Monday, August 30, 2004

Donovan gets mail

In a post written a few days ago, I quoted a story by Sports Illustrated columnist John Donovan, who was bemoaning the lack of American representation at the Olympics. It seems many of his readers weren't impressed.

In his replies, however, Donovan finally makes the blunt statement that needs to be made about why we won't be seeing any Major Leaguers in the Olympics:

Timing and money. Major League Baseball generates something around $4 billion in revenue, and the owners are not going to stop the money machine in the middle of the season -- and put their money makers at possible risk of injury -- for mere national pride. It's going to be hard enough to pull off a World Cup, which MLB wants to do in 2006. Stopping the season for the Olympics just won't happen.

A "Quota System"?

NBC's Matt Vasgersian doesn't like the "quota system" of the current Olympic qualifying system:

As it stands now, two teams from each regional qualifying tournament got bids to come to Athens. In the Tournament of the Americas, Cuba and Canada earned spots while the Dominican Republic, Mexico and others made different plans this summer.

Each of those nations would have better represented international baseball than Italy or the Netherlands, who got in only by virtue of a weak field in their regional qualifier.

It boils down to a quota system and it is not in the best interest of Olympic baseball. None of us wants to watch what is supposed to be the best of our sport internationally and have to compare it to the independent Northern League.

It's funny how American Olympic commentators didn't get worked up about the qualifying system for baseball before it yielded the unexpected outcome of a tourament without Team USA. Once again: discrepancies in regional competitiveness are not unique to baseball, and if this means that some regional qualification tournaments are more competitive than the actual Olympic finals, perhaps the pundits should be paying more attention to them.

Olympic baseball "no slam dunk"

Gabe Lacques of the LA Daily News is exactly right:

... although [Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud] Selig's tenure has been marked by an increased flow of revenue streams running into the billions (just call it a post-strike survival mechanism), the one area tougher for baseball to cash in on is the global market.

It's no coincidence the NBA's worldwide popularity soared in the decade following Dream Team I, when Michael Jordan became a global icon and Charles Barkley provided the ultimate Ugly American moment by chest-bumping a helpless Angolan, proving there's no such thing as bad publicity.

The NFL can poke under its sofa cushions for spare change and get a developmental league running in Europe. If it's nothing more than a curiosity, no big deal. That league swims in profit.

But baseball, which has force-fed regular season games to Japan and Mexico, has encountered logistical issues cashing in on the global village of sport.

His assessment of the proposed World Cup is also correct:

... it's arrogant for MLB to take the reigns of a global competition, mostly for the sake of its own growth and glory. Japan has voiced concerns about a tournament run not by an international federation, but rather by MLB, one of several obstacles it must scale.

Go read the whole thing

Baseball-style fielding for cricketers

The Daily Telegraph reports on how a baseball coach improved the Australian cricket team's fielding.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

The lessons of the Olympics

The Olympic baseball tournament, which concluded yesterday with Cuba’s win over Australia in the gold medal game, highlighted some of the absurdities of the politics of international baseball and its tortured relationship to the world’s top professional baseball league.

“I think it’s ridiculous we're not represented,” Houston Astros (and, theoretically, USA) outfielder Lance Berkman told the Associated Press, explaining why he and other American Major Leaguers weren’t watching the Olympic baseball tournament.

This is not a new attitude. When Team USA failed to qualify for the Olympics, their gold-medal-winning manager in Sydney, Tommy Lasorda, reacted with this silly statement:

“It’s a shock and a disgrace that the Americans won’t be represented in the Olympics. Baseball is America’s game. It doesn’t belong to the Japanese or the Cubans or the Koreans or the Italians. This is sad, very sad.”

Lasorda is wrong. America gave (modern) baseball to the world, and it is now a global sport. One Australian silver-medallist summed up the rest of the world’s attitude when he spoke to the New York Times after the gold-medal game:

“There's been such a big deal made about their not being here,” said Australia’s catcher, David Nilsson, the former Milwaukee Brewer. “ They didn't qualify. Move on. Americans are a dominating force in baseball. But other countries are improving.”

The sense of frustrated entitlement in the American baseball establishment is palpable. Sadly, few of those in the aggrieved American baseball players and managers seem to recognise where to place the blame. They should be pointing the finger squarely at Major League Baseball, which won't let the world’s top professionals compete in the world’s top athletic tournament, and is consequentially putting baseball’s status as an Olympic sport at risk.

