LaPorta named to Team USA


Matt LaPorta
Matt LaPorta

First baseman Matt LaPorta is UF's all-time home run record holder.

The Associated Press
Published: Wednesday, July 16, 2008 at 4:29 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, July 16, 2008 at 4:29 p.m.

Matt LaPorta's cell phone was rendered useless on Wednesday.

Facts

US Olympic roster

Brett Anderson, LHP, Midland (Texas)
Jake Arrieta, RHP, Frederick (South Atlantic)
Brian Barden, INF, Memphis (PCL)
Matthew Brown, INF, Salt Lake City (PCL)
Trevor Cahill, RHP, Midland (Texas)
Jason Donald, INF, Reading (EL)
Geno Espineli, LHP, Fresno (PCL)
Dexter Fowler, OF, Tulsa (Texas)
John Gall, OF, Albuquerque (PCL)
Mike Hessman, INF, Toledo (IL)
Kevin Jepsen, RHP, Salt Lake City (PCL)
Brandon Knight, RHP, New Orleans (PCL)
Mike Koplove, RHP, Las Vegas (PCL)
Matt LaPorta, OF, Akron (EL)
Louis Marson, C, Reading (EL)
Blaine Neal, RHP, Toledo (IL)
Colby Rasmus, OF, Memphis (PCL)
Clayton Richard, LHP, Charlotte (IL)
Jeff Stevens, RHP, Buffalo (IL)
Stephen Strasburg, RHP, San Diego State
Taylor Teagarden, C, Oklahoma (PCL)
Terry Tiffee, INF, Las Vegas (PCL)
Casey Weathers, RHP, Tulsa (PCL)

But that was to be expected after the former Florida All-American was named to the U.S. Olympic baseball team, joining Brad Wilkerson as the only Gators to achieve such an honor.

"I'm talking on my fiancee's phone because my phone ... there's too many text messages coming in on there," LaPorta said in a teleconference with reporters.

The announcement extended what has already been a wild few weeks for the Gators' all-time home run leader. LaPorta was traded from Milwaukee to Cleveland in the CC Sabathia deal earlier this month, then played in the Future's Game last Sunday at Yankee Stadium.

"It's been like a roller coaster," LaPorta said. "Overall it's very exciting and I am just thankful to have this opportunity to represent my country and play baseball for them."

Team USA general manager Bob Watson said LaPorta would play a significant role in the team's quest for a medal. Watson said LaPorta will likely be the centerpiece of the team's batting order. Manager Davey Johnson, however, will have the final say.

"I don't know if Davey is going to hit him three, four or five," Watson said. "But he's going to hit in the middle of the lineup."

Johnson said LaPorta's ability to play both the outfield and first base was a big reason he was selected to the team. LaPorta played first base at Florida from 2004-07. He has played outfield in the minor leagues, but was back at first base in the Future's Game, which served as an audition for Team USA.

"He's an outfielder, but I know he played first base at the University of Florida," Johnson said. "He looked awful good over at first base in the Future's Game."

LaPorta was one of five players who played in the Future's Game that were selected to the U.S. team. The game acted as an Olympic Trials event for Johnson and his staff.

"We had heard a lot of good things," Johnson said. "The main thing I liked once I saw him is he's an aggressive hitter and he's got a good idea of what he's doing."

LaPorta said the Future's Game was special because his father, Vince, was in the stands.

"All he could talk about was watching his son play in Yankee Stadium," LaPorta said. "For every baseball fan, that's a dream of theirs."

The Summer Games in Beijing will give LaPorta a chance to reunited with a couple of his old college buddies, namely Gator swimmer Ryan Lochte and track standout Kerron Clement.

"It will be exciting to see those guys out there," he said.

LaPorta is currently with Cleveland's Double-A affiliate in Akron, Ohio.

He is one of 23 minor leaguers on the U.S. team. Each Major League franchise gave Team USA permission to use the players selected for the team.

LaPorta said the experience will help him in his quest to play in the Major Leagues.

"I think playing games is always going to help me out advancing to the different levels of baseball," LaPorta said. "But this is more of representing this great country and putting on a USA jersey. I'm just so thankful for it."

Team USA will open play against Korea on Aug. 13.

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