He was 8,000 miles away from home, had 10,000 people rooting against him, dealt with a bum ankle and it ended in a dog pile.
It’s no wonder Carson Tucker hasn’t done much other than sleep since returning to his Ahwatukee home late Tuesday night from Taiwan.
“It was intense,” Tucker said.
Tucker and 17 teammates won the gold medal at the 12U IBAF World Cup in Taiwan by beating host Chinese Taipei 8-1 in the championship game.
“I stare at (the gold medal) all day,” said Tucker, who added it is hanging in his bedroom. “We wanted to be the first one to win the gold medal. It was pretty special.”
This was the first year the IBAF played the 12 and under age group in a World Cup format and Team USA was dwindled down from close to 3,500 to the final 18.
The group only had about three weeks of working together compared to years for some of the international squad.
“Of the 14 teams, seven were good, four were really good,” said Tempe Corona del Sol coach Dave Webb, who was manager of the Team USA squad. “Taipei, Venezuela, Japan and us. There were times I really didn’t think it was going to work until about five or six days before the World Cup started.
“Then they started, like I told them, they started drinking our Kool-Aid. They did a 180. The players started playing for the jersey, selfless and for each other.”
The team went 5-1 in pool play, losing only to Venezuela (3-2), to make the medal rounds when they went on to beat Brazil, 2-0, and Japan, 9-1, before facing Taipei on Sunday at Tianmu Stadium, a professional stadium retro-fitted for little league baseball.
The attendance was 10,115 with the U.S. contingent, consisting of families, was about 50. The game was broadcast on television and treated essentially like a professional game.
The atmosphere was electric. Music blaring. Noise makers were cranked up. Fans were chanting.
It could have been overwhelming for anyone let alone a team of 12-year-olds.
“I wanted to see how Carson would react,” his father, Jackie, said. “I look down to the dugout and he’s jumping up and down with the rhythm. I was like, ‘I guess he is going to be OK.’ It was an amazing experience.”
Tucker, who attends Kyrene Altadeña Middle School, said the big crowd and atmosphere only made Team USA dig in deeper that was accentuated by the fact that the team jumped out to a big lead with a seven-run second inning.
Tucker was penciled in as the starting shortstop from the start but he twisted his ankle against Russia when he ran into the third baseman on the base paths. He missed the next game and played the rest of the way at third base.
During the World Cup, he batted .429 (6 for 14) with three runs, a double and three RBIs, and had his at-bats limited because of some lopsided scores in pool play after beating four teams (Pakistan, Russia, Korea and Hong Kong) by at least 17 runs.
“He is a tough little guy,” Webb said. “He went out there hurt and played. He wasn’t about to miss a game.”
Webb hasn’t missed out on many World Cup opportunities as this was his fifth overall gold medal after winning four with 14U teams in previous years.
“There is nothing better than representing your country, hearing your National Anthem and getting on the gold medal stand,” he said. “These kids got a chance to do it in front of a huge, electric crowd and gain invaluable experience.
“We got back to our hotel after the gold medal game and other teams were just waiting for us. The players traded little trinkets and took in some of the culture from other countries. What an incredible memory.”
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