YOKOHAMA, Japan — His disappointment was apparent. While his teammates were walking to the bus, cheered by the polite stadium employees for their efforts, the United States Olympic baseball team were donning their silver medals with pride.
It’s an accomplishment not many baseball players will have because the Olympics do not embrace baseball as a sport every four years. There will not be Olympic baseball in 2024.
For Triston Casas, all he carried to the bus were two Domino’s pizzas and some flowers he received during the medal ceremony. He wasn’t wearing his silver medal.
The Red Sox prospect was still deeply disappointed after Team USA’s 2-0 loss to host Japan in the gold medal game at Yokohama Stadium.
The Japanese stymied the Americans for the second time in a week. Casas was a member of a team of former major leaguers, minor leaguers , and prospects not quite ready for the bigs. He was one of the top prospects on the team and batted in the middle of the order.
He came away Saturday cherishing the experience but angry about losing. He wanted gold.
“It feels terrible,” Casas told the Globe. “We didn’t accomplish what we wanted to come here and do, which was to win a gold medal, but hats off to that great Japan team. They came out and beat us twice.”
The Nippon Professional Baseball Organization created a break in its season to allow its best players to play for Team Japan. The Japanese took the Olympics seriously. After coming back to beat the US, 7-6, in 10 innings Wednesday, Japan used a Munetaka Murakami solo homer off Nick Martinez, a former Rangers starter, on Saturday. It was the lone run Martinez would yield in six innings.
Japan scored an unearned run in the eighth on a throwing error by center fielder Jack Lopez, a Red Sox minor leaguer. That was plenty of support for five Japanese pitchers, who held Team USA to one extra-base hit.
Cases stepped to the plate in a crucial situation in the eighth. Tyler Austin led off with a single, representing the tying run. Lefthanded reliever Suguru Iwazaki came on to face the lefthanded hitting Casas. Casas worked the count to 2-and-2 but struck out on a check-swing, on a changeup. Iwazaki got the next two batters and that would be Team USA’s last good scoring threat.
“They never give in on the mound,” Casas said. “That’s something I noticed in my at-bats. They pitched me really tough. They pitched me backwards. I felt like it was tough this whole tournament, not knowing any of these [pitchers], not knowing their names, what pitches they throw. I didn’t have any information on [Iwazaki]. He nibbled and I chased right there and that was a big point in the game. It sucked that I couldn’t come through right there.”
It could be considered a major achievement for the US to win silver considering major league teams would not allow playerson 40-man rosters to play in the Olympics. Manager Mike Scioscia, who led the Angels to the World Series title 19 years ago, maneuvered his roster well enough to go 4-2 in the six-team tournament. The roster included past-their-prime major leaguers Todd Frazier, Edwin Jackson, Scott Kazmir and David Robertson.
Because France and other European countries do not embrace baseball, the sport will be left out of the 2024 Games in Paris. The hope is for baseball to return in 2028 in Los Angeles. So it is rare for a professional baseball player to earn an Olympic medal.
Casas will fly to Newark Monday and join Double A Portland for its four-game series against Yankees affiliate Somerset, which begins Tuesday.
“It’s right back to work,” he said. “I don’t know how many days off I’ll get. But I’m sure I’ll be ready to play when I get back. I feel great physically and I feel rested as well.”
“Overall, it hurts to have won the silver medal,” Casas said. “There’s nothing but positives to take away from this experience. Getting to play in the Olympics is such a [rare] feat for a baseball player. I definitely don’t take this lightly and this is an experience of a lifetime I’ll never forget. Just the whole experience, getting to live in the village, getting to see all the other athletes and playing such high-level baseball, such big-time games, it did a lot for me.”
Casas said he isn’t sure what he’s going to do with the medal. For now it represents second place, falling short of the goal.
“I don’t want it, I honestly don’t,” he said. “That silver medal isn’t something that’s going to be hanging up in my house, I’ll tell you that. I’m not embarrassed but it’s not what I came here to do. I came here to win a gold medal.”