PHILADELPHIA -- Roly deArmas' Team USA jersey had been hanging in the coaches room for the past few days, a tribute to the longtime member of the Phillies' organization. DeArmas, who has been subbing in as bullpen catcher for most of the season, returned to the Phillies on Monday with a bronze medal earned as part of manager Davey Johnson's staff in the Beijing Olympics. He'll never forget the experience.
"You've got to be there live to experience everything," said deArmas, 56, who has been in baseball since 1973. "It was unbelievable. From the opening ceremony to the competition and being around the athletes at the village, it was incredible." During rare downtime from working with some of baseball's brightest prospects, including Double-A Reading infielder Jason Donald and catcher Lou Marson, deArmas found his way to watch the U.S. softball team capture a silver medal, while others took in beach volleyball or track events. On the final day, the team visited the Great Wall. "The best part was the bobsled ride back down," deArmas said. "You can't imagine how they built that thing. I don't know if people know it, but it's like a bobsled ride down, like in the Olympics. It's like the luge. You go up on this ski lift, and you start walking. You can come down on the ski lift or the luge. Everyone went the luge route." Having experienced the Olympics, deArmas hopes that baseball remains a part of the event for many years. "It's a shame they're saying they're not going to have baseball in the next Olympics," he said. "It's growing so much. Hopefully, they'll change their mind. Baseball is so international now. They've got to have it. We had sellout crowds in China, packed houses every time we played. Every game was exciting. The venue was buzzing. The Koreans with their chants, the whistles with Japan. China. What more do they want? "International play is a battle. Louie and Donald faced tremendous competition. No doubt it's a confidence-booster knowing you can handle that situation. You've got big crowds, and you've got that big logo, USA. That's big, pressure-wise, because everyone wants to get to Team USA. If you beat us, that makes your tournament." The one person unhappy to see deArmas return was outfielder So Taguchi, who walked by the Team USA coach and jokingly gave him a big thumbs down. Taguchi hasn't gotten over Team USA's comeback against Japan that earned the U.S. the bronze medal. "He's been doing that since I've been back," deArmas said, laughing. "I'm on his list."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.