The Olympics are finally underway in Tokyo, Japan after COVID-19 delayed the games last summer. Among the classic events like swimming, volleyball, and the bizarre beauty of the equestrian event, one sport will be making its triumphant return. For the first time since the 2008 Olympics, baseball will once again be a medal event for fans around the world to enjoy.
A common staple for the games is that some teams, specifically Team USA, fill their rosters with professional baseball players currently employed within Minor League Baseball. Oddly enough, the Rockies organization has seen a number of players compete in the Olympics and some players have even won a few medals.
So in honor of the return of the event, let’s take a look back at these players that competed on the world stage.
John Cotton: 2000 Sydney Olympics
John Cotton spent his entire baseball career in the minors. During the 1999 and 2000 seasons, he was a member of the Rockies’ organization, spending time in Triple-A Colorado Springs. The utility man joined Team USA for the 2000 Olympics and went on to help win a gold medal over Cuba in the finals.
Cotton never quite dazzled in his baseball career, and despite posting a .185 batting average in eight games at the Olympics, Cotton made his hits count. He tallied five of them, with four going for extra bases. Each of those hits came at important times as he drove in six runs for his team. While he never reached the major leagues with the Rockies or anyone else, Cotton was a solid player and managed to win a gold medal.
Chin-Hui Tsao: 2004 Athens Olympics
The first Taiwanese pitcher to make it to the big leagues, Chin-Hui Tsao spent six years in the Rockies organization, including parts of three seasons at the big league level from 2003 to 2005. In 2004, injuries and a commitment to play with the Chinese Taipei team in the Athens Olympics limited him to just 10 appearances with the Rockies that season. He later went on to compete in the 2008 Olympics after being released by the Kansas City Royals. In his two Olympic appearances, Chin-Hui Tsao went 0-1 with a 1.98 ERA and one save, with most of that success coming in 2004. Injuries plagued his career, but his legacy for Taiwan will carry on forever.
Jayson Nix, Casey Weathers, Dexter Fowler: 2008 Beijing Olympics
The Rockies were represented well in the 2008 Olympics as they sent three of their minor leaguers to compete for Team USA. The team won a bronze medal and featured other notable prospects like Stephen Strasburg and Jake Arrieta.
Jayson Nix played in only three games during the Olympics after suffering an injury while playing against Cuba. In the 11th inning, Nix fouled a ball off his eye and he had to go to the hospital and consequently missed the rest of the Olympics. In three games Nix slashed .214/.267/.500 with a home run.
Casey Weathers was the Rockies’ first-round pick in 2007 and was chosen to pitch for Team USA the following year where he also appeared in three games. In three innings of work, Weathers allowed two runs (both unearned) on three hits with five strikeouts and one walk. Despite pitching the fewest innings, Weathers still put in a solid performance in Beijing.
The most notable performance of the three belongs to Dexter Fowler. Drafted in the 14th round by the Rockies, Fowler rose through the ranks and became a staple in the Rockies’ outfield for several years. In 2008 he was selected to join Team USA and played a strong supporting role for the bronze medal victory. In nine games Fowler batted .250/.300/.429 with four extra-base hits and five runs scored.
While no current players in the Rockies organization are competing in the Olympics this year, it’s just a pleasure to have baseball back for the world to see. Baseball is becoming more of a worldwide sport and the Olympics are a great opportunity to showcase some of the best players around the world, playing the best game in the world.
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Patrick Saunders brings up an interesting idea for the Rockies in the coming offseason. With one of the best starting rotations in franchise history, the Rockies have one of the worst offenses in franchise history. Saunders suggests that the team should make a splash in free agency and sign a tried and true slugger to boost the offense and take advantage of the Coors Field. With the designated hitter potentially coming to the National League, Saunders has a wish list of guys like Nick Castellanos, J.D. Martinez, Anthony Rizzo, Brandon Belt, Michael Conforto, and Kyle Schwarber.
The Rockies have a pair of relievers who could be on the move this coming week and Thomas Harding caught up with both of them. While they realize that there are plenty of rumors swirling around them, they also understand the importance of focusing on the moment at hand. Whether it be trying to prepare to pitch in any given situation, or simply helping the younger harms in the bullpen. Despite the struggles this season, both of them are optimistic about the potential future of the Rockies’ young bullpen.
On the farm
It was the Taylor Motter show in El Paso as the third basemen launched three homers en route to a 10-6 victory for Albuquerque. Motter hit solo homers in the first, third, and fifth to end his night 3 for 4. Alan Trejo continued his hot streak of late by hitting a two-run homer in the top of the first to set up the solo shot by Motter. Another notable performance of the night came from LJ Hatch with a four-hit night to continue his success at the Triple-A level.
Despite solid pitching, Albuquerque just wasn’t able to capitalize on offense as they dropped the second game to El Paso 3-2. Ryan Vilade and Taylor Motter both had two hits on the night, but the rest of the lineup struggled to generate any offense. Jesus Tinoco started the game for Albuquerque, allowing one run in three innings of work. He was followed by Antonio Santos who gave up a run in two innings of work. Tate Scioneaux was credited with the loss after giving up the deciding run in the bottom of the sixth when El Paso’s Nick Tanielu hit his second home run of the game.
Double-A: Bowie Baysox 6, Hartford Yard Goats 5
Trailing by two entering the bottom of the ninth, the Bowie Baysox rallied against Hartford to score three runs against Reagan Todd and win the game. Jameson Hannah led the offense for Hartford with two hits while driving in three runs. Nick Bush started on the mound for Hartford, allowing two runs on five hits in 4 2⁄3 innings of work. He struggled with command, issuing four walks but did manage seven strikeouts.
Hunter Stovall played the hero in the top of the ninth as he hit a sacrifice fly to left field, which allowed Niko Decolati to score the fourth run for Spokane and break the tie and consequently win the game. Aaron Schunk had a big night for Spokane, going 2 for 4 with a double and a triple while Helcris Olivarez turned in another serviceable outing. He pitched five innings allowing just three runs on three hits, including two home runs, while striking out nine Tri-City batters.
Zac Veen launched his team-leading 11th home run to extend his hit streak to 11 games, but his efforts weren’t enough to help Fresno as they lost 8-6 to Modesto. Keegan James struggled through four innings in the loss, allowing four runs on eight hits. Blair Calvo also struggled in relief, allowing three runs on four hits, and in total Modesto had 14 hits against Fresno pitching.
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