Aug. 2, 2002
Here is the second summer diary entry from Notre dame pitcher Grant Johnson, who just completed a trip to an international tournament in Holland with the U.S. National Team:
As we step off the plane, we realize that we are in a different world and it all starts with the seven-hour time difference. It is 11:00 p.m. in the states and 6:00 a.m. in Holland. We had been up since 5:00 a.m. in the states and we have yet to go to bed. For this reason, the first day was spent sleeping.
The next night we play the Taiwan and this is when we first start to realize how very different Holland is compared to America. We beat Taiwan, 2-0, and we come back to the hotel and turn on the TV to find some pretty unique programming on normal stations, like CBS or NBC in America. Finally, as the day ends, I go to get a drink from the vending machine to be surprised by the fact that the machines also sell beer.
July 20th, and we have the day off. So we (Wes Littleton, Sam Fuld, Huston Street, Landon Powell and Abe Alvarez) go to Amsterdam where the rules do not apply. If you have ever gone to Bourbon street in New Orleans, then Amsterdam would be comparable to that multiplied by 10. When we first got there, we walked around for a while and saw some of the interesting shops they have there. Later, we hopped the train back to Haarlem (the city where the games were played) and went to bed.
As I had encountered all that I had wanted to for the week I stayed mostly in the hotel with some random trips to town.
July 21st, we played South Africa, which did not stand a chance against us, while our next opponent was Japan, who would end up beating us after our game got rescheduled because of rain. While we were in the rain room, the guys on the team started dancing and most of the fans stayed and goofed around with us on the field.
Our toughest opponents were coming up, with Cuba and The Netherlands. Cuba was not the game that it was talked up to be. They were not very big and they backed down when the benches cleared, after one of their players had thrown a helmet at our pitcher. This would set the tone of the game and we would go on to win 4-1.
The Netherlands would win the last game of pool play (I closed the game for our team by pitching two shutout innings, with three Ks), but we would have another shot at them in the championship game. The Netherlands team is very big and actually carries three former Major Leaguers. There is no age limit at this tournament, so most of their guys tend to be quite a bit older than our team. With 10,000 fans and a team comprised of several big-league players, we were able to beat them and go on to win the championship.
Most everyone on the team was ready to leave for Italy, as The Netherlands was beginning to wear on us.
I’ll check in later with a report on the World Championship from Italy and an overall look back at my experience with Team USA. Until then, look forward to seeing everybody again in the fall and go Irish!