Hanson to Join Team USA

Top Cardinal prospect, third baseman Travis Hanson, has been selected to compete in the Olympic qualifier next month.

Cardinals prospect Travis Hanson's 2005 season won't be ending with the conclusion of the Arizona Fall League next month. www.thestlcardinals.com has learned that the third baseman, currently hitting .293 for the first-place Surprise Scorpions, will be donning a different uniform next month to represent his country as a member of Team USA.

Hanson, 24, will take the field under skipper Davey Johnson as the United States competes in the first stage Olympic qualifier, scheduled in Phoenix from November 15-19. In all, 24 players will be selected to the team, consisting of players not on a Major League 25-man roster, with rosters expected to be released any day.

In addition to Team USA, Canada, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama and Nicaragua will participate. The top four finishers will advance to the next stage of qualifying, which will take place in August in Cuba.

Competing in the AFL this fall and playing well while there opened the door for Hanson's selection. "The way the format (for the qualifier) is set up in the middle of November, 90 to 95 percent of the guys are going to have to come out of the Fall League," Johnson recently told MLB.com. "A lot of the guys have been off since the middle of September. There's especially no chance for the pitchers since they've been off for two months. They'd never be ready to play."

Hanson is coming off a standout offensive campaign for the Double-A Springfield Cardinals in 2005, batting .293 with 20 home runs and 97 RBI. Prior to the season, Hanson was tagged by Baseball America as the best defensive infielder in the entire Cards' minor league system.

The Cardinals ninth-round pick in 2002 was an All-Star in three of his first four seasons, including his selection as a member of the Texas League squad this past season.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

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