Bloggin' With the Bears: Kendal Volz and the USA Baseball National Team

Editor's Note: Over the next few weeks, Baylor pitcher and Team USA member Kendal Volz and Larry Little, associate director of athletic media relations, will share with you their experiences while traveling through Europe with the National Team.

July 5-9, 2008
July 10-14, 2008
July 15-19, 2008
July 20-24, 2008

July 27, 2008
10:45 p.m. CEST

by Larry Little


Sorry for the delay. We were celebrating.


Japan made things interesting in the bottom of the 12th, but Baylor’s Kendal Volz closed the door on the game and on a perfect season for the USA Baseball National Team. Final score:  Eagles 1, Rising Sun 0.


Kyohei Iwasaki led off the inning with a seeing-eye single to the hole at short. After a sacrifice bunt pushed him to third, Iwasaki stole third base. In actuality, Iwasaki was out; however, the third-base umpire didn’t see third baseman Tommy Mendonca block the bag with his leg. Iwasaki never got to the base. Replay on TV proved such.


No worries, though. Volz struck out the batter and then got a ground ball out to short stop Christian Colon. That ended the game and gave Team USA the FISU World Championship gold medal for the third consecutive time.


We’ll have more soon.



July 27, 2008
9:28 p.m. CEST
Morris Does It Again!

by Larry Little


Three days after his walk-off home run against Chinese-Taipei, Auburn’s Hunter Morris came through in a clutch situation again. Morris, in a pinch-hitting role, took a strike before looping a broken-bat single into center field. That allowed Micah Gibbs to score from second, giving Team USA a 1-0 lead in the top of the 12th. Team USA still has runners at first and second with two outs. Josh Fellhauer will come to the plate after a pitching change.


Baylor’s Kendal Volz is warming in the bullpen.



July 27, 2008
9:25 p.m. CEST
So Close

by Larry Little


Tommy Mendonca led off the top of the 12th inning with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from Ryan Jackson. After Micah Gibbs was intentionally walked, Matt den Dekker singled through the right side. However, Mendonca was thrown out at home by Japan’s right fielder. Mendonca plowed the catcher, who held onto the ball after the collision.



July 27, 2008
9:10 p.m. CEST
Still Scoreless, Part II

by Larry Little


Missouri’s Kyle Gibson retired the side in order with one strikeout in the bottom of the 11th, so we go to the 12th inning still scoreless. Tommy Mendonca, who is 3-for-3 and has been hit by a pitch, leads off for Team USA.


On a side note:  We must leave Brno by 4 a.m. to catch our flight in Prague.



July 27, 2008
8:55 p.m. CEST
HUGE Pitch

by Larry Little


Tyler Lyons tossed just two pitches in the bottom of the 10th inning, but they were both big ones. With runners on the corners and two outs, Lyons got a called strike and a ground ball to get Team USA out of the jam. Christian Colon snagged the bouncer up the middle and flipped to second baseman Ryan Jackson for the force out at second. On to the 11th we go.



July 27, 2008
8:50 p.m. CEST
Minor Exits in 10th

by Larry Little


Mike Minor leaves the game with runners on the corners and two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning. Consecutive two-out singles coupled with a fielding error by left fielder Josh Fellhauer put us in this position. Oklahoma State’s Tyler Lyons has taken the mound. Obviously, we’re still scoreless.



July 27, 2008
8:25 p.m. CEST
Still Scoreless

by Larry Little


We’re headed to the bottom of the ninth inning, still scoreless. Mike Minor has faced the minimum through 8.0 innings, allowing only two singles with no walks and nine strikeouts. Team USA has seven hits, including a 3-for-3 night from Tommy Mendonca. However, outs on the bases have been very detrimental to the U.S. cause; a pickoff, a runner tagged out between third and home, and three double plays have kept this game scoreless.



July 27, 2008
7:15 p.m. CEST
Runs at a Premium

by Larry Little


Through four innings, pitching is dominating tonight’s FISU World Championships gold medal game between Team USA and Japan. We are scoreless, and each team has only two hits. Both of Japan’s hits are one-out singles, and both runners were caught stealing; therefore, Team USA starter Mike Minor has faced the minimum through four frames.


