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Tuesday, August 5, 2003
College stars leave World Series for Pan Am Games

Associated Press

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- Danny Putnam and Mark Romanczuk had little time to worry about losing the College World Series. At 7 a.m. the next morning the Stanford stars were on their way to national team tryouts.

After arriving in Arizona from Nebraska, Putnam immediately played in an intrasquad game. Later, Romanczuk took the mound on two days' rest after starting the deciding game for the NCAA championship.

They both say the whirlwind trek was worth it to get to represent their country in the Pan American Games.

"It was nice to not have time to dwell on losing,'' Putnam said of Stanford's 14-2 loss to Rice for the NCAA title. "We're playing for something bigger than the World Series.''

Once they arrived here, their schedule has stayed about the same. Only 10 hours after an emotional 2-0 victory over the host Dominicans on Monday night, the Americans were back on the field against Nicaragua on Tuesday morning. They lost 3-0 to end their undefeated summer streak at 25 games, but they'll play again Friday in the quarterfinals.

"It's almost been like two separate seasons,'' said Romanczuk, a left-hander who will be a sophomore for the Cardinal this year. "We're shooting for a whole other objective here. We're playing in another country away from everything we know.''

The players who lasted late into the postseason have been playing baseball constantly for nearly a year. It hasn't seemed to be a problem. Putnam is hitting .350, while Romanczuk is 5-0 with a 0.81 ERA. The U.S. roster also includes Paul Janish, a shortstop for national champion Rice.

"I don't feel too bad, even though I haven't had time off in 11 months,'' said Putnam, who went 0-for-4 Tuesday to have his 14-game hitting streak snapped. "We're playing for a gold medal and for our country. That takes away any of the fatigue.''

U.S. coach Ray Tanner of South Carolina has been pleased with the effort, especially since several of his players didn't have any time off.

"That was very impressive,'' Tanner said. "The fact Danny, Mark and Paul played in the national championship game and then came straight to the tryout says more about who they are. We know they're talented baseball players, but that shows you a little about their character.

"Playing for the national championship in college is great, and to turn around and put USA across their chest is a special opportunity.''

Several members of the U.S. team said attending this tournament provided them much-needed perspective.

"Coming here shows me how much we take for granted,'' said Putnam, a 20-year-old outfielder selected to the College World Series all-tournament team. "All the whining I do, it's pointless.''

He regretted not bringing along some 13 sets of slightly worn batting gloves he knows the Dominican children would have loved. They're still usable.

"The love for the game here is missed in the United States because of all the money in baseball,'' he said.