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Published: Wednesday, 7/16/2008

2 Mud Hens to represent U.S. in Olympics

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Two Toledo Mud Hens will represent the United States in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Third baseman Mike Hessman and closer Blaine Neal, who are both in Louisville, Ky., for tonight's Triple-A All-Star game, were chosen for Team USA manager Davey Johnson's final roster.

Hessman, 30, leads the International League with 30 homers. Neal, 30, leads the IL with 23 saves. Both will make their first appearances as Olympians.

"It's an honor for both of them to be selected," said Dave Dombrowski, general manager for the Detroit Tigers. "It's a tremendous honor when anybody is selected to represent their country in the Olympics, which is why in my career we've never stood in a player's way in those situations.

"The only way we would stand in a player's way is if for their health, going to the Olympics wasn't the right thing to do. Being the major league club, there are mixed feelings that sometimes go into these things because for our minor league affiliates, the Olympics don't carry the best timing. But we want to honor the individual's wishes, and it's ultimately their decision to make."

Also on Johnson's 24-man roster is outfielder Matt LaPorta, the key

component for the Cleveland Indians in the deal they made to send CC

Sabathia to Milwaukee.

Team USA has its first exhibition game Aug. 1 in North Carolina against Canada. Olympic play lasts from Aug. 13-23.



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