Down Memory Lane for Young Players

By Biertempfel, Rob | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 2, 2009 | Go to article overview
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Down Memory Lane for Young Players

Biertempfel, Rob, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

A handful of Pirates fondly remember their success at the 2007 World Cup.

The memory of the 2007 baseball World Cup that sticks with catcher Jason Jaramillo involves a jumble of red, white and blue and a lot of yelling.

"I just remember the dogpile on the field," Jaramillo said. "We were so excited. It was the first time we'd won the World Cup in 30- something years. I was at the bottom of the pile. I got in there right away, right after the last out. It was real cool."

Team USA went 9-1 in the tourney and beat mighty Cuba, 6-3, in the title game. Cuba had won the previous 10 tourneys. The United States had never won a Cup in which Cuba participated.

"It was a great experience, one of the best experiences of my life," third baseman Andy LaRoche said. "That's as close to a World Series or a playoff atmosphere as I've ever been."

Back then, Jaramillo was playing in the Philadelphia Phillies' system and LaRoche was one of the Los Angeles Dodgers' top prospects. Two years later, they are teammates on the Pirates.

There were four other future Pirates on Team USA: Jeff Karstens, Brian Bixler, Delwyn Young and Steve Pearce.

"It seems like we're getting that team reunited over here," LaRoche said.

They soon could be joined by two more Team USA alumni. Third baseman Pedro Alvarez and pitcher Brad Lincoln are on this year's American team, which today will play its last second-round game against Italy. Round three begins Tuesday in Italy.

It's not usual for players selected for the World Cup to quickly rise to the big leagues. Of the 24 players on Team USA's roster in 2007, 14 are currently on major league rosters.

LaRoche batted .333 with three homers and 10 RBI in the 2007 Cup. Karstens went 2-0 with a 0.69 ERA

"We had a great team, a bunch of guys who are in the big leagues now," Pearce said. "We knew we were the best team out there."

Team USA opened with a 3-0 victory against Mexico, with Karstens notching the win. Jaramillo and Bixler scored the team's first two runs.

One of the Americans' more dramatic wins was a see-saw, 10-7 battle against Chinese Taipei. Taiwan was the host country for the tournament.

"It was one of the most exciting games I've ever played in, in my life," Pearce said. "We thought we'd taken the crowd out of it with a big first inning. Then they got a two-out base hit in the first inning, and the crowd went nuts. We were like, 'What the heck is going on?' It was definitely a hostile environment."

There was a group of 40 or so Americans in one section of the ballpark.

"Nobody on the team knew who they were," Pearce said.

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