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Sat, July 31, 2004
Adam Stern heading to Athens with baseball team
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press


Canada's Olympic baseball team isn't quite sure just who will be travelling to Athens with them. But one guy who's going for sure is Londoner Adam Stern and he can hardly wait.

The 23-year-old Atlanta Braves outfield prospect wasn't sure he was going to make the trip to Athens, although he was a member of the national team that qualified for Athens in Panama City.

"I was a late addition to the qualifying team. I didn't know what commitments they had with other players and what kind of connections there were," Stern said. "I knew I was playing well and would have a chance but it's baseball and you just never know."

So Stern did what most people would do when waiting for news.

"I've been waiting and waiting, keeping my eye on things, seeing what's going on. I was keeping my fingers crossed hoping things would work out. Then I finally got the call. It was a relief and exciting."

The experience will be beneficial to not only Stern but Canadian baseball.

He is an exciting young player. Drafted in the third round by the Braves three years ago, he's worked his way to Class AA Greenville Braves in the Southern League. He was a league all-star this year, hitting .315 with eight home runs in 89 games. As a speedy centre-fielder, he's managed 40 RBIs, 166 total bases and 22 stolen bases, all either leading the team or close to it.

"Things have been going well," Stern said. "You get on a roll, it's like catching a moving train. Once you get on it, it's hard to stop."

How much Stern will play in Athens is anyone's guess. As a late addition to the team at the qualifying tournament, he started a pair of games against Puerto Rico and Colombia.

"We had a veteran outfield there, but I was happy with how things went," he said.

Rob Ducey, long-time major league player with a number of teams, anchors the outfield.

The one problem the Olympic team might have is instability. Officials have to make roster additions because some of their better players might be in the major leagues. Among key players in that situation is Vancouver left-hander Jeff Francis, who is tearing up the minor leagues. Property of the Colorado Rockies, Francis was just promoted to AAA. Should the Rockies deal a starting pitchers, and there's a good chance that would happen, Francis would likely be called up to the big-league team.

First basemen Justin Morneau is another key player who has found his way onto a major league roster. He's played well for the Minnesota Twins recently, replacing injured Doug Mientkiewicz. Mientkiewicz is now back and there are several teams talking to Minnesota about acquiring him. If that happens, Morneau will take his place.

If those players do manage to make it to the Olympics, Stern will be joining a team that has the potential to win a medal. The path was made considerably easier when the United States failed to qualify for Athens. The tournament has eight teams and Canada's toughest competition will come from Cuba, Japan and Australia. Taipei, Greece, Italy and the Netherlands round out the tournament.

Stern will miss almost a month of the Greenville Braves season. But he had no trouble getting permission from the Braves organization.

"I'll have about 10 games left when I return," he said. "There's a list of about 60 potential players picked by Baseball Canada before the season starts and the organizations the players are with are contacted. The Braves were very happy that I was picked."

Stern will head to Toronto to the SkyDome for a mini-camp tomorrow. He'll play an exhibition game against Greece at Camden Yards in Baltimore and Thursday leave for Italy, where the team will play a tuneup tournament.

"Playing in the Olympics is something everyone wants to do," Stern said.

What's left unsaid is how few people actually get to do it. Enjoy it.




Does Canada's low-medal haul in Athens bother you?
Yes, it depresses me
No, it's just sports
I'm disappointed, but not worried
We'll get 'em in Turin
Don't care

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