Quite the compliment
China coach Jim Lefebvre might say it best about Yulieski Gourriel that he's, "the best looking amateur I've ever seen. ... I know scouts are drooling over him."
Originally a second baseman at the 2004 Olympic Games, Gourriel mans the "hot corner" (third base) most of the time these days. His international stats in the past three years have been consistently vicious. He hit four home runs in the 2006 COPABE Olympic Qualifying tournament in just nine games and also batted .314 in the silver-medal performance that clinched their Olympic berth. But it was his World Baseball Classic stats that made scouts stand up and take notice. As a 21-year-old against professionals, he hit .273 with two homers and six runs batted in -- it was his defense that was most impressive with his strong arm.
Though Cuba has not committed to playing in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, Gourriel sounds like a man who's going to be playing. In 2006, the Cubans were upset by Japan for the title. "I am thinking about the 2009 Classic where our revenge will be pending," Gourriel told the Associated Press. "Just like the fans, we have only one objective: to win. We aren't content with second place."
Playing second base, Gourriel already has one Olympic experience via Athens. He was by no means the star, but he hit .343 for the Olympics and had two hits batting in the No. 3 spot in the gold medal game.
If Yulieski does make the team and the Cubans win gold, he will only be the second member of his family to accomplish such a feat. His father, Lourdes, was a member of the 1992 Cuban team that won Olympic gold.
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