PHILADELPHIA – As a two-sport athlete at Penn from 1993-96, Mark DeRosa is accustomed to suiting up for two teams. This spring, however, he isn’t crossing over between football and baseball as he did at Penn. Instead, he is splitting time between two clubs in the baseball world – in addition to attending Spring Training with his new team, the Cleveland Indians, DeRosa is a member of Team USA at the World Baseball Classic.
“First off, it is an absolute honor to put on the Team USA jersey,” DeRosa said from the clubhouse of the United States’ training facility in Florida. “This is something that I have never been able to do before, and I am just taking it all in.”
DeRosa is one of 28 pros who are donning the Red, White and Blue in the second World Baseball Classic. He is the only one who is doing so after competing in the Ivy League. DeRosa feels that it shouldn’t matter where you went to school or where you develop your skills when it comes to success on the field. He credits his time at Penn with helping him develop as a player.
“My being on this team shows that it can be done from all levels,” he said. “When I went to college, I wanted to play both baseball and football. The people at Penn allowed me to do that. As a student in Wharton, I was able to augment the athletics with a world-class education.”
Still, he never lost sight on where he wanted to be.
“Playing in the majors was my ultimate goal,” he said. “My time at Penn helped me achieve that goal.”
While at Penn, he was an accomplished athlete on both the baseball and football teams. In the fall, he lined up under center as quarterback of the Quakers. In the spring, he transitioned to shortstop as one of the cornerstones of Penn’s baseball squad.
In his sophomore year, DeRosa, quite simply, lived the dream. He led Penn to its second-straight Ivy League football title, throwing for 1,832 yards and 13 touchdowns. Not content with one championship, he hit .318 with 29 RBI as Penn captured the Ivy championship in baseball as well.
After his junior season, DeRosa was drafted in the seventh round of the Major League Baseball draft by the Atlanta Braves. He has played for four teams in his career, spending time with the Braves, Rangers and Cubs in addition to his current stint with the Indians.
One of the facets of DeRosa’s game that makes him so desirable to teams is his versatility. He has played five different positions over his 11 seasons in the big leagues. It is this that earned him a place on Team USA this spring. General Manager of Team USA, Bob Watson, went so far as to call DeRosa “more valuable than anyone on the team.”
When the team includes superstars like Derek Jeter, Dustin Pedroia and Jimmy Rollins, that compliment means a lot.
“For Bob to say that, it is very humbling,” DeRosa said. “I have never been an All-Star. For me to have the chance to sit in a clubhouse with guys like Jeter and David Wright, it is something special. I have admired these guys for so long and to be mentioned in the same breath as them is an honor.”
The change in direction for Team USA – one that ended the philosophy of fielding a virtual all-star team and instead has resulted in a team with specific, designed roles – has not only allowed DeRosa to earn a spot, it has also brought about a renewed desire to go out and prove that the United States has the best baseball talent in the world.
“Every player in this room is pumped to be on the team and go out and win the whole thing,” DeRosa said. “It is an honor to be on the team, it will be an even bigger honor to come back with a championship. The guys all know how much this means.”
When the honor of playing for Team USA ends – hopefully with a championship – DeRosa will turn his attention back to the Indians. The Tribe went out and traded for DeRosa this offseason, sending three players to the Cubs in exchange for DeRosa. The opportunity to join a young, talented team and to play an important part in its success motivates the veteran.
“While no one ever likes to be traded, especially since I wasn’t unhappy in Chicago, I am excited about joining Cleveland,” he said. “This is a team in great position. Two years ago, the team was one win away from the World Series. We still have the talent to get back to that position. That is all you can ask for in this league.”
Despite a schedule that has him learning about a new team as well as preparing to represent his country, DeRosa still feels his ties to where he played his college ball.
“It is tough to follow, as much as I would like,” he said. “But, whenever Penn scrolls across the ticker, I pay attention.”
Starting Saturday, when Team USA plays Canada in its opening game of the World Baseball Classic, his fellow members of the Penn family will be paying attention to him, as well.