Team USA had the biggest threat but came up empty. LSU’s Micah Gibbs led off with a double to left-center and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt from Florida’s Matt den Dekker. A walk from Coastal Carolina’s Scott Woodward put runners on the corners with one out for Cal State Fullerton’s Josh Fellhauer. However, Fellhauer tapped the first pitch he saw back to the mound, and Gibbs was thrown out between third and home. California’s Blake Smith then struck out, ending the threat.


Gibbs led off the top of the fifth with a broken-bat single to center. However, den Dekker’s fake-bunt-slash hit-and-run did not turn out as well as Zach Dillon’s did for Baylor against Tulane in the 2005 College World Series. This one resulted in a second-to-first double play. And, as fate would have it, Woodward and Fellhauer followed with singles, but Smith flied out to deep right field to end the inning.



July 27, 2008
6:05 p.m. CEST
Championship Blue?

by Larry Little


Baylor fans are familiar with the term “Championship Gold” … especially Baylor baseball fans. Recent tradition has it that Baylor’s baseball team only wears its Championship Gold jerseys on Sundays and then only with a chance to win the series.


Well, Team USA dons its blue jerseys for tonight’s FISU World Championships gold medal game. The only other time the U.S. team has worn the blue jerseys since arriving in Europe were in the Haarlem Baseball Week gold medal game against Cuba, a game Team USA won 4-1.


The jersey choice was that of starting pitcher Mike Minor (Vanderbilt). In a discussion with me and auxiliary assistant Steven Goldburg in the dugout prior to the game, Minor referred to the jerseys as “Championship Blue.” Sounds like a plan to me. But gold is gold.



July 27, 2008
5:45 p.m. CEST
One More Time Around

by Larry Little


Win or lose, tonight’s game will be the final hoorah for the 2008 USA Baseball National Team. With Vanderbilt’s Mike Minor taking the mound, Team USA faces Japan in tonight’s FISU World Championships title game at Mestsky Stadium in Brno, Czech Republic. A win also would give the U.S. squad a perfect 24-0 record for the 2008 tour, and it would solidify the 2008 squads as one of the best National Teams in USA Baseball history.


The strength of this team has been – without a doubt – the pitching. Entering tonight’s game, the U.S. staff has a 0.93 ERA. The current National Team record for lowest ERA is 1.29, established in 2003. Team USA would have to allow three earned runs in a nine-inning game tonight for the staff ERA to climb above 1.00. Furthermore, Japan must score 10 earned runs in a nine-inning game tonight for the 2008 staff to not break the 2003 mark. Consider for both:  Team USA has not allowed more than two earned runs in any game this summer. I’m not making any guarantees, just pointing out facts.


Minor has been at the forefront of the dominant pitching staff, going 3-0 with a 1.03 ERA and 28 strikeouts over 26.1 innings. Named the most valuable pitcher at Haarlem Baseball Week, Minor is by far the most experienced pitcher on the U.S. staff when it comes to international competition. He was a 2007 National Team member, he has beaten Cuba’s Olympic Team twice (something no other U.S. college pitcher has ever done), and he has already led Team USA to one gold medal (Haarlem).


We’re about 15 minutes from first pitch. Here’s what Team USA’s lineup looks like tonight:  DH Scott Woodward (Coastal Carolina), LF Josh Fellhauer (Cal State Fullerton), RF Blake Smith (California), 1B Jared Clark (Cal State Fullerton), SS Christian Colon (Cal State Fullerton), 3B Tommy Mendonca (Fresno State), 2B Ryan Jackson (Miami-FL), C Micah Gibbs (LSU) and CF Matt den Dekker (Florida).



July 26, 2008
12:10 p.m. CEST
Volz Time

by Larry Little


Baylor’s Kendal Volz strode to the mound to start the top of the ninth inning. Team USA holds a 3-0 lead. Volz will face 2-3-4 in the lineup, and it did not start well for Volz. He fell behind 3-0 to the Hsien-Hsien Yang before battling back to a full count and getting a groundout to third.


Next up is Kuo-Min Lin.


First pitch:  slider for a strike.


Second pitch:  slider misses low.


Third pitch:  fastball fouled back.


Fourth pitch:  slow-rolling grounder to second. Two outs.


Next up is Chih-Pei Huang.


First pitch:  fastball on the inside corner.


Second pitch:  slider, swing and a miss.


Third pitch:  slider called strike on the outside corner.


And that’s your ball game, folk. Volz made quick work of Taipei and picked up his seventh save in as many tries on the tour. He still has not allowed an earned run, and he now has 15 strikeouts in 13.0 innings over 12 appearances.


