Life is back to normal for Ryan Rolison.
The University School of Jackson senior is back in classes, spending time with his friends and going to football games.
His summer lasted a little longer this year, and he got an experience that probably trumps anything his classmates got to do before returning to school.
“I’ve got a lot of people coming up to me congratulating me and telling me they were proud of me,” Rolison said last Friday.
Rolison is a gold medalist, having pitched for the 18U Team USA national baseball team that beat host Japan for a world championship Sept. 6.
The trip to Japan was the culmination of a summer of tryouts, cuts and development. Rolison pitched in North Carolina and later California, impressing coaches enough to make the squad and making friends along the way.
“We started this process early in the summer,” Rolison said. “From there I just started building relationships with these guys.”
They arrived in Japan in late August, and while there Rolison got to see downtown Osaka.
“It kind of reminded me of New York City and Times Square, so that was pretty cool,” he said.
But they were there for baseball. Rolison pitched briefly in a 5-2 win over Brazil on Sept. 1, but his main action came four days later in the final game before the championship.
“That morning at breakfast [the coaches] let me know I was going to start against Canada,” Rolison said. “I was laying there visualizing what the outing was going to be like.”
The crowd for this game was smaller than some of the others, maybe 2,000 or 3,000 in Koshien Stadium.
Rolison gave up four runs on five hits and four walks in 3.2 innings. Forrest Whitley relieved him and finished the game from there, a 9-5 USA win.
“I think I competed very well,” the lefty Rolison said. “My curveball wasn’t really working that night so I had to kind of go to my other secondary pitches.
“It was definitely the toughest lineup I’ve faced as a pitcher.”
Pitching coach Greg Moore walked out to remove Rolison in the fourth, with the Miami Marlins’ first-round pick Josh Naylor up to bat.
“No coach,” Rolison recalled saying. “I got him right here.”
And in his last appearance for Team USA, Rolison struck Naylor out.
The next day the Americans beat Japan 2-1, and after South Korea was honored as the third place team and Japan as the runner-up, Rolison and his teammates were called to a stage to be recognized as the winners.
“It was a special experience for me, special moment,” Rolison said. “Hearing your national anthem in a foreign country, there’s nothing better, especially with USA across your chest.”
Rolison will take a few months away from baseball, working out to keep his fastball velocity up. He’ll go from USA to USJ on his uniform for one more spring and then head to Oxford to attend school and play baseball at Ole Miss. Life moves on.
The gold medal, and the experience that preceded it, will last.
Craig Thomas, 425-9634