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Dave Rollandini's Olympic Diary
Updated August 17, 2004
Complete Index of 2004 Olympic Coverage
August 12: The road to Athens
Lots of fans, good atmosphere great food and good baseball. Canada is a strong team and I would put my money on them for a medal. They are experienced and have eight lefties in the lineup. I heard (Jeff) Francis and (Justin) Morneau aren't coming, though, which could hurt. I pitched against them in Italy and went seven innings, only one earned run. I just mixed it up on them, but they can swing and they are a tough team. Cuba is a bunch of free-swinging guys, but if you make a mistake they will hit it a mile. Their pitching is average-above average their best guy is (righty Norge) Vera who is an El Duque imitation. They also play awesome defense.
We got to Athens yesterday, and I have to say that it is absolutely the coolest, most amazing thing I have ever experienced. It is literally breathtaking. The village is huge, like a small city, and just seeing all these amazing athletes from all over the world is incredible. Anyway they have an Internet place so I can check it every day.
I pitch against Japan on Monday. It will be tough. As far as the Italian team, we have a lot of Italian Americans, that should carry the team. We don't do the little things as well as we could, like hit cutoffs, make plays, move runners etc., but we have some talent and could win a few if we put it all together.
August 13: Getting on the field
Today we had a good workout at the field. It is very impressive, especially after hearing all the media hype about how far behind Athens was in the preparations. I would compare it to top Double-A and some Triple-A ballparks. The mound and surface is nice and it holds about 9,000. There is another field as well, that holds about 6,000 but it's not as nice. The softball field is also in this same "complex." Its kind of odd taking BP with Patriot missiles in the horizon on the hillside, but if there is one place we all feel safe its on the ballfield. Opening ceremonies are tonight and our first game is on Sunday against Japan. I was supposed to pitch this game, but the rotation might be getting changed around at the last minute.
August 14: Experiencing the Opening Ceremonies, up close and personal
Last night was the Opening Ceremonies, and I have to say that it was the most unbelievable and incredible thing I have ever been a part of. We left the Olympic Village around 5:30 p.m. and took buses to Olympic Stadium. When we arrived we went into the gymnastics center, where each country had its own section where we were supposed to wait.
Every country was dressed up in its own unique outfits; Italy had conservative suits. While we were waiting it was cool to see all the other athletes from other countries, and it was a good chance to meet and take photos with people like LeBron James, Tim Duncan, the rest of the U.S. men's basketball team, Martina Navritilova, Venus Williams, and many others. Even though I am representing Italy and proud of my family's heritage, there was still a place in my heart that wished I was wearing Red White and Blue.
Finally, our time came to get in line for the parade. There were 202 countries being represented, so this wait was very long. We marched out behind Jury Chechi, a gold-medal gymnast, and as we entered the stadium I got chills from the size and the brightness of the place, and then it struck my that I am in the Olympics. We made two full laps around the track and it was just absolutely incredible. Then we had to wait for the rest of the countries to come out (Italy was right about in the middle) which took a long time.
Greece was last and their ovation was tremendous. The lighting and the fireworks and special effects were awesome. After all the countries were out, the president of Greece and the President of the IOC made some speeches and the torch came out. It was relayed around the track and then ran right in front of me, through the middle of the field, up some steps and then lit the torch. Fireworks were going off, and lights, and special effects and the crowd and athletes and everyone was going crazy. Finally we were cattle herded out of the stadium, on to the buses and back to the village.
Today we had a light practice and came back to village. I grabbed something to eat, then turned in some film and bought some batteries. I also got a massage from the "Olympic massage team," which offers free massages to all the athletes. Tomorrow we play Japan, and I'm not pitching against them anymore for "strategic purposes," but will throw Monday against Canada. Anyway, I guess the shock and awe of being here is basically over and now it's time to play some baseball.
August 15: Italy opens play
Today was an early morning. Our game was at 11:30 a.m. against Japan, and we had to get up at 7:30. We showed up, took BP and watched Japan's BP. There was a lot of anticipation and excitement to see what the Japanese had. A lot of the Italian guys have never seen players of that caliber before, so a lot of them were in awe just watching BP.
The game started off on a bad foot in the first inning with two errors. After that it was all downhill. Our defense is really shaky and when you're playing teams of this caliber, you can't afford to give them runs. The catcher, Kenji Jojima, and third baseman Norihiko Nakamura were the best players and combined to have five hits, every one of them lasers. Their defense was flawless, and the pitcher, Koji Uehara, was not overpowering but threw about eight pitches for strikes. Anyway we got smoked 12-0 in a seven-inning mercy rule.
This evening we went to the beach volleyball session and watched matches between the USA and Czech Republic, with all-worlds Misty May and Kerri Walsh. And then Germany against Greece and Brazil against South Africa. This is one of the best venues to go to (especially for the guys). We came home early because we have another early game tomorrow against Canada, and I'm pitching.
August 16: Disappointing outing
Well, today was a pretty disappointing day. We went to the ballpark early again. I was feeling good from the start and had a good feeling about the game. I pitched against Canada last week in Italy and went seven innings with one run allowed and figured I would just pitch them the same way. I had a good bullpen session, everything was working good and I was throwing strikes.
We scored in the top of the first against Jason Dickson, who was a big league all-star. In the bottom of the first, I got out of the inning allowing no hits but walked a guy and he scored on an error. I was still confident, but in the second, it all fell apart. I got one quick out, then two errors in row led to three hits in row and a walk, accounting for four more runs and the end of my day. Then, a three run bomb by Pete LaForest, their catcher, pretty much closed the door on Team Italia. We scored one run late to make the final 9-2. One good thing is that I didn't throw many pitches and can come back soon.