“I don't really see it because you can’t stop a pennant race,” MLB commissioner Bud Selig said this week.

Why not? One MLB season shortened by about 10 games per team every four years would hurt nothing except the MLB owners’ profits. But the current arbitrary length of the MLB season was only extended from 154 to 162 games in 1962. To put it in perspective, there are 9,720 regular-season MLB games every four years, but the owners are not willing to dispense with about 150 of them — 1.5 percent — for the good of the game’s international development. Decisions based on maximising short-term profits over fostering a long-term globalisation strategy are foolish, and Selig should know better.

If Olympic baseball is going to continue beyond its reprieve to 2008, it must feature the best possible national teams in the world. In the immediate future, this would mean a tournament dominated by dream teams from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and the USA. But to justify its inclusion in the Olympic programme, the tournament must also reflect the global spread of baseball. Europe, Oceania, and Africa must be represented, as well as the top teams from the baseball-rich regions like the Americas and North-East Asia. Quick solution: The tournament should be expanded to 12 or 16 teams in two groups.

Even this setup would mean that some of the regional qualifiers would remain be more competitive than the actual tournament. John Donovan of Sports Illustrated makes a valid analogy:

It’s great for globalization and all that — heck, nobody wants an eight-team tournament in the Olympics with six teams from the Western hemisphere — but the qualifying setup is a little like putting the Cardinals, Dodgers, Braves, A’s, Red Sox, Yankees and Angels all in one division. With no wild card.

Tough. It’s not unusual in other Olympic sports for some national trials to be closer than the actual gold medal events. It’s also the norm in the global tournaments of other team sports. Nobody complains when good European or South American teams fail to qualify for football’s World Cup while an inferior team like Saudi Arabia does. It makes those qualifying games more interesting television.

Doping is another area where there is tension between the need to integrate top professionals and the ambition to globalise the sport. American professional baseball has less stringent standards than the World Anti-Doping Agency, a fact which was a major point of dispute in the negotiations to set up a baseball World Cup.

Although overshadowed by the doping scandal involving various track and field athletes, baseball had its own doping scandal this year. Three U.S.-based players representing Greece and Italy were excluded from the tournament due to doping violations.

Olympic baseball is facing a legitimation crisis caused by the incomplete integration of the world’s dominant professional league into the nascient international structures of the sport. Unlike other international governing bodies like football’s FIFA (and even basketball’s FIBA), the IBAF is faced with only one globally-dominant professional league in its sport — one which can affort to look after its own interests at the expense of other national federations’.

Major League Baseball would prefer to abandon the Olympics in favour of a professional World Cup run at a time more convenient to its scheduling. Unsurprisingly, however, the Japanese and Korean professional leagues are not interested in playing ball exclusively on the American leagues’ terms. Globalisation will have to mean international cooperation, and that will mean MLB will have to accept giving up some control over the international game.

MLB must look at the NBA and NHL and realise that this problem can be overcome. Olympic basketball and ice hockey have become exciting professional tournaments despite facing a very similar situation. NBA teams now enjoy a global audience and a rowing global talent pool from which to recuit. If its current priorities don’t change, MLB will never enjoy anything remotely similar, and its owners will face becoming declining, increasingly parochial American businesses, while they watch basketball teams reap the profits from an expanding global market.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Steroids in the Minors

Jim Storer at Baseball Musings mentions Greece pitcher AJ Brack, who was barred from the Olympics after testing positive for a banned substance, and wonders whether the fact that this "middle reliever for a lousy team in an independent league" was abusing steriods suggests that such abuse is widespread throughout the lower minor leagues of professional baseball.

The other player tossed out of the Olympic baseball tournament for testing positive for banned substances, David Francia of Italy, was also a minor league player. The lax drug testing rules in American professional baseball were a key sticking point when the IBAF was negotiating with MLB about the proposed World Cup. Draw your own conclusions.

European baseball still lagging behind

Sadly, the San Francisco Chronicle is right. The Olympic tournament, which showcased the top two grasroots-based programmes in Europe and a teamful of ringers from America, shows how far behind we still lag in elite baseball.

Exam Question

Olympic sports would be better served if women were encouraged to play hardball rather than the pitching-dominated silliness that is women's fast-pitch softball. Discuss.

