08/07/2008 12:47 PM ET
Franklin: Olympic experience golden
Reflections from the reliever on Team USA's 2000 gold medal
I'll watch the Olympic Games in Beijing with a different outlook than most people. This is because I had the great opportunity to participate in 2000 and win a gold medal, which I keep back home in a safety deposit box these days.
Playing on the Olympic team never really crossed my mind until it was actually happening. Getting to pitch and participate in the Olympics was an awesome time in my life, and my young career. I got to play under Tommy Lasorda, who was a great motivator and I loved representing my country as an athlete.
Prior to the Games, I was contacted by Team USA. They offered me the chance to go down to the San Diego area and try out for the team. From there, 30 guys went to Australia about three weeks before the Olympics started, with the team to be finalized after a couple of exhibition games.
I was initially considered a reserve when I went over there, but I pitched so well in the exhibition games that they put me ahead of enough people to get on the roster. Unfortunately, some of the guys had to go home.
It was very powerful to wear that Team USA jersey. It's just as special as wearing a big league jersey. Wearing a Major League uniform is a pretty awesome feeling, but there is something about putting on the Team USA jersey; it represents the country that I live in and the country my family lives in.
Of course, the talent level can vary from country to country in the Olympics. Some of the teams we faced in the tournament were especially good. Japan and Cuba had a lot of talent. On the other hand, some teams would have struggled to beat a high school or college teams. In general, the skill level was very high. I would say it was a step above Triple-A.
As for my performance, I don't think I could have posted any better numbers than I did. I pitched nine innings with three wins and no hits. Those numbers pretty much speak for themselves.
In addition to the competition, we stayed in the Olympic Village, and that was a neat experience. I got to sit down and talk with athletes from all over the world. So many people were really nice, and the Village was really like its own city with movie theaters and huge eating areas. You just grabbed whatever you wanted to eat. It was really accessible, and that was awesome.
We also went to downtown Sydney a couple of times. We got to see some sights, and we went to some other Olympic events. I went to some volleyball games and to a boxing match. It's a great memory that I'll cherish forever.
Ryan Franklin, a 35-year-old reliever out of Fort Smith, Ark., is 4-4 with a 3.56 ERA and 14 saves for the Cardinals this season, eight years after helping lead the U.S. Olympic baseball team to a gold medal in Sydney, Australia. Before pitching for St. Louis, Franklin played for Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Seattle, where he won 35 games over six seasons.