SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Team USA manager Mark DeRosa is leaving no stone unturned 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 some experience dealing with a team of All-Stars.
“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 it,” DeRosa said of the legendary former Duke men’s basketball coach who also led the men’s national team to three straight Olympic gold medals. “He said, ‘Get them to understand: You’re not playing for the United States; you are the United States.’
“I thought that was a powerful message for these guys.”
DeRosa, 48, spoke to reporters before Wednesday’s 5-1 exhibition loss to the San Francisco Giants.
He will be a first-time manager when Team USA takes the field on Saturday against Great Britain in Round 1 of the tournament. The squad’s first workout was on Tuesday, as players left their spring training camps this week in both Arizona and Florida.
“To address them was one of the highlights of my life,” DeRosa said.
DeRosa’s biggest challenge might be filling out the lineup card for a team littered with World Series champions and All-Stars.
“You don’t want to offend anyone,” DeRosa said with a smile. “There’s not a wrong answer, really. We vetted it a million different ways. Tried to split up the 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 Cardinals teammate Nolan Arenado.
DeRosa admitted getting pitchers to participate wasn’t as easy a task. Some of the top arms, such as Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, aren’t playing in the WBC.
“I wanted to create a team,” DeRosa said. “I didn’t want guys to come and go. I didn’t want any of that. I wanted us to close the doors and become a group.
“To a man, every guy that I’ve spoken to was dying to put the USA across their 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 is likely to see time. Betts has appeared in only 30 career games at that position.
“I can’t run Jeff McNeil into the ground,” DeRosa said. “Mookie is going to play some second.”
Betts should get some help on that side of the diamond, as tournament games will be played under the old MLB rules, in which shifts are allowed and there won’t be a pitch clock. Bat flips are also common in international competition.
“Me and Tim Anderson have discussed that,” DeRosa said. “We really have. … I’m into it, if done the right way. … I have a 13-year-old son that wants to flip it to the moon when he goes deep.”
Team USA will play Saturday through Monday and again on Wednesday in pool play, which includes games against Mexico, Canada and Colombia, along with its contest against England. The top two teams advance.
“Now it’s starting to get real,” DeRosa said.
He said he isn’t worried about motivation but simply when to change pitchers. He’ll rely 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 past 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 throughout the course of the season.
“He’s been a leader so far for us.”