Team USA advances to Sunday’s title game at the FISU World Championships and will face the winner of tonight’s Korea-Japan game. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. locally (11 a.m. in Texas). We’ll see you then.



July 26, 2008
11:45 a.m. CEST
Solid Day at the Office

by Larry Little


San Diego State’s Stephen Strasburg has completed his work for the 2008 USA Baseball National Team. Strasburg tossed 7.0 scoreless innings in his fifth and final start for Team USA. He allowed two hits and two walks with nine strikeouts. For the tour, Strasburg allowed four earned runs in 34.0 innings (1.06 ERA) with 48 strikeouts against just six walks. He leaves the game in line for his third win against no losses.


Team USA holds a 3-0 lead as we go to the top of the eighth inning. Missouri’s Kyle Gibson is on for the eighth, and Baylor’s Kendal Volz is beginning to warm in the bullpen. It is a bullpen combination that has been rock solid for Team USA throughout the summer. Hopefully it can continue to be so for two more days.


After Matt den Dekker gave Team USA a 1-0 with an RBI groundout in the second, Micah Gibbs pushed the U.S. lead to 2-0 with another RBI groundout in the seventh. Back-to-back two-out doubles from Cal State Fullerton’s Josh Fellhauer (on an 0-2 pitch) and California’s Blake Smith (on the first pitch) pushed the lead to 3-0.


Gibson was perfect in the eighth; after Team USA bats in the bottom of the eighth, we’ll go to the ninth and should see Volz. We’ll see.



July 26, 2008
10:35 p.m. CEST
How Do You Say “Gamesmanship” in Mandarin?

by Larry Little


No big surprise here, but Chinese-Taipei pulled a typical Asian pregame routine prior to this morning’s semifinal game at the FISU World Championships – refusing to announce whether its starting pitcher would be a right-hander or a left-hander. Augie Garrido and Frank Anderson must have studied under Asian coaches. (There probably is a Zen connection that could be made here, but I’m not going to make it. Paralipsis anyone?)


The general thought is that doing so puts the opponent at a disadvantage; usually, a manager or coach bases his lineup on whether the opposing pitcher is right-handed or left-handed. Some coaches who pull the “no announcement” routine thing it keeps the opponent from being prepared. Seriously, though, if you’re not prepared to face a certain pitcher an hour before first pitch, odds are you never will be.


Nonetheless, at the premier levels of American baseball, it is required to announce a rotation of pitchers several days in advance. The rotation can be changed, but by and large it eliminates the gamesmanship element from equation. Bravo to such leagues because – when you get down to it – the gamesmanship is just silly.


(This is me getting off my soapbox.)


Really, all the “no announcement” move does is cause frustration for people not playing or coaching in the game. I’m not going to get too technical here; let’s try the Cliff’s notes version. Take today for example:


Taipei refused to announce. The FISU (ahem) technical committee requires that lineups be submitted at least 50 minutes prior to first pitch. At that time today, neither team had submitted a lineup. Team USA head coach Rob Walton refused to make out a lineup until Taipei announced. Finally, 30 minutes prior to first pitch, Taipei submitted a lineup with a left-hander listed as the starting pitcher. Walton then quickly inked a Team USA lineup and submitted.


The funniest part of all this is that either coach or both coaches can – within the rules of baseball – change in part or in whole the lineup before submitting an official lineup to the umpires just before the start of the game. So, the people who get caught in the fray are television announcers, the official scorekeeper, etc., who are unable to get prepared for the game until the absolute very last second. Most coaches would say, “well, boo hoo.” While I don’t totally disagree, there are better ways to annoy these types of people. Ask me; I’ll fill you in.


Luckily, I’m not affected too much when the team with which I’m working is on the road like we are here in Brno; I can get a lineup two minutes before first pitch and be ready to roll when the game starts. The only way it affects me is warding off the hordes of people coming to the dugout asking (and sometimes demanding) that we turn in a lineup. “Sorry, pal. It’s not going to happen until the other team announces.”


Well, Taipei’s starting pitcher is left-handed. As we head to the bottom of the third, Team USA has a 1-0 lead. Florida’s Matt den Dekker beat out a potential double-play ball in the bottom of the second that scored LSU’s Micah Gibbs from third. Taipei has one hit – a leadoff single in the first. That runner was stranded at third, and San Diego State’s Stephen Strasburg retired the next eight batters in succession with four strikeouts.



