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Quartet of gold medalists throw out first pitches

Quartet of gold medalists throw out first pitches

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Quartet of gold medalists throw out first pitches
PHILADELPHIA -- Less than two weeks removed from the close of the 2012 Olympics in London, four gold medalists with local ties were on hand to throw out ceremonial first pitches at Friday's Phillies-Nationals game.

In front of a packed Citizens Bank Park, soccer players Carli Lloyd and Heather Mitts, wrestler Jordan Burroughs and rower Susan Francia each threw a pitch to the Phillies' Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard. The Olympians, with their gold medals dangling from their necks, sported Phillies uniforms with a number of personal significance.

"It was awesome," said Mitts, a three-time Olympic gold medalist who has played professional soccer in Philadelphia. "It was a little nerve-wracking, I'm not going lie. Being in front of that many people. And it's not like I throw pitches every single day. But it was definitely an honor and I had a lot of fun."

"It was very similar to the start line at the Olympics," added Francia, a native of nearby Abington, Pa., and a University of Pennsylvania alum.

Burroughs, the Olympic champion at 74 kilos (he wore No. 74 on the back of his Phillies jersey), grew up in nearby Sickerville, N.J., and graduated from Winslow Township High School. Growing up, he said, he was a Phillies fan and went to games at Veterans Stadium.

"It's been an awesome ride," he said. "Right now, I'm just basking in the overall experience of being an Olympic champ. It's been a goal and a dream of mine since I was a kid. It's pretty cool to be up here with three other Olympic gold medalists. It's an amazing experience."

Lloyd, of Delran, N.J., scored both goals in the United States' 2-1 win over Japan in the gold medal match. She became the first woman's soccer player to score the winning goal in two gold medal matches, as she also netted the game-winning overtime goal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

"I don't think it's fully sunk in, to be honest," Lloyd said, adding she's already back to training.

Her heroics in London came after she left for the Olympics without a spot in the starting lineup. But when she got her opportunity because of an injury to a teammate, she seized it.

"Overall, with the team, it was just a phenomenal win," she said. "I think that the Canada game was such an epic win for us, scoring in the last 30 seconds. It just felt good. I feel like we felt we were destined to take home the gold this time around."

Jake Kaplan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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