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Cormier still delivering for Canada

August 14, 2008
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BEIJING - Rheal Cormier is back in the Olympics and back in Asia. This time, the former Red Sox pitcher is representing Canada at age 41.

"Twenty years apart," he said, laughing and shaking his head.

His baseball career was all but over when the opportunity emerged. Cormier, who pitched for the Red Sox in 1995 and again from 1999-2000, spent five weeks leading to the Beijing Games pitching in a senior men's league in his native New Brunswick to regain his mechanics and arm strength.

"I feel like I'm 20 again," Cormier said. "The only thing they [young players] can give me is an Olympic gold medal. Let's shock the world!"

Cormier pitched for the Canadians in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, three years before he debuted in the major leagues. Not many can say they're a two-time Olympian, separated by two decades.

"That's pretty special," said Greg Hamilton, Canada's director of national teams and also a coach. "He's throwing the ball pretty well. He's 41 and has some kids, so he will figure out what he wants to do. With Rheal, he has a wealth of experience."

In only about a year's time, Cormier's job went from the luxurious life in the majors to a gig with his hometown Moncton Mets of the New Brunswick Senior League.

That's a serious change of scenery for someone with a 16-year big league career for St. Louis, Boston, Montreal, Philadelphia and Cincinnati. Yet the lefthander had no qualms in doing whatever he deemed necessary to prepare himself and get back to full strength.

"That was a good time. It ended up being more than I thought it was going to be as far as going back and competing there to get ready for these Olympics," he said. "I'm glad I did it now. The average age was probably 25-26. Yeah, I was the father."

Canada isn't favored to medal in Beijing, though in a seven-game, round-robin tournament anything can happen - and all the teams involved realize it. A strong showing in China could kick-start a comeback for Cormier, although he's not thinking that far ahead just yet.

"I'm leaving the door open," said Cormier, who pitched three innings for the Reds last season.

"If the opportunity comes up, it would be great. If it doesn't, it's been good, so I just want to concentrate on this and enjoy these Olympics. If it's bound to happen, it will, and if not I'm totally content." (AP)

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