Jay Bell Back in Baseball With Team USA
Bell, a former first-round selection of the Cleveland Indians in 1984 and once the highest paid middle infielder in the game, is an assistant coach for Team USA.
Bell, 44, retired as bench coach of the Arizona Diamondbacks after the 2006 season to spend more time with his family. While his family remains a priority, Bell couldn't refuse the offer to join Team USA, which is participating here in the Pan Am Qualifying Tournament.
In fact, Bell shortened a family trip to Ireland to report to Cary, N.C., late last month for a series of practices and exhibitions in preparation for the 12-team, two-week tournament.
"I jumped at the opportunity and actually left my wife in Ireland with friends," Bell told FanHouse. "I can't begin to tell you much fun this has been. I am so impressed with the entire organization."
Team USA, currently second in the International Baseball Federation world rankings, is 4-0 in pool play following Tuesday's 8-3 victory over the Dominican Republic and former Cy Young Award winner Bartolo Colon.
Colon, now 37, surrendered six runs on seven hits in 2 1/3 innings. Colon was a two-time All-Star, winning 153 games over a 13-year career that saw him pitch for five teams.
Bell is enjoying his initial experience with Team USA. The team features 24 minor league players not currently on their organizations' 40-man rosters.
The top eight teams will qualify for next October's Pan Am Games, to be held in Mexico. The top six also will qualify for the 2011 IBAF Baseball World Cup, tentatively scheduled for next fall as well.
"I still believe we are the elite (program) but there are country's out there that really put an emphasis on successful baseball as well," Bell said.
"Look at Cuba and what it has done, look at the Dominican and what it has done and, shoot, even Colombia, it was a competitive baseball team. Do I think it (international baseball) is successful? Yes I do.
"If you look at the number of players in the major leagues right now, there's a lot of different players from a lot of different nationalities; it's awfully fun to watch."
Bell, who was 20 years old when he broke into the big leagues in 1986 with the Cleveland Indians -- he hit the first pitch he saw for a home run off Bert Blyleven -- currently resides in Phoenix, Ariz. However, he has family both in Tampa and Pensacola, Fla., and remains in contact with friends and former teammates, including Travis Fryman.
Fryman, a first-round selection of the Detroit Tigers in 1987, was Bell's backup at shortstop at Tate High School in Pensacola.
Bell played 18 seasons for five different teams in the majors. He won a World Series title in 2001 with the Arizona Diamondbacks, scoring the winning run in the bottom of the ninth of Game 7 to beat the New York Yankees.
More recently, Bell has served as a member of the advisory board of the Baseball Assistance Team, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping former major league, minor league, and negro league players through financial and medical difficulties.
Bell is grateful to be back in baseball for the time being.
"It has been fun being around these guys," said Bell, Team USA's first base coach.
They are talented and working hard. You know, I feel 25 and there are days I want to get back out there, then I look in the mirror and see the face (of a 44-year-old)."