MLB won't play ball

What a surprise. Who would have thought that Major League Baseball would refuse to join the international baseball fold and decide, instead, to run its own international tournament?

The web site reports that MLB commissioner Bud Selig has "declared dead any movement that would allow Major League Baseball players to take part in the Summer Olympics." Instead, the world's dominant baseball league will be pushing for its own version of a World Cup, despite the fact that it doesn't have some of the key nations on board:

"We've talked a lot about it," said Selig, visiting Jacobs Field on Monday as part of his summerlong tour of baseball cities. "I don't really see it, because you can't stop a pennant race. Imagine now if I said, 'We're not gonna play today for 10 days.' It's not pragmatic."

He said he understood the interest in raising baseball's profile on a more global front, but Selig thought the concept of a soccer-like World Cup or some other international-like tourney might serve the interest of baseball and its fans best.

"I think a World Cup would be spectacular," Selig said. But anything that cut into the heart of the baseball's schedule would do baseball no real good, he said.

"We've spent endless hours talking about it, but I just do see where it's possible," Selig said. "One thing about the race -- I don't have to tell all of you -- it's the build-up. Now, here we are. We have great Wild Card races and some other good races going on.

"To take a week or 10 days off and to send some players and not other players and break the momentum, I don't like it at all."

Selig said his roots as a baseball traditionalist makes supporting participation in the Summer Olympics an idea whose time has not come, and he made clear that it wouldn't come on his watch as commissioner.

This is about MLB wanting to have its cake and eat it too. They want to raise their global profile of the sport for marketing purposes, but also want to maintain control over whatever form professional international competition takes. The idea of cooperating with the established structures of international baseball is just not on their agenda. In the process, MLB has sealed the fate of Olympic baseball, which is difficult to justify if the best teams in the world are not participating.

If basbeall wants to be as global as basketball or ice hockey, they need to follow the NBA and NHL into the mainstream international fold. The sooner Bud Selig realises this, the better for the sport.

Player's nod to Olympic fans

Greece's Nick Theodorou, a Los Angeles Dodgers farm hand, speaking to the Los Angeles Daily News:

"It's been unbelievable," he said. "These are the best fans I've ever played in front of, and I've played in the College World Series and in minor-league championship series, but it doesn't get better than this.

"Maybe the World Series might be better, but for me so far, it doesn't get better."

Oh yeah... Cuba and Australia in the Gold Medal game this afternoon, not that any TV network in Europe will have the good sense to show it to us.

Monday, August 23, 2004

MLB: Solution or Part of the Problem?

The Times of London is exactly right in its view of Olympic baseball:

If Major League Baseball (MLB) let its multinational stars compete, baseball would immediately gain Olympic cachet — and the Dominican Republic would have a chance for its first gold medal. But MLB doesn't want to lose top players in mid-season, and instead favors a baseball World Cup to be played in March, starting in 2006.

Major League Baseball's attitude is a big part of international baseball's problems. The big U.S. league needs to take a hard look at its domestic rivals, the U.S. basketball and ice hockey leagues (NBA and NHL), and follow these organisations' approaches to integrating with the international organisation of their respective games.

The Times got its baseball facts wrong, though. The Netherlands are European Champs and Italy is number three. Greece were actually the silver medalists at last summer's European Chapionships.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

No medal round for Euro teams

Australia crushed the Netherlands, 22-2 in seven innings on Saturday, ensuring that the medal round of the Olympic baseball tournament will not include any of the three European teams.

The Dutch then lost on Sunday morning against Chinese Taipei, ensuring a sixth-place finish. Greece and Italy are at the bottom of the table.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Another doping scandal

Italian Olympic baseball player David Francia has tested positive for nandrolon in a doping control taken in early August, the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf is reporting.

The centre-fielder was acquired by the Philadelphia Phillies in the eighth round of the 1996 MLB draft and has played with the Phillies' AAA club Scranton Wilkes-Barre Red Barons.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Day 4: Olympic basebrawl

Yesterday's Olympic clash between Europe's two dominant baseball teams, Italy and the Netherlands, was marred by a bench-clearing brawl in the eighth inning. After the dust had settled, Italy's Francesco Casolari had been ejected and the Dutch went on to win, 10-4.

In the game with a European interest, Canada shut out Greece, 2-0.

