Salt Lake Bees manager Bobby Mitchell is going to lose his most consistent hitter and one of his best pitchers for a month, but he's not upset about it. In fact, he's happy about it.
Bees infielder Matt Brown and reliever Kevin Jepsen will leave the Bees later this week to join their new teammates on the USA Olympic Team in North Carolina. They hope to return to Salt Lake City a month later with gold medals around their necks following a successful tournament in China.
"It's a proud day for all of us to have these guys represent us at the Olympics," said Mitchell at a press conference Tuesday at Franklin Covey Field. "We'll miss them for a month. It will hurt our team a little bit, but it's worth the honor and I'm sure they'll do a great job."
The U.S. Olympic team is made up of 23 players, 22 of whom are currently in the minor leagues with one college player. Brown and Jepsen are the first Utah minor leaguers to be named to an Olympic team since former Buzz first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz won gold in the 2000 Sydney Games.
"It still hasn't set in yet," said Jepsen, who has split time this season between the Bees and double-A Arkansas combining for 13 saves.
Brown, meanwhile, has been a Bees mainstay all season. He entered Tuesday night's game leading the team in batting average (.326), runs scored (69) and home runs (20). He represented the Bees in last week's Triple-A All-Star Game, earning MVP honors in the Pacific Coast League's victory. That was the same day he found out he had been selected to play for the Olympic team.
"That was a pretty good day," Brown deadpanned.The 10-day Olympic baseball tournament begins Aug. 13 for the United States when they face Korea and the Netherlands in a doubleheader. They will then face Cuba, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei and Japan before the semifinals and medal rounds. Prior to traveling to China the U.S. will play a four-game series against Canada in North Carolina.