YOKOHAMA, JAPAN - They're going back to reality now, back to the minor leagues or independent leagues, their Japanese teams or retirement.
In the wake of USA baseball's 2-0 loss to Japan in the Olympic gold medal game on Saturday night in Tokyo, third baseman Todd Frazier will go back to the Sussex County Miners of the independent Frontier League. Think of them as the old, unaffiliated St. Paul Saints, if the Saints had ever let things get out of hand.
Right after Frazier left the Miners to play for Team USA, the Miners held dollar-beer night, fans dumped beer on the players in the dugout, and the players went into the stands to beat up the offenders. "Got out of there just in time,'' Frazier said.
Twins prospect Joe Ryan said he's going to get to his last minor league stop, in Durham, N.C., and drive himself and key belongings to Minnesota, where he figures to become part of the Saints or Twins roster.
Tyler Austin, the former Twin, will stay put. He plays his home games at Yokohama Stadium and became one of the best hitters in the Olympics. He is producing the kind of season that could attract a few major league scouts.
Eddy Alvarez will try to become the first silver medal speed skater to become a big-league regular. The Marlins prospect just missed gold on the ice, and just missed gold on the diamond, after adding 30 pounds of upper-body muscle to a bottom-heavy frame that he had built for skating.
Edwin Jackson, the peripatetic pitcher, will go back to retirement.
Mike Scioscia, the USA manager, might retire. He spoke rhapsodically about hearing his old manager, the Dodgers' Tommy Lasorda, cry while talking about leading the U.S. to gold in Sydney in 2000, when Doug Mientkiewicz was his first baseman.
Olympic baseball is sporadic and odd. This was the first Olympic baseball tournament since 2008 in Beijing. The sport isn't planned for Paris in 2024, but America may lobby for it to return in Los Angeles in 2028.
The U.S. does not send big-leaguers to the Olympics, and some teams even refuse to provide their top prospects, so the U.S. team pastes together not-yets and once-weres and hopes for the best, and on Saturday night this coalition of the willing and available almost won the gold medal.
"It was super cool to have this group of guys together,'' U.S. outfielder Jamie Westbrook said. "We've got veteran guys with World Series rings, and we've got some young prospects and everybody mixed in between. We really came together, and it was a ton of fun playing with these guys for the last four weeks.''
Japan starting pitcher Masato Morishita pauses so long during his windup that he can fool you into thinking your screen is frozen, even if you're watching him live.
Saturday he seemed to keep the U.S. hitters in a state of suspended animation, as well. Morishita pitched five shutout innings, third baseman Munetaka Muretami homered, and the U.S. couldn't produce that one big hit.
The U.S. put two on with two out in the top of the fifth, but Alvarez, the Opening Ceremony flag-bearer, grounded to short to end the threat.
Alvarez became the sixth person and third American to win a medal in the Summer and Winter Games.
"I'm going to need a little bit more time for this to settle down," Alvarez said. "It's going to be a little bit of a tough pill to swallow. We had one goal, but Japan came out on top.''
Japan put together a strong team from its professional league. Playing in a stadium devoid of fans kept Japan from having a marked home-field advantage, but many of the workers and volunteers cheered their team.
"It's a lifetime experience,'' Jackson said. "It's something that I'll never forget. I'm definitely grateful to call myself an Olympic medalist. It's something that I wouldn't have imagined.''
Jim Souhan's podcast can be heard at TalkNorth.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib. firstname.lastname@example.org.