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Mike Scioscia named U.S. baseball manager ahead of Olympic qualifying

Mike Scioscia

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 13: Manager Mike Scioscia #14 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the dugout during the game against the Seattle Mariners at Angel Stadium on September 13, 2018 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

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Mike Scioscia will manage the U.S. baseball team in Olympic qualifying in June and, if it qualifies, at the Tokyo Games as the sport returns to the Olympic program.

“I am looking forward to the privilege of wearing the USA jersey,” Scioscia, the Los Angeles Angels manager from 2000-2018, said in a release. “It is a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Scioscia, 62, is the third different U.S. manager in the last two years ahead of baseball’s first Olympic appearance since 2008.

Baseball will not be in the 2024 Olympics in Paris. It hasn’t been announced whether it will be part of the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

Joe Girardi was named U.S. manager in August 2019, three months before the first Olympic qualifying tournament. Girardi then took the Philadelphia Phillies job, and was replaced by Scott Brosius in October 2019.

Brosius managed the U.S. team that lost to Mexico in its first Olympic qualifying opportunity in November 2019, using a roster of mostly double-A and triple-A caliber players.

The Olympics, which always take place during the MLB season, have never included active MLB players. Scioscia doesn’t expect that to change. He predicted a blended roster of young players for qualifying, perhaps as low as single-A to triple-A pitchers and veterans with pennant-race experience.

He described MLB general managers’ response as “tremendous” regarding minor leaguers being made available for Olympic qualifying.

“They see the opportunity to move some players ahead with this type of an intense situation. These are playoff games,” he said. “There’s naturally guys close to the [active MLB] roster they’re going to hold tight for common sense reasons.”

The U.S.’ last two qualifying tournaments were postponed by one year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The winner of a North and South America tournament in early June in Florida earns one spot in Tokyo. The second- and third-place nations advance to the last-chance global qualifier from June 16-20 in Taichung, also a winner-to-Tokyo event.

The U.S., ranked second in the world, is to compete with seven other nations for one Olympic spot in the Americas qualifier — Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Colombia, Canada and Nicaragua.

Israel, Japan, Mexico and South Korea earned the first four spots in the six-team Olympic tournament.

Scioscia, who led the Angels to the 2002 World Series title, has no experience with USA Baseball as a manager or player.

He won the 1981 and 1988 World Series as a catcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers under Tommy Lasorda, the man most associated with Olympic baseball in the U.S. for managing the gold-medal team in Sydney in 2000. Lasorda died in January at 93.

Scioscia said he never saw Lasorda cry with the Dodgers. But tears cascaded down his cheeks as his American players received gold medals 21 years ago.

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