‘Honored and humbled’ Mark DeRosa goes from microphone to manager at helm of Team USA in World Baseball Classic

After playing in the majors for more than a decade, Mark DeRosa brings his knowledge from the booth to the dugout as a first-time manager for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/WBCI/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

PHOENIX – Mark DeRosa has been one of the faces of MLB Network since his retirement from the Toronto Blue Jays a decade ago.

Since then, he has found a home behind the roundtable almost every night. Whether debating with fellow analysts, critiquing players around the league, or simply making predictions on the game’s future, DeRosa has remained on the edges of baseball’s spotlight since his 16-year playing career ended.

Now, DeRosa is right in the middle of the spotlight again as manager of Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.

The opportunity came from USA Baseball General Manager Tony Reagins, who called DeRosa to see if he wanted to interview for the position. This wasn’t the first opportunity DeRosa has had for a managerial position, as he interviewed for a few others during the 2010s but tiptoed around them.

However, a chance to manage the stars and stripes was an offer DeRosa couldn’t refuse.

“I felt it was a perfect opportunity for me,” DeRosa said. “I went in and interviewed, and then I got called back to interview again. And that’s when he told me – they kind of threw a USA jersey at me and said, ‘Do you want to do this?’ I said, ‘100 percent, let’s do it.’”

This is his first managerial stint at any level of baseball, and he is leading a squad made up of some of the best players MLB has to offer, including stars Mike Trout, Mookie Betts and Nolan Arenado.

Despite that, DeRosa remains unfazed and is focused on one thing:

Win the World Baseball Classic.

Going into Monday’s game against Canada in Pool C play, Team USA was 1-1 after beating Great Britain and falling to Mexico.

The sheer talent alone that the team has is enough for the U.S. to be one of the favorites to become the first repeat winners since the Japanese National Team went back-to-back in the first two World Baseball Classics in 2006 and 2009. Team USA won in 2017, and the WBC scheduled for 2021 was postponed because of the pandemic.

Despite Team USA being regarded as one of the tournament favorites, DeRosa wants to make sure that his players aren’t trying to be the best on their own. He wants his players to bond as a team and use the experience to get to know guys they’ve never played with before.

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During the U.S. exhibition games last week, DeRosa brought in a mental skills coach. He also made sure to watch his players in the dugout closely to get a feel for what makes each player tick – who laughs, who doesn’t, who is serious and who is more laid back.

“I guess the biggest thing for me is not so much the baseball managing aspect of it with these guys; it’s the coaching aspect and motivational aspect, getting them together,” DeRosa said. “It’s getting them to forget they’re playing on different organizations, trying to create a team bond. I think that’s the only way we can get this done.”

USA and new Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Trea Turner said that DeRosa still has some player in him, which helps with understanding aspects of the game from his players’ points of view. Turner is one of the many All-Stars that DeRosa has to manage as the new skipper.

“As a player, you respect those guys that come before you,” Turner said. “He’s got a little bit of that in him. He understands a lot. He understands how we feel, how to prepare, and what he expects of us – communicates it well, so it’s been really nice.”

However, it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows for DeRosa and the U.S. team.

There have been concerns over the starting pitching rotation. The rotation had commitments from pitchers such as Clayton Kershaw and Logan Webb last year. However, neither is on the roster and St. Louis Cardinals star Adam Wainwright is considered the ace of the Team USA staff.

DeRosa said major league clubs want their players to be healthy for the 162-game season that will start less than two weeks after the World Baseball Classic ends, but he believes teams should be more willing to let their star pitchers compete in the event because the country wants to see it’s best pitchers, not just its best position players.

However, he understands that the timing of the WBC doesn’t make easy for clubs to commit their best arms.

“How can you do it?” DeRosa said. “How can you ask these guys to go through 162 games, and then on the back end get into a serious competition like this?”

Despite being new to the role, and with a pitching staff that provides more questions than answers, DeRosa is up to the challenge of managing one of the most highly touted teams in the WBC this year.

In his managerial debut against Great Britain, Team USA cruised to a 6-2 victory to give DeRosa his first win as a manager.

“It’s getting better every day,” DeRosa said. “I’m honored, I’m humbled by it, but at the same
time, focused on what we need to do to win this thing.”

Vincent Deangelis VIN-sint dee-ANN-jeh-lis
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Vincent Deangelis expects to graduate in May 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Deangelis reports for The State Press.