The International Baseball Federation web site has photos from Athens.

Day 4: Olympic basebrawl

Yesterday's Olympic clash between Europe's two dominant baseball teams, Italy and the Netherlands, was marred by a bench-clearing brawl in the eighth inning. After the dust had settled, Italy's Francesco Casolari had been ejected and the Dutch went on to win, 10-4.

In the game with a European interest, Canada shut out Greece, 2-0.

The International Baseball Federation web site has photos from Athens.

Lack of talent at Olympics

Chicago Cubs scout Gary Hughes tells the New York Times that he did not see much obvious talent at the Olympic baseball tournament:

"A lot of the teams have nobody that you'd have any interest in, just because of age and ability," Hughes said. "But then you start looking, and Japan has an interesting team. They've got a lot of players you've got to at least pay attention to."

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Olympics, Day 3

With all eyes on the clash between gold medal favourites Cuba and Japan Day 3 of the Olympic baseball tournament was not a good one for the European teams. Both the Netherlands and Italy were shut out. The Dutch were beaten 7-0 by Canada, which is now the only undefeated team left in the preliminary stage. The Canadians scored all their runs in the first four innings.

Italy lost 6-0 to Australia and Greece lost to Chinese Taipei, 7-1.

Oh yeah: Japan won, 6-3.

Baseball in Greece?

Will they Olympic momentum kick start grassroots baseball in Greece? The Chicago Sun-Times reports from one of the national team's games:

It's unlikely this game will be Greece's field of dreams, but who knows? A league has been started in the last few years, and it now has 500 players. The best ones are at the level of American high schoolers. Still, a developer trying to grow the game in Greece handed player Clayton Bellinger his card after the game and asked him to call and help. Bellinger said he would.

Prize for Mainz

German club Mainz Athletics have wona €5,000 award from the German Sports Federation and Dresdner Bank for "exemplary promotion of talent." The club, which has squads playing at every level of German baseball, claims 273 members, 100 of whom are children or youths. The club's youth teams have 10 coaches, and have won six medals at German champsionships, including four golds.

World Cup may be delayed by one year

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that the Major League Baseball owners may announce that they intend to delay the proposed Baseball World Cup until 2006 when they meet tomorrow:

The issue is on the agenda of the owners' meeting that starts Wednesday in Philadelphia, along with a contract extension for Selig and a proposal to launch an all-baseball cable channel similar to NBA TV and NFL Network.

The North American owners have not yet persuaded the Japanese and Korean leagues to participate.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Olympics, Day 2

News from games on Day 2 of the Olympic baseball tournament featuring the three European teams:

Japan 8, Netherlands 3

Japan came from behind to beat the Dutch team. While many American papers described this as a "pounding", the Japanese Kyodo News service noted that the all-star team from Asia's top professional league looked "shaky" early in the game.

On his web site, Dutch baseball reporter Marco Stoovelaar focused on two controversial umpiring decisions that occured in the game:

In the fifth, with one out, Japanese batter Shinya Miyamoto bunted and was called safe at first base by Dominican umpire Agustin Brea. A crucial call, because television replays showed the batter was out. Moments later, a groundout followed which would have been the third out. Instead, Japan now had a runner on second base with two outs. After a walk, powerhitter Norihiro Nakamura hit an RBI-double to tie the score, followed by two walks which gave Japan a 4-3 lead.

Dutch Manager Robert Eenhoorn decided to bring in Eelco Jansen to relief starter Diegomar Markwell, but then his Japanese colleague suddenly filed a protest, as the Dutch line-up card only listed the ten starting pitchers. It was stated that Jansen therefore was not eligible to come in. What followed was a delay of 24 minutes, after which it was decided by the Technical Commissioners that the change was according to the rules. The Dutch team continued playing under protest, filing a protest of their own for deliberately delaying the game and trying to end the game prematurely by Japan. This protest, however, was rejected within a few minutes.

De Telegraaf also reported the odd incident.

Cuba 5, Greece 4

Jim White of Britain's Daily Telegraph watched the Greeks collect their second loss, at the hands of Cuba, 5-4, and was impressed by the local baseball novices' enthusiasm for the game. "The bleachers in the new baseball stadium were absolutely packed", he reports.

The BBC interviewed Greece's ex-Major Leaguer Clay Bellinger, who was also impressed by the fans:

"We are trying to give a good show and were hoping to be embraced like this," he said of the exuberant if sometimes confused welcome given by local fans.

