Team USA’s Mark DeRosa sought Coach K’s advice ahead of WBC

Team USA’s Mark DeRosa sought Coach K’s advice ahead of WBC

Jesse Rogers Staff WriterESPN 9:31 PM ET4 Minutes Read

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Team USA manager Mark DeRosa is pulling no punches in his preparation to manage one of the favorites to win the World Baseball Classic this month. He even sought advice from another coach who has had experience dealing with an All-Star team.

“I talked to Mike Krzyzewski before I came out here because he had the Dream Team and he did that ‘Redeem Team’ on Netflix — and I watched that,” DeRosa said of the legendary former Duke basketball coach, who also coached the men’s team. National team with three straight Olympic gold medals. “He said, ‘Let them know: You’re not playing for the United States, you’re the United States.’

“I thought it was a powerful message for these guys.”

DeRosa, 48, spoke to reporters before an exhibition game against the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday.

He will coach for the first time when Team USA takes the field Saturday against Great Britain in Round 1 of the tournament. The team’s first practice was Tuesday, after the players left their spring training camps this week in Arizona and Florida.

“Addressing them was one of the highlights of my life,” DeRosa said.

DeRosa’s biggest challenge may be filling out the lineup for a team filled with World Series champions and All-Stars.

“You don’t want to offend anybody,” DeRosa said with a smile. “There’s no wrong answer, really. We’ve vetted it a million different ways. We tried to separate lefties and righties.”

Team USA is led by Mike Trout and Mookie Betts and includes 2022 National League MVP Paul Goldschmidt along with his St. Louis teammate. Louis Cardinals, Nolan Arenado.

DeRosa admitted it wasn’t such an easy task to get the pitchers involved. Some of the teams mainstays, such as Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, are not playing in the WBC.

“I wanted to build a team,” DeRosa said. “I didn’t want the boys to come and go. I didn’t want any of that, I wanted us to close the doors and become a band.

“To a man, every guy I talked to was dying to put the USA on his chest and be a part of it.”

The United States is the defending champion, returning 10 players from the 2017 team that won it all. The Americans are deep except at second base, where Betts will likely see time. Betts has appeared in just 30 career games at that position.

“I can’t run Jeff McNeil into the ground,” DeRosa said. “Mookie’s gonna play a second.”

Bettors should get some help on that side of the diamond, as tournament games will be played under old MLB rules, in which innings are allowed and there will be no pitch clock. Bat swings are also common in international competition.

“Tim Anderson and I have discussed this,” DeRosa said. “We really have… I’m in it, if it’s done the right way. … I have a 13-year-old son who wants to take it back to the moon when it goes deep.”

Team USA will play Saturday through Monday and again Wednesday in pool play, which includes games against Mexico, Canada and Colombia, along with its matchup against England. The top two teams advance.

“Now it’s starting to get real,” DeRosa said.

He said he’s not worried about motivation, just when to change the ball. He will lean on coaches Dave Righetti and Andy Pettitte to help in that department.

As for leadership, DeRosa has the best player in the world over the last decade for that. In fact, Trout and DeRosa are both from New Jersey.

“There’s a little connection there,” DeRosa said. “I’m a Cowboys fan and he’s an Eagles fan. We went toe-to-toe all season long.

“He’s been a leader so far for us.”

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