RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (Reuters) - The United States is prepared to forfeit the Panamerican Games baseball gold medal to Cuba after Thursday’s championship game was rescheduled for Friday due to a waterlogged field.
Eric Campbell, U.S. team leader and general manager, said his squad had a contract to play a five-game series with China in Mobile, Alabama starting July 22 and if the gold medal contest is not completed on Friday the team would have to leave.
The gold medal showdown, along with the bronze medal game between Brazil and Nicaragua, has been rescheduled for early Friday morning following Thursday’s postponement.
”The field has to be fit for play and if there is any more rain that won’t happen,“ Campbell told Reuters. ”Our flight is leaving at 6:20 pm on Friday and we have no option but to be on it because we have a contract to play China on July 22nd.
”Our national team is in the midst of a 57-day tour and this is a very important part of it.
“It would be wonderful to play for the gold medal but we have to get out on a safe field to do that.”
The postponement is the latest in a series of setbacks to hit the baseball competition which has had play disrupted by rain and seen all night games cancelled because lighting was not up to standard at the temporary Rock City Stadium complex.
Poor drainage at the venue has left the temporary diamond saturated, leaving maintenance staff desperately trying to clear the standing water in wheelbarrows.
If the gold medal contest cannot be played it would be another black mark for the sport, which will be dropped from the Olympic program after next year’s Beijing Summer Games.
Despite the problems, the Panam Games got the dream final organizers wanted with arch-rivals and baseball superpowers the United States and Cuba, who have won the last nine Panam golds.
”If someone had come to me with a plan for what would be done if their was a change of the schedule due to rain delays I would not have signed a contract to play on July 22,“ said Campbell. ”But nobody said anything and we were told the field would be stripped and set up for softball on July 20.
”To beat the hosts Brazil yesterday and then to go right back out and play a good Mexico team in the semi-finals was one of the greatest days in American baseball history.
“Now we’re just frustrated.”