teagarden (Dallas, Tex.; 2004 National), and Colorado Rockies right-handed pitcher Casey Weathers (Elk Grove, Calif.; 2006 National).
LaPorta, Anderson, Arietta, Teagarden and Weathers were also members of the 2008 XM Future Stars USA Team during Major League Baseball's All-Star weekend. The game, which saw the U.S. fall to the World Team 3-0, acted as an Olympic Trials event for Johnson and his staff. Trevor Cahill (Oceanside, Calif.), Jason Donald (Fresno, Calif.), Dexter Fowler (Atlanta, Ga.) and Clayton Richard (Lafayette, Ind.) were also members of the Futures Team who are on the Olympic roster.
Stevens, who was one of five LMU players selected in the 2005 MLB Draft, garnered second-team All-WCC honors after his sophomore and junior campaigns in Crimson and Navy. As a junior, he led the team with a 3.93 ERA in 18 appearances and 15 starts. Earning a 7-7 record and two saves over the course of the campaign, he fanned 81 hitters in 107 and two-thirds innings of work. As a sophomore, he went 6-0 on the season with an ERA of 3.73, tossing a team-leading 94.0 innings in 21 appearances and 13 starts. The right-hander amassed a 2-3 record and a 7.58 ERA with 40 strikeouts in a team-high 26 appearances as a freshman.
The U.S. last competed in the baseball competition in the Olympic Games in 2000. Tommy Lasorda managed the team in Sydney and guided a squad featuring Ben Sheets and Roy Oswalt to the gold medal over Cuba. Since baseball was recognized as an official medal sport in Olympic competition by the International Olympic Committee in 1992, the U.S. has finished fourth (Barcelona, 1992), third (bronze, Atlanta, 1996) and first (gold, Sydney, 2000). The U.S. did not qualify for the Athens Games in 2004.