Two Dodgers headed for Olympics

The home run that Luis Garcia hit to bump the United States from competing in Olympic baseball in 2004 doesn't mean the Dodgers won't be represented in the sport in Athens. No, Garcia, who signed a free agent contract with the team over the winter, won't be there. His Mexican team was eventually eliminated, too. But Nick Theodoreau will, playing for Greece.

The host country in all Olympics is always allowed participation in team sports. But since baseball is virtually unknown in that country, it had to go to those of Greek descent to field a team. Theodoreau is one of those and will be the starting shortstop for the country of his heritage.

Tony Harris will be there, too, not as a player but as a vital part of the Australian team. Harris, the longtime manager and coach in the Dodger system, is a native of Australia and has served as the field coordinator for that country's national team. As such he is in the forefront of selection of players to represent it. It's been an ongoing process with 120 players first assembled. That group has since been pared in half.

Those 60 will be eventually whittled down to the 24 eligibles for the Games. In the main it will be comprised of players of very near major league status. Former big leaguer Dave Nilsson has come out of retirement and is expected to catch while the pitching staff can feature, among others, Graeme Lloyd, former Dodger Jeff Williams and Brad Thomas, who started in the Dodger system and who now is a Twins farmhand.

Still another Dodger minor leaguer, infielder Rodney Van Buisen, is also a strong candidate for the team. In all, it's one that should well be in medal contention.

When the team is assembled, Harris will serve as third base coach under manager Jon Deeble. Phil Bile ( pitching) and Paul Elliott are the coaches, giving Australia the same group of leaders it had in the 2000 games.

They'll use Baltimore as a training base in August and play a series of exhibitions against teams from Canada and Greece there before departing for Athens where the games open Aug. 15.

Harris is currently serving as a coach at Dodgertown during spring training. Among his other jobs is head of the Major League Baseball Academy, a six-week school for the best young players Down Under.

He's also added the role of Dodger scout, assisting Pacific Rim director Pat Kelly. As such he's been part of the contingent at the World Cup in Cuba and scouts Asia and Oceania as well as Australia. Recently he signed Mitch Ayres, a 17-year-old left-handed hitting catcher who'll report to the extended spring camp at Dodgertown in April.