July 26, 2008
9:45 a.m. CEST
More Than Just Baseball

by Larry Little


A caveat:  My vocabulary is not extensive enough to aptly describe what we saw Friday.


Team USA and the other teams in the FISU World Championships had an off-day Friday. Tournament play begins Saturday morning with the U.S. squad facing Chinese-Taipei for the 10th time this summer. Japan and Korea – the second and third seeds, respective – meet Saturday evening in the other semifinal game.


With the day off Friday, the Team USA coaching staff and general manager Eric Campbell gave our two auxiliary administrators and me a full off-day. We were not required to attend practice in the morning or eat at the hotel; we were free to do whatever.


So, the three of us hopped a train to Vienna, Austria, with our host/translator Michaela. If you ever have the chance to see Vienna, do it. Every penny of the round-trip train ticket from Brno to Vienna (which was roughly $45 USD) was among the best pennies I’ve ever spent. It took Vienna all of about 30 minutes to surpass Ottawa, Ontario, as the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen (Granted, I’ve not seen Rome or Paris. However, I have seen quite a few places in my time, and for right now Vienna takes the cake with very little argument).


The four of us packed a lot into our eight-hour stay in the Austrian capital. We visited nearly all of city center (Inner Stadt) and several buildings on its outer boundary along Ringstrasse (a street that encircles Inner Stadt along the path of the former city walls), including the museum quarter, the parliament building, the Burgtheater, Hofburg Imperial Plaza and Peterskirche. We did not have time to tour the insides of the buildings, but seeing them from the outside was impressive enough. We concluded the first part of our tour with a light lunch in a plaza area across Ringstrasse from the Burgtheatre.


We then hopped a train and one bus to the Zentralfriedhof in Simmering, the 11th district of Vienna located on the southeast corner of the city’s limits. Zentralfriedhof is Europe’s second-largest cemetery in terms of area (1.5 square miles) and Europe’s largest by number interred (roughly 3.3 million). Perhaps I’m a morbid one, but there is more to the story. Built in 1874, the cemetery is among the most famous in the world because of who is interred within its gates. Along with Dr. Karl Renner (perhaps the most influential politician in Austrian history), several of the founding fathers of classical music are interred in Zentralfriedhof. Included in this group (some of whom were moved there many years after their deaths) are Johannes Brahms, Franz Schubert, Johan Strauss and Ludwig van Beethoven. Seeing Beethoven’s grave really was my top reason for making the trip; again, call me morbid, but that was one of the 10 things I must see before dying. Three down, seven to go.


From there, we returned to Inner Stradt and visited St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Stephansplatz. The cathedral stands on the ruins of two earlier churches, the first of which was constructed from 1147 to 1160 A.D. The tallest of its towers stands at 445 feet and is known to the Viennese as “Steffl”; noted as the world’s 13th-tallest Christian church, St. Stephen’s Cathedral’s Steffl is the tallest structure in Vienna and dominates the city’s skyline.


Our next stop was Schonbrunn Palace, one of the city’s most important cultural monuments. Modeled after the Palace at Versailles, Schonbrunn is simply massive with its sprawling lawns and gardens. At the tip of the garden area is a 200-foot hill; on top of this hill rests the Gloriette structure, which was built in 1775. Behind Gloriette is a reflective lake, and a great view of Vienna can be seen from atop the hill.


Then we returned to Stephansplatz for dinner before returning to Brno via train around 10:30 p.m. The train on return was… well… let’s just say crowded. As many people stood for the one-hour ride to Berklav as rode. One of my fellow travelers and I stood in the train’s hallway next to three Russian gentlemen who were enjoying some (perhaps too much) of their native country’s liquid. At about 11:15 p.m. – roughly 20 minutes before the end of that leg of the train ride, one of the men began playing his harmonica. Those who had seats and were trying to sleep may have been annoyed, but those of us in the hallway enjoyed the entertainment. He began his “concert” with “When the Saints Go Marching In.” It was quite enjoyable. After changing trains in Berklav, we arrived back in Brno just before 1 a.m.


There were plenty of things we wanted to see in Vienna that we did not get to see, mainly the Vienna Boys’ Choir, but we were happy with all we packed into a one-day adventure. Bottom line:  If ever in the neighborhood (anywhere in Europe), find a way to Vienna. You will not regret it.




Online Store