"They have soccer cheers going on in a baseball stadium," he added. "Hopefully they will realise just how fun a sport it is to come and watch."

Lawrence Donegan of Britain's Guardian newspaper best understood the significance of the score:

The mighty Cuban team last night defeated a Canadian rivet salesman, a mortgage broker, a former New York Yankee and a bunch of guys who raised their hand when a scout walked into baseball dressing rooms from Nebraska to Florida and asked: "Anyone in here Greek?" But it was a close-run thing.

Three runs in the top of the ninth inning by the home team briefly threatened to send the Cubans - a perennial power at the Olympic level - off to the same doghouse occupied by the US basketball team, but in the end they escaped with a 5-4 win over a makeshift team that owes its presence here to the kind of genealogical research once the preserve of the former Ireland football manager Jack Charlton.


Bellinger, who actually won two World Series rings as a Yankee, came up with Greece's first run against the Cubans, dashing in from third base on an error by the catcher, Ariel Pestano, at the top of the fourth inning. That cut the Cuban lead to 2-1 and whipped the home fans into something like a frenzy. In a week marked by empty arenas and national anthems bouncing off empty walls, it was heartening to see such a bubbling crowd - even if, in their lack of baseball knowledge, they were occasionally enthusiastic about the wrong things.

Canada 9, Italy 3

"We played badly," Italian manager Giampiero Faraone told the Canadian Press news service. "We actually offered our opponents nine runs. With such a weak defence, it's hard to beat a team as strong as the Canadians."

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Olympics, Day 1

News from games on Day 1 of the Olympic baseball tournament featuring the three European teams:

Netherlands 11, Greece 0

Rob Hughes of the Singapore Straits Times watched the Netherlands rout Greece, 12-0, and was impressed by the international flavour of Olympic baseball. Reporting on the same game, Nick Peters of the Sacramento Bee focuses on the familiar names in the Greek and Dutch teams:

The U.S., remarkably, isn't represented in a sport it invented, yet there was a definite familiarity when the tournament began. Several former major-leaguers dotted the international rosters, and the windy conditions were reminiscent of Candlestick Park.

It was broiling at the main Olympic site, but Helleniko Baseball Stadium is a seaside venue, and the late-summer winds called Meltemi were blowing in from the Aegean. A cloud cover provided some relief.

A leadoff liner by Baltimore Orioles' first-round draft choice Nick Markakis was the first hit in Greek Olympic history. He later added the team's only other hit. The 7,000-seat stadium was about 80 percent full.

Japan 12 , Italy 0

The Japanese all-star team triggered the mercy rule against Italy after seven innings.

In a report about low attendence at the Olympics so far, the Associated Press reported that "barely 5,000 fans were in the stadium, and there were almost as many Japanese fans as locals."

ESPN's headline summed up how lopsided the games have been: Four losing teams score total of one run.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Olympic anecdotes

Former major leaguer Clinton Zavaras, one of the imported members of the Greek Olympic baseball team, tells the Miami Herald about people-watching in the Olympic village cafeteria:

"Just yesterday, Yao Ming walked by with his cafeteria tray, and a tiny gymnast from Romania crossed past him, and she barely went up to his thigh," Zavares said. "I saw a guy from the Republic of Moldovia, and I'm like, `What is the Republic of Moldovia?' Made me want to find a map and look for it. The village is everything you think it will be."

It's a fun piece about the athletes' life in Athens, worth reading even though there's not any baseball news in it.

Some American Azzurri

After all the stories in American papers profiling U.S. minor leaguers playing for Greece, these two stories about American-based pitchers for Italy makes a change.

The Fort Wayne News-Sentinel writes up local boy Mike Marchesano, a 28-year-old who will be pitching for Italy in Athens.

Another story about an Italian pitcher appears in the Providence Journal of Rhode Island, this one focusing on 27-year-old former Johnson High School hurler Fabio Milano, who is now the closer for Italian league power Fortitudo Bologna. The interview provides American readers some rare information about the state of baseball in Italy:

About the level of play in the Italian league, Milano says, "I never played pro ball in the States, so I can't compare, but we have a lot of players who played AA, AAA, even a few ex-major leaguers, and they compare the game here to a good AA level. Our team, for example, has some top players who could play AA in the States if they had the opportunity.

