07/23/08 4:30 PM ET
LaHair recalls Team USA success
Catcher played key role in U.S. win in qualifying tournament
By Jim Street / MLB.com
Team USA, which won the Gold Medal at the 2000 Games in Sydney, did not get an opportunity to defend its title, being eliminated by Mexico in the qualifier tournament.Redemption came in '06. "We had a great team," LaHair recalled. "Most of them are already here [Major Leagues]. I'm about the last one." Team USA included Brandon Wood -- who hit an eighth-inning, game-deciding, home run against Cuba -- of the Angels, Athletics catcher Kurt Suzuki, Royals outfielder Billy Butler, Diamondbacks infielder Mark Reynolds and Rangers catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. "My average wasn't that high [.222]," LaHair said, "but I actually did pretty well during the tournament. I hit for power." LaHair hit two homers and drove in nine runs in the eight qualifier games he played. The Mariners are hoping that LaHair can inject some offense into their lineup the remainder of this season and beyond. He was hitting .263 (83-for-215) with 26 doubles, one triple, 12 home runs and 53 RBIs in 85 games for Tacoma, ending his stint there on a nine-game hitting streak and batting .348 (16-for-46) over his final 12 games. He grounded into a double play in his first Major League at-bat and went 0-for-3 with a walk in his first big league start, Saturday against the Indians. The career-opening hitless streak reached eight official at-bats before he hit a single off Red Sox right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka on Tuesday night. "They say the first couple of games get you pretty amped up and I put more pressure on myself to get that first hit," he said. "I decided before my last at-bat to let my hands fly and make good contact, which I did." Originally selected in the 39th round of the First-Year Player Draft in 2002, LaHair has spent his entire career in the Mariners organization. He batted .287 with 70 home runs and 376 RBIs in 594 Minor League games and selected as the organization's Minor League MVP in 2006. The first few days in the big leagues were primarily stress-free for the native of Worcester, Mass. "I want to have fun, enjoy every moment and stay focused on what's at hand," he said. The best part so far? "Seeing my wife and dad on the field [on Saturday]," he said.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.