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OC Register: Mike Scioscia tapped to manage USA Baseball at Tokyo Olympics


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Mike Scioscia has his next managing gig lined up, far from the Angel Stadium dugout he roamed for 19 years. Scioscia was announced Tuesday as the next manager of USA Baseball, which will compete for a berth in the Tokyo Olympic Games this summer.

The USA roster is expected to feature a broad range of professionals when its Olympic quest begins in June with a qualifying tournament in Florida. A trip to Tokyo is not assured.

The U.S. must place first or second in a pool-play group with the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Nicaragua. Canada, Colombia, Cuba, and Venezuela comprise the other pool-play group in Florida. Of those eight nations, only the team with the best overall record in the second round will earn an Olympic bid.

Second- and third-place teams advance to a final qualifier in June in Taiwan, which will include Australia, China, Netherlands and Taiwan.

Scioscia, 62, is eager for the challenge.

“We’re doing a lot of prep work now,” he said on a Zoom call with reporters Tuesday. “Our system will be in place. We’re not going to give (the players) more than they can handle. We want them to get out there and play free. Their talent is going to win this for us, not anything we’re doing.”

The Angels parted ways with Scioscia after the 2018 season. Since then, he has coached baseball at the amateur level on a couple fronts. He’s involved with the Conejo Oaks, which plays in the wood-bat California Collegiate League every summer. He’s also helped Major League Baseball with its Urban Youth Academy initiative.

Scioscia learned about Team USA’s job opening through his connection to former Angels general manager Tony Reagins, MLB’s Chief Baseball Development Officer.

“Mike’s tenure with the Angels’ franchise was nothing short of spectacular, creating and celebrating a culture of success with six division titles, an American League pennant, and its first-ever World Series title,” USA Baseball Executive Director/CEO Paul Seiler said in a statement. “More impactfully, his leadership, integrity, and character are unparalleled in our game, making him the perfect fit for the USA Baseball family. We are thrilled to have him lead our Professional National Team in 2021 as we look to earn a spot in the Tokyo Olympic Games.”

Scioscia is following in the footsteps of his mentor, former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda. Four years after managing his last major league game, Lasorda guided Team USA to a gold medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia.

Now, Scioscia has a chance to join Lasorda as the only men to win Olympic gold and a World Series.

“We won a lot of games with Tommy, won two championships with Tommy, and I never saw him cry at all when we won the World Series,” Scioscia said. “He was always happy. But managing the USA Olympic team was special for Tommy. You saw the tears.”

The Olympic baseball tournament will take place from July 28-August 7 in Fukushima City and Yokohama, Japan. Japan, Israel, Korea, and Mexico have already secured a berth in the six-team field.

In Feb. 2020, it was announced that 40-man roster players who aren’t on an active major league roster or injured list can represent their countries at the Tokyo Games. The games were postponed until this summer because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Scioscia said he’s heard a positive response from general managers about making their players available.

“There’s naturally guys that are on the roster or close to the roster that they’re going to hold tight for common sense reasons,” he said. “But I think the response has been terrific. It is incumbent on every general manager of every team to worry about their organization first. … I think the GMs recognize the great opportunity they have to move some players forward, and they’ve been very, very cooperative.”

Recently, Scioscia said he’s spent his downtime getting to know his first granddaughter, Jayce, and honing his golf game. Though he misses the competition of a major league dugout, Scioscia isn’t planning on managing in the majors again ― by choice, he said. He does not consider the Olympics an audition.

“I’m very, very excited to put on the USA jersey,” he said, “as I know every player is.”

An announcement of the U.S. Olympic baseball coaches is expected next week.

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