Padres host Team USA Day as send-off to Brazilian Olympiad

The United States will send 555 athletes to next month’s Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. More than a third of them — 200 — spent at least some time honing their skills at the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center.

Last Friday, the San Diego Padres offered a pre-Olympic send-off for the center’s resident athletes by hosting Team USA Day.  BMX, men’s and women’s rugby sevens, track and field (including Paralympians) were sports represented during the pre-game meet-and-greet at the Park at the Park and on-field ceremonies.

More than 70 resident athletes and non-qualified national team members attended the festivities.

The center’s archery contingent could not attend because members were away at a tournament. The men’s field hockey team did not qualify for the Rio Olympic Games.

BMX athlete Nic Long had the honor of throwing out the first pitch for the ensuing game against the National League West Division-leading San Francisco Giants, while men’s rugby national team member Pat Blair sang the national anthem (and did a very good job in doing so).

Long, who will be competing in his second Olympiad, said he was “pretty excited” to be selected to throw out the first pitch. “I played baseball a long time ago, so I should be able to make it to the glove,” he jested before taking the mound in front of tens of thousands of fans.

Long scored a strike into the glove and Blair followed with his heartfelt rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” that drew cheers from the 38,522 assembled fans. Both Long and Blair received significant face time on Petco Park’s large video scoreboard.

“It was pretty surreal seeing my roommate singing the national anthem,” U.S. Eagles national team member Will Holder tweeted.

Rugby sevens is making its Olympic debut at the 2016 Rio Games. Prior to Long’s ceremonial first pitch, the men’s and women’s rugby sevens provided an on-field demonstration in the outfield for fans.

Team USA Day began with a meet-and-greet between Olympians and fans arriving for the game. The men’s and women’s rugby sevens teams even got into interactive mode with children, tossing the ball back and forth and offering instructional tips. It wasn’t long before a dozen children were involved in their own rugby scrimmage on the Park at the Park whiffle ball field.

Four of the five BMX Olympic athletes attended last Friday’s event at Petco Park. For Long and Brooke Crain, it will be their second Olympiad after both competed at the 2012 London Games.

“It’s an awesome feeling being one of five in our sport to get to represent the United States and do it on a large platform,” Long explained. “Everyone in the world tunes into it. It’s a huge deal.”

“I’m super excited to represent my country again  — ‘excited’ is the only word I can come up with,” Crain added.
Following the pre-game festivities, many of the CV-OTC athletes remained at Petco Park to watch the Padres defeat the Giants, 4-1, as the second half of the season got under way.

Padre Andrew Cashner went the first six innings, allowing four hits and one run while striking out nine batters, to pick up his fourth win of the season against seven losses. Meanwhile, the host Friars (38-51) hammered Giants ace Madison Bumgarner (10-5) for seven hits and four runs in six innings.

All-Star Wil Myers hit his 20th home run of the season for the Padres while teammate Adam Rosales also slammed a solo homer in the game that saw the hosts break a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the third inning on an RBI-single by Matt Kemp.

Conor Gillaspie drove in the lone run for the Giants (57-34) in the top of the second inning.

It was the Padres’ first win against San Francisco in 10 meetings this season. Bumgarner, who entered the game with the second-best earned-run average in the National League at 1.94, struck out nine batters in his six innings of work.

Missed last Friday’s Team USA Day at Petco Park? There will be one more public opportunity to meet Olympians from the CV-OTC before the Rio Games start. That will be on Aug. 5 when the USS Midway will host an opening ceremonies gala on board (complete with video feed from NBC-TV).

Athletes who have not yet left for Brazil will be in attendance, including BMX athletes and Paralympic team members. Tickets for the Brazilian-themed event are free but attendees must preregister at Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

The 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Games are scheduled Aug. 5-21, followed by the 2016 Paralympic Games Sept. 7-18, also in Brazil.