"Baseball is not a big sport in Italy, although in Bologna, my city, more kids are starting to come out to play the game."

A game between two professional clubs in Italy may attract about 2,000 spectators.

Last year, Fortitudo won the league championship for the first time in 20 years. The playoffs attracted about 4,000 fans. When the national team plays, up to 9,000 will attend a game, and a European championship game will draw as many as 30,000.

During the season, each professional team is allowed three foreigners, generally a pitcher and two position players. Teams play every Friday night with a foreign pitcher. Every Saturday, a doubleheader is scheduled with local pitchers. Milano has dual citizenship, so he counts as an Italian on the roster, but as a foreigner on the payroll.

"Foreigners are the highest-paid," he says. "It starts at around $800 a month, but some of the foreigners, some of the ex-major leaguers, will make $4,000 to $5,000 a month."

Milano, one of nine pitchers on the Italian staff in Athens, will be a middle reliever for the Azzurri

Olympic Devils

The El Paso Diablos, a minor league affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, has two Olympians -- on two different teams. Phil Stockman plays for Australia, and Pete Sikaras plays for Greece. Diablos general manager Brent Miles told the El Paso Times that his pitchers are "under strict orders to bring back medals."

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Johnson: Dutch "have a chance to medal"

Netherlands assistant coach Davey Johnson says his team may be good enough to win a medal in Athens.

New Olympic programme criteria

The end of this Associated Press report contains some information about an important development affecting baseball's future as an Olympic sport:

... the IOC formally accepted the criteria for judging which sports should be on the Olympic program. Three years ago, members put off a motion to drop baseball, softball and modern pentathlon from the games, and no changes will be made before the 2012 Olympics.

Among the key points to be considered are global participation, spectator attendance, media interest, the sport's anti-doping policies and whether the sport features the world's best athletes in the Olympics."

This is all bad news for baseball. While case can be made for the global participation criterion, the US professional leagues' bad reputation on anti-doping has been made an Olympic-related issue this year by the two minor leaguers banned from the Greek squad for doping. Furthermore, "participation of its best players" criterion is clearly a jab at Major League Baseball for its unwillingness to cooperate so that the world's best players to compete. A season shortened by a couple of weeks every four years is hardly an imposition, as the National Hockey League has shown.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Europe Elite camp

From a Major League Baseball press release:

Major League Baseball International (MLBI) will stage the fifth Europe Elite Baseball Camp in Amsterdam, Holland, from August 11-15.

The event, which will offer top-flight instruction to the best young baseball players in Europe, will take place at Sportpark Ookmeer. The 2004 Europe Elite Baseball Camp will include 50 of the top 15-to-17-year-old baseball players from 15 different Baseball Federations in Europe including Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.


The Europe Elite Baseball Camp will provide high-level skills training, including hitting, pitching, fielding, catching and base running. National and Junior National-level coaches from each federation will accompany the players and will benefit from the Camp's instruction by participating in many of the activities. The Camp will culminate with an intra-squad game where coaches and family members will be invited to attend.

Netherlands beat Taiwan

The Netherlands beat Chinese Taipei, 5-0, in the pre-Olympic tournament in Italy. In another game, Japan thrashed an Italian Serie A select team.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Tale of former Swedish star

Now playing minor-league baseball back in the United States, Jason Glosser's hometown paper in Coles County, Illinois, mentions the pitcher's stint playing baseball in Sweden:

This is Glosser’s fourth year playing professional baseball. He spent his first two seasons as a member of the Karlskoga Bats in the Elite division of the Swedish League in Sweden. He got to play in the Class B All-Europe championships in Belgium against teams from different European countries.

Glosser helped lead the Bats to their first league championship in the history of the team, and was selected as the Elite Division MVP. He had one game in which he pitched, and he struck out 20 batters. He immediately picked up the nickname Bossa, which means “boss of the game.”

Glosser was heading back to Sweden for his third year of baseball when he got a call from an independent league team in the United States. The Bisbee-Douglas, Arizona Copperkings of the Arizona-Mexico League contacted him three weeks before he was to leave for Europe.

Presumably the "Class B All-Europe Championships" refers to Karlskoga's appearance in the 2002 European Cup B-Pool in Antwerp, Belgium, in which they finished third.

