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I couldn't believe my eyes and ears

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Latest: Saturday September 09, 2000 10:19 AM


University of South Carolina baseball coach Ray Tanner is serving as an assistant coach for the U.S. Olympic baseball team. He was an assistant coach on the 1996 U.S. Olympic Baseball Team that captured a bronze medal in Atlanta. Tanner, who has coached at USC since 1997, led the Gamecocks to the 2000 Southeastern Conference regular season championship with a school-record 56 victories.

September 8, 2000
Gold Coast, Australia

The team has been together for a week. There is certain amount of camaraderie in baseball already, but with Tommy Lasorda as the manager, it makes it even more of a special fraternity. Baseball is our national past time and being with Team USA is the ultimate.

Tommy Lasorda motivates around the clock. He is tremendous, probably the funniest person I have ever been around. He motivates and has fun at the same type. And what a whiz around the media. His coaching staff: Reggie Smith, Phil Regan and Eddie Rodriquez, have so much experience. Years and years. They are a wealth of knowledge to the team and to myself. Tommy loves the game and loves being the manager of this team. Team USA is a first class operation.

I knew this was going to be an exciting trip. But, in a 2-3 hour span the first morning we practiced (at QualComm Stadium in San Diego) I couldn't believe my eyes and ears. First, there was Tommy Lasorda giving our team a pep talk in the Padres locker room prior to our first practice. I was ready to play myself! Then Tony Quinn stopped by practice and spoke to the team for awhile. Then, to top it all off, Hall of Famer Ted Williams talked to the team and wished them luck, via a conference call. I had to pinch myself a few times because I have been given this opportunity -- it's big time.

Our players understand the importance of what we need to do. How we need to represent our country. Our goal is to win the gold medal. On the practice field, on the bus, in the hotel, that's all the players talk about. At practice the other day one of the players said: "We can't walk to the gold medal." He was inferring that we have to get busy. There is no doubt that every player on this staff is motivated to do everything possible to win the gold medal. Period.

Ray Tanner and Tommy Lasorda Ray Tanner poses with Olympic coach Tommy Lasorda.  

Some of the guys on the team have been in the big leagues. They are top notch and all of them are thrilled to be here. I knew about half of the team, our paths have crossed here and there. One of the shortstops, Adam Everett, played for me at N.C. State and then at South Carolina.

After a few days in San Diego we headed for the Gold Coast of Australia, via LA, Sydney and Brisbane. We left L.A. on a Saturday and got here on Monday morning. The long flight over wasn't so bad because the players have DVD players, CD players, etc. It was nice to visit with each other. It's funny because instead of hearing the players ask each other what time it is, they ask what day it is. The first morning we got here, my roommate, Dick Cooke (head coach at Davidson) and I got up at 5:30 a.m. and saw the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen. Right now it's mid-70s in the day and a light jacket at night. There is a gorgeous beach just down the street -- kind of touristy, Surfer's Paradise.

The time adjustment (plus 14 hours) hasn't been too bad. We aren't tired but everyone seems to go to bed early and be up by 8 a.m. I get up at 6 a.m. like at home. There are six restaurants in our hotel, so we eat all of our meals there. We played our first game against Italy and played very well. Tonight we should have a good crowd because we play Australia. We leave for Sydney on the 13th. Can't wait!

-- Ray

P.S. To the Gamecock baseball team (the SEC champs in 2000!) I know my guys at South Carolina are studying hard, working out and getting better every day. Best of luck to Coach Holtz and the football team as they go for win No. 2 against the Georgia Bulldogs. And the volleyball team: BEAT CLEMSON!

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