LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – In some ways, it's a harsh turnaround. One day after his University of Louisville baseball team was eliminated from the College World Series by Vanderbilt, Cardinals coach Dan McDonnell found himself knee-deep in preparations for a stint as the U.S. Collegiate National team head coach.
It's a busy run that starts in earnest today when the U.S. begins a five-game International Friendship Series against Cuba in Hickory, N.C. The team held a four-game Red-White tryout series last week and beat a CPL Select team 4-0 on Monday.
"It's healing when the season ends with a loss, especially putting the USA uniform on as I did in '09, that is a real treat," McDonnell said. "And you're coaching superstar players, but they're much more than just talented players. These are the All-Americans of college baseball to represent our country."
One of the players McDonnell is coaching is his own – pitcher Reid Detmers made the roster. He was one of four Louisville players invited to try out, along with pitchers Bobby Miller and Michael Kirian, as well as first baseman Alex Binelas.
"Alex was the only freshman position player that got invited this year because he had a phenomenal year," McDonnell said. "Really proud of those guys, what they were able to do and get that recognition. It's a great honor, there's only 32 players fighting for 24 spots."
McDonnell also is coaching a couple of Vanderbilt players who had key roles in knocking Louisville out of the College World Series – Austin Martin and Tyler Brown.
"Kids come together from all parts of the country and they're all fighting for their spot and they're competing," McDonnell said. "Then at some point everybody's got to unify and say, 'Hey, we've got to be one team,' and it's fun when they all get to be in one dugout and you start playing a country in the other dugout. You see that transition from competing against each other for the first week, then for those guys that make it they all put on the same unis and there’s nothing like it. The competitive spirit when you get the 24 best players in the country wearing the USA uniform and you're playing against another country, man, it's spirited. It's a lot of fun."
After playing Cuba in North Carolina, the team will travel to Taichung, Taiwan, for five games against Chinese Taipei, then on to Japan for five games against the Japanese national team in five different cities, ending in Tokyo.
For McDonnell, there’s no offseason this year. But the same is true for many of his players, he said.
"There's no down time. It's always nice for people to wish you some rest and down time, but that's just not the world of baseball, for the right reasons," he said. "When you play all the way to Omaha, the third week of June, the summer has begun. We flew back Saturday, team meeting and individual meetings Saturday and Sunday and then kids are on their way. We've got guys playing from the Northwoods League, Central Illinois League, Perfect Game League New York, the New England League and Cape Cod League, as well as four guys who went to the USA Red-Blue (national team tryout) series. So it's a busy summer. We've got two camps this summer and then one in late August. And our coaches are already recruiting. So, no rest; we've just got to keep working, it's got to be a productive summer."
The national team wraps up play on July 21.
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