Banned Greeks named

The two members of the Greek Olympic baseball team who failed their drugs tests have been named. They are lefthanded pitcher AJ Brack and reserve-team outfielder Derek Nicholson.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Greek players in Olympic doping scandal

Two of the Greek-American members of the Greek national baseball team have tested positive for a substanced banned in the Olympics, according to Reuters:

Greek baseball team spokesman refused to give the names of the two players who failed their first drug test until a second had been carried out. But he said it was "100 percent that two Greek-Americans have failed".

The newspaper Eleftherotypia quoted the Greek baseball federation's Panagiotis Mitsiopoulosone as saying one had tested positive for a steroid and another for a diuretic "in the first sample taken by the Greek Olympic Committee".

One had advised in advance that he was taking a prescription diuretic medicine for a medical condition. The second case involve the banned steroid stanozolol, the drug that wrecked the career of Canadian 100 metres runner Ben Johnson after winning in the 1988 Seoul games.

Stanozolol is an anabolic steriod sold under the trade name Winstrol in the United States, and is used to treat hereditary angioedema. In March, use of the same perfomance-enhancing drug led to the suspension of a member of the Australian Olympic baseball team.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

B-Pool in Germany

In the losers' bracket of the European Championship B-Pool in Germany, Isreal claimed fifth place< by beating Finland, 16-2, and Austria took seventh place by beating Hungary, 14-6.

In the first of today's semifinals, Slovenia leads Ireland, 2-1 in the fourth inning. The hosts, Germany, face Serbia and Montenegro this evening.

Ukraine wins B-Pool

No official reports are in yet, but a post on the forum of the other B-Pool tournament in Germany reports that the Ukraine beat Belgium in the European Champsionship B-Pool tournament in Poland to advance to next year's A-Pool tournament.

Pre-Olympic Tournament results

The Netherlands beat Italy, 5-3, in yesterday's opening game of the Pre-Olympic International Baseball Tournament in Nettuno, Italy. The game, originally scheduled for Thursday, had been postponed due to rain.

In yesterday's other game, Cuba dispatched Chinese Taipei, 4-0.

Today, the Netherlands meet Canada and Italy face Chinese Taipei.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Club tournament rundown

Dutch international baseball journalist Marco Stoovelaar provides a comprehensive rundown of the results of all the major European club tournaments.

Pre-Olympic tournament starts in Italy

The pre-Olympic international baseball tournament in Nettuno, Italy began last night. The hosts, along with fellow Olympic baseball squads from the Netherlands, Canada, Chinese Taipei, and Cuba will be competing. The opening game last night featured the two European sides.

Germany still dominating B-Pool

Hosts Germany continue to dominate the European Championships B-Pool, after notching their third successive 20-run victory with a 23-1 drubbing of Hungary.

In the other games yesterday. Ireland beat Serbia and Montenegro, 5-3; Finland edged Austria, 13-12; and Slovenia beat Israel, 6-4.

The results mean that undefeated Germany and Ireland have won their groups. They will play the second-place teams from the opposite group today in the semi-finals. Ireland will meet Slovenia in Fuerth and Germany will face Serbia and Montenegro in Regensburg.

In the consolation group, Israel plays Finland and Austria meet Hungary.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Enhanced security at B-pool

The national team of Israel, which currently playing in the European Champsionships B-Pool in Germany, is the subject of additional security precautions, the tournament's official web site explains:

04.08.2004 - (MR/ML) "The game is simply symbolic", explained Superintendent Thomas Aumüller the extended safety precautions at the game of the German national team versus the Israeli team. "The political events, the terror threat, causes us to tighten measures" so the officer-in-charge of the police in Fuerth.

All games of the Israeli team take place in the baseball stadium in Fuerth since it can be guarded better. Thus at the game on Tuesday many police officers were among the crowd - and looking more closely, one noticed the agents of the Israeli secret service Mossad.

"So far the games proceeded without any incidents", said Aumüller contently. Also the fans in Regensburg could see, that the police really gives everything to secure the Israeli team since at the opening game a part of the stands was reserved and separated for the players from Israel.

On the field, there were wins on Wednesday for Serbia and Montenegro (16-9 over Finland), Germany (23-0 over Slovenia), and Switzerland (16-3 over Hungary.

