Triston Casas isn’t taking his opportunity to play for Team USA in the Olympics for granted.
The Sea Dogs first baseman and Red Sox top prospect will begin his quest for a gold medal beginning July 30 against Israel.
“I’ve worked really hard for other things, but to be able to call myself an Olympian is obviously awesome,” Casas said. “I’ve gotten the opportunity to play on a couple of USA teams. And every single time it is special. It’s one thing to represent your organization. But when you have a whole country backing you, it’s something different.”
Casas was a key contributor in Olympic qualifying, going 6 for 15 with two doubles. Jarren Duran also played a huge role, and certainly would have been on the Olympic team as well, but because of the schedule and the potential for Duran to be called up to the big league club, Casas and Worcester infielder Jack Lopez will be the lone Sox prospects in Tokyo.
Darren Fenster, the Red Sox’ minor league outfield and base running coach, will serve as Team USA’s third base coach as a part of manager Mike Scioscia’s staff.
“I feel like throughout my whole life I’ve been influenced by a lot of great people, and getting the opportunity to play with [former All-Star] Matt [Kemp] and getting coached by Mike these last couple of weeks in the qualifiers was definitely eye opening,” Casas said. “I saw how a lot of the veterans went about their way of handling their routines.”
Routine and approach are big parts of Casas’s game. Though he’s hitting .268 with just four homers for the Sea Dogs, part of that, Portland manager Corey Wimberly said, is because Casas doesn’t change his approach by chasing pitches outside the strike zone.
“He’s been on the bad end of a couple different calls and has kind of affected his at-bats a little bit,” Wimberly said. “Not to make excuses for him, but I think he’s really doing what we want him to do and that’s all in the strike zone.”
The dream won’t end at the Olympics for Casas. He has lofty goals when he reaches the big leagues.
“I don’t want to be a major league player. I want to be an All-Star-caliber player for decades in the major leagues,” Casas said. “That’s the goal. That’s the standard I hold myself to every day.”
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Julian McWilliams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @byJulianMack.