July 19, 2007
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) -The U.S. team of college baseball players that has had a surprising unbeaten run at the Pan American Games might not be able to play for the gold medal.
A previous commitment for the team to play a series of games back home against China could lead to a forfeit of the final against favored Cuba.
The Americans must leave Rio on Friday night to go to Mobile, Ala., for the games with China. With heavy rains dousing the Pan Ams baseball fields - and with little expertise on the part of the hosts in dealing with such problems - it's possible the gold medal match scheduled for 10 a.m. EDT Friday won't come off at that time.
Baseball is not a popular sport in Brazil, and the Pan Ams facility has been plagued by flooding and lighting problems since the tournament began last Saturday. The Americans didn't play until Sunday because there was insufficient lighting for their night game on July 14.
Several Cuban and American players went to the fields Thursday morning to inspect their condition. But torrential rains the previous night made a postponement inevitable.
Having to forfeit would be a huge disappointment for the U.S. team, which has two players who just completed their freshman year at college, and the rest who are entering their junior years.
"It's exciting to have the chance to win a gold medal for our country, especially as an athlete at my age (20)," said utilityman Ryan Flaherty of Vanderbilt. "On top of that, Cuba has a dynasty and to take it from them would be even more special. If we play our game and stick to what we do, we'll be fine."