With just today's games left in the group stage, the hosts are the dominant team in the tournament, leading Group A with a 3-0 record, including two games won by more than 20 runs. Newcomers Israel have been the big surprise, winning two games before encountering Germany -- good enough for second place. Ireland and Serbia and Montenegro are undefeated atop Group B. That will change this afternoon when the two teams meet in the first game at Fuerth. The other significant contest is the battle for second place in Group A between Israel and Slovenia. Elsewhere, Finland and Austria will battle for third place in Group B, and Germany should have no problems with winless Hungary.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

More about the Greek team

There are some more profiles of the American baseball players playing for Greece in the Olympics. With the team practicing at Camden Yards, the Baltimore Sun writes up Orioles farmhand (and 2003 Number 1 draft pick) Nick Markakis. The same article reports that Greek coach Dusty Rhodesthinks the Olympic facilities will prevent a lot of home runs:

"We've got an outside shot [at a medal]. Our pitching's not as strong as the other clubs', but the field over there is a tremendous field, and I really believe the wind is going to make a big difference. This time of year, it blows 25 to 30 mph, 24 hours a day. That's going to keep balls in the ballpark."

In the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the attention is on Brewers minor league pitcher and local boy Jared Theodorakos. The article repeats the story of how the team was assembled, including one infrequently-reported fact: that the Greek government passed legislation exempting its ringers from the compulsory military duty that Greek men normally have to serve.

The article also touches on the controversy surrounding the small number of Greek-based players in the squad, which Dimitris Goussios of the Hellenic Baseball Federation loudly objected to last week:

But John Kazanas said Goussios is "way off-base." Kazanas is a Normandy High graduate who helped assemble the team and is administrating and co-coaching it in the wake of the recent sudden death of head coach Rob Derksen. Also a longtime scout for major league teams, Kazanas noted that Goussios had failed to provide him with evaluations of local players when asked and simply "is not a baseball guy."

Moreover, he said, in a country that had one baseball field five years ago - on an abandoned U.S. base - there just aren't enough developed players to field a team that wouldn't be repeatedly humiliated.

"They have no clue how good these Olympic teams are; they think they can just show up and play," Kazanas said in a phone interview from the Netherlands, where he was scouting. "A lot of these guys (in Greece) couldn't play for high school programs" in the United States.

Kazanas said he is going to address the issue with Goussios when the team arrives. First, he said, he would tell Goussios to look each player in the eye and try telling him he doesn't belong on the team.

Oh dear, oh dear.

B-Pool Results

Yesterday's results from the European Championships B-Pool in Germany: After two surprising wins, newcomers Israel lost to Germany, 32-0. Slovenia beat Switzerland, 14-11. And Ireland notched their second win, beating Austria, 8-2.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

MLB attempts to save World Cup

A MLB official has met with Japanese and South Korean baseball officials, trying to salvage the proposed baseball World Cup, which the two Asian baseball powers oppose in its current form.

B-Pool results

Today's results from the European Championships B-Pool in Germany are now in. First-time participants Israel gained their second win, beating Switzerland, 6-5. Slovenia beat Hungary, 7-5; Ireland overwhelmed Finland, 25-5.

Ireland's star was pitcher Brendan Bergerson, an Indiana resident who plays for West Virginia University.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Czechs fifth in Taiwan

The Czech Republic beat Canada, 4-2, to take fifth place at the World University Baseball Championship in Taiwan.

B-Pool results

First news from Regensburg and Fürth: Serbia-Montenegro beat Austria, 10-5; Isreal topped Hungary, 7-6; and the hosts, Germany, beat Switzerland 12-2.

Update: Ha'aretz has noticed the Israeli win.

Israel playing in B-pool

The English-language version of Ha'aretz has a story about Israel's national baseball team, which is in Germany to compete in the B-pool European Championships. The Israelis will be underdogs at the tournament: this is their first ever major competition. But they have a star in 25-year old pitcher Shlomo Lipitz, who plays college ball for the University of California, San Diego. The paper reports that although players are banned from speaking to them, scouts from the Florida Marlins and Pittsburgh Pirates organisations are expected to be attending the tournament.

Helping cricketers' fielding

Baseball players are often horrified by the low standard of fielding skills in cricket. But at least some of the biggest cricket teams in the world have recognised that they can learn or thing or two by adopting baseball's approach to fielding and throwing. For example, former Great Britain player Julien Fountain is helping the West Indies cricket team