Tonight, I and a couple teammates went to downtown Athens and walked around a little bit just to get out of the village for awhile. Tomorrow we play Australia in a night game, which will be nice. So far Cuba, Japan and Canada are all undefeated; they are by far the best three here.
August 19: Off Day For An Off Team
Today was a day off and a much-needed one for team Italia; 0-and-4 isn't exactly what we had in mind, but our poor play and the level of the other teams has been a bad mix. Today different guys did different things. Some went to see basketball, some to volleyball and some just took it easy, here at the village. I watched some events on TV because tickets are limited, and by the time I got to the office, there weren't any good ones left. I've really become hooked on fencing, which is really fun to watch and really exciting. Tomorrow, track and field starts and a lot more athletes just arrived. You can tell just by going to the dining hall. It's always packed, but today there seemed to be an extra surge. It also got really hot today, the first part of the week was really nice with a breeze and temperatures around 85, but today it got hot and it supposed to stay that way through the weekend.
Tomorrow we have another 10:30 game against Chinese Taipei, so we are going to hit the sack pretty early.
August 20: Leaving It All On The Field . . .
Today was an early morning game. We left at 8 am for the field. We didn't take BP today, which was good because it was scalding hot and too early. I was starting, so I had a small breakfast and just took it easy till it was time to go warm up.
I felt really good, considering how hot and early it was. Everyone seemed to be a little looser today and decided just to have fun and not worry about all the bad things that have happened. The game was really back and forth for the first five innings. We played really well today all around. We didn't make any errors, which is the first time all tournament, we had a lot of clutch hits including solo homers by James Buccheri, Mario Chiarini and a ninth-inning, two-run shot by Claudio Liverziani, which was the game winner. I pitched well, and left all I had out on the field. It was a great win especially for the morale of this club. This after noon, I think a lot of guys are gonna take a power nap, and then I have tickets for track and field tonight. There aren't any great events going on, but at least it's a chance to go to Olympic Stadium and see some events. Tomorrow we play Greece in a night game (finally) and I heard it's sold out, which should be fun. Japan whipped Canada today, but like I said from the beginning, I still got my money on Canada for a strong finish. Ciao for now
August 21: Hanging Out
Friday night I went downtown with a few guys, and there were tons of people out and about because a lot of events are over or winding down and everybody is going out to celebrate their medals or just relax. I met a swimmer from Trinidad who won a bronze medal in swimming and we hung out most of the night.
Today was really hot and everybody just chilled at the (Olympic) Village and played cards and hung out. Our game was at 7:30 against Greece and we went to the field at 4:30. It was a great baseball atmosphere tonight, since we were playing the host team and there were about 6,500 fans there.
Since I pitched the day before, I didn't have anything to do except run and watch the game and laugh at the fans, because they really don't know anything about baseball here or understand the game. We got out to an early 5-0 lead but then Greece absolutely devoured our bullpen with three home runs and we ended up losing. The medal rounds are set now with Cuba, Canada, Japan and Australia. That is some good baseball right there. I'm still pulling for Canada, but Australia has shown some strength especially after a 22-2 thumping of Holland last night.
August 22: Italy Bows Out
Today was our last game and everybody seemed to be having mixed feelings about it. As for me, I was ready to get the heck out of Athens. We went to the field and had a team meeting before BP. Our manager just basically thanked everyone for the effort and encouraged us to go out strong. We've played Cuba several times before this, so they are a familiar opponent and almost a friendly rival. They are also always asking for things and need things, which really makes you realize how lucky we all are. I gave a guy my sneakers for a Cuba Baseball sweat suit, and others guys made some trades for shirts, gloves, or just dropped a little cash, since their average wage is about 10 bucks a month. As for the game, we got beat 5-0. Nobody really seemed to care, since we were already out of it and expected to lose anyway. This mentality makes me and a lot of others mad, but there's not really anything we can do about it cause that's just the way it is here. After the game everybody just went back to the Village, and some started packing and some guys went out. I went to bed early because I was planning on getting up early and going downtown.
August 23: Last Time In Athens
Today I went downtown with a couple other guys. We went to do some sightseeing and take pictures for mom so she doesn't get mad at me. We went to the Temple of Zeus, where there are sanctuaries for famous ancient Olympic athletes. We went up to the Acropolis, which is a good hike up a mountain to the highest point in Athens. There stands the Parthenon, and some other old buildings, but the coolest part was the views from atop the hill. The only place we didn't go was the old Olympic Stadium (used in 1896), which I heard was really cool, and they actually had a couple events there for this Olympics. We were also able to do some shopping for family and friends. After we wore ourselves out, we came back to the Village and I packed all my bags for the return to Italy tomorrow at 10 a.m. I can't wait.
August 24: Back In Italy
It was a long travel day and I had a lot of time to reflect on the past two weeks in Athens, Greece. As bad as we think we had it, and as boring and unorganized so many things were, and as badly as we played, I just tell myself that I had the opportunity to participate in the 28th Olympiad and pitched against some of the best players in the world.
I would say that fewer guys have had the chance to play in the Olympics than in the Big Leagues, and we all know those percentages. Overall, it was a great experience, especially the opening ceremonies.
I made some new friends and saw some of the world's best athletes up close. I also got to see where the Olympics first began and do a little sightseeing to a place I never would have gone otherwise. This was a great experience and I am blessed to have been able to do it.
As for the medals, Australia upset Japan again and will play Cuba in the final. That just goes to show that anything can happen in baseball, even in the Olympics. Now we get to concentrate on the remainder of the Italian season and I hope that my home team, Grosseto, can keep up our dominating play through the playoffs. Then it will be back to the States for the winter, and who knows what's in store for next year. Ciao