Grade 3 teacher Karen Degner-Curtis will be taking a precious souvenir of Prince George to school with her to show her students in Hillsboro, Ore.
She's bringing the bronze medal her son Ryan Degner won Thursday afternoon as the designated hitter for Team USA in their thrilling 10-inning 9-7 playoff win over Chinese Taipei. School is back in session on Monday in Oregon and Degner-Curtis said the timing of Team USA's success at Citizen Field could not have been better.
"I think I'll be showing the medal off and maybe I should take Ryan to school as well," she said. "The first story in the reading program for the third graders takes place in Canada and I've got stickers and pins an flags from here to show them."
Degner-Curtis, who named her two boys Nolan and Ryan, has a brother who as a pitcher once held the Washington State University record for most career relief appearances.
"Ryan is one of six in our family and three boys, all baseball players, so he's reaped the benefits that way," said Degner-Curtis. "He's a hard worker who loves the game and this has been a treat for all of us and we're so glad we could do it.
"They're all very talented young men who had to learn to depend on each other and had to learn how to be a team on short order because they'd never played together before. That was the nemesis for both Canada and the U.S. team."
Ryan's mom drove 14 hours with her parents Ryan and Patti Pellerine to get to Prince George, the first trip to the city for all of them. "It's a huge province and it's beautiful," said Degner-Curtis. "I must say, you guys have quite the hospitality. It's so warm and friendly and welcoming."
All-STAR ACHIEVEMENTS: The all-tournament team includes catcher Kazuaki Hidaka, Japan; first baseman Hsu Chi Hung, Chinese Taipei; second baseman Mario Vega, Cuba; third baseman Raul Gonzalez, Cuba; shortstop Cory Urquhart, USA; outfielders Yoelvis Fiss, Cuba; Wang Po Jung, Chinese Taipei; and Luo Guo Long, Chinese Taipei; designated hitter Tyler Baumgartner, USA; righthanded pitcher Vladimir Garcia, Cuba; and lefthanded pitcher Mlotoshi Oshiro, Japan.
DEFECTOR DEFACTO: While the Cuban team delegation was in no mood to comment about first baseman Yozzen Cuesta's apparent defection, Citizen news reporter Peter James said it probably doesn't come as a complete shock to the team and it shouldn't affect future tours for the Cubans.
"It's the cost of doing business for them," said James.
Before the gold-medal game against Japan, the Cubans took time to salute the crowd, tossing up baseball souvenirs, a nice touch of class to cap their 10-visit to Prince George.
HERO WORSHIP: Chinese Taipei manager Ming Tsu Lu is a baseball hero in Japan. With Sadaharu Oh as his teacher with the Yomiuri Giants, Lu rose to the top of his class. Oh, the legendary Japanese home-run king with 868 dingers to his credit for the Giants in a playing career from 1959-1980, managed the Giants when Lu played for them as an outfielder from 1988-1990. Known in Japan as Mieshi Ro, Lu hit in the No. 5 spot in the Giants' order. He had 11 home runs the first month of his rookie season and helped the Giants win the Nippon Professional Baseball league title in 1989.
With a tournament-high 11 home runs in eight games, Chinese Taipei showed its hitting power in the WBC, no doubt having benefitted from Lu's influence. Lu, a Taiwan native, was the hitting coach for Chinese Taipei at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where they finished fifth.
NAME GAME: Luo Guo Long of Chinese Taipei lived up to his name in the tournament. The centrefielder went long with a home run ball served up by Team Japan pitcher Motoshi Oshiro in the second inning of Wednesday night's playoff game, his second of the tournament. He also went yard on Akhiro Kitahara of Japan on Saturday. Other interesting monickers include Roeman Fields of Team USA, who covers lots of territory playing centrefield, and American pitcher Gunnar Swanson. There's also Team Canada first baseman Larry Balkwill, who should have been a pitcher with a name like that.
DOUBLE DUTY; Team Canada second baseman Justin Fillion of Prince George joined an exclusive club when he played two games in the WBC. He's one of a select few athletes who have represented Canada in baseball and hockey. In April 2011, Fillion and his Prince George Spruce Kings teammate RJay Berra played for a team of B.C. Hockey League all-stars against Russia's under-20 team in Polosk, Russia. Fillion is heading back to Houghton, Mich., to begin his sophomore season as a defenceman with the Michigan Tech University Huskies.
MOMENTO MENTION: Cudos to Michael Tobin of Michael's Jewellers, who designed and crafted the championship rings, and Van Horlicks, which made the individual medals and MVP/championship trophies -- both world-class efforts from two local businesses.