Team Canada’s Chris Kissock won gold at the Pan Am Games as the pitcher returned to his old pitching mound at Butler Park Wednesday

Team Canada’s Chris Kissock won gold at the Pan Am Games as the pitcher returned to his old pitching mound at Butler Park Wednesday

Gold-medal hurler happy to be home

Team Canada’s Chris Kissock is back in Trail relaxing and savouring the taste of gold.

Team Canada’s Chris Kissock is back in Trail relaxing and savouring the taste of gold.

As an essential cog in the wheel of Canada’s national baseball juggernaut, the right-handed relief pitcher brought home bronze from the IBAF World Cup in Panama and topped that off with a gold medal at the Pan Am Games in Guadalajara, Mex. last week.

“Nobody ever expected us to win, we had a good team, a good group of guys but there are always the Cubans and Americans that are the tops,” said Kissock.

Cuba had won the previous 10 Pan Am Games gold medals and were heavy favourites at the World Cup along with the U.S. who were defending Cup champs.

“With the U.S. we knew we had a chance to beat them but the Cubans, they had our number all tournament, even in Panama.”

Neither Cuba nor the U.S. would win. The Netherlands, a team Canada had beaten in the round robin, won the World Cup.

Then at the Pan Ams, the U.S. knocked off Cuba in a thrilling extra-inning semifinal game while Canada faced home-favourites Mexico in the other semi.

Mexico took an early 3-0 lead but Canada clawed back to go up 5-3 in the sixth inning. Kissock then came on in relief, pitching two brilliant innings of shutout ball, to get the save and earn Canada a berth in the final where they would down the U.S. 2-1 and win the gold.

“For me personally the highlight was pitching against Mexico and getting us to that next game. But I think the dog pile at the end after winning the gold, and when we got on to the podium, we stepped up to the top one, and you got the U.S. and Cuba to either side, below us – it kind of sunk in that we did something pretty special.”

The gold-medal placing is the first for any Canadian baseball team at a major competition such as the World Cup, Pan Am or Olympic Games, an incredible feat for a team that was patched together Sept. 26, only two weeks prior to the World Cup.

“We had good skill, we were a good team, we just meshed, everybody got along, it was awesome, it’s the best team I’ve ever been a part of,” said Kissock. “We all thought we had a good enough team to do this and (coach) Ernie Whitt drove it into us right away, ‘this is it we’re going for gold.’”

The 26-year-old began his season with the double-A Reading Phillies  as a starter but returned to the bullpen where he’s thrived, finishing strong for his team then ceding not a single run in seven appearances as he pitched lights out at the World Cup and Pan Am tournaments.

The Fruitvale native is property of the Philadelphia Phillies and its impervious starting rotation. Since moving to the pen, Kissock’s chances of cracking the major league team’s lineup has improved, especially since the Phillies declined the 2012 options for reliever Brad Lidge and starter Roy Oswalt.

The former Trail Little League product hopes to be on the Phillies 40-man roster this season but as a rule-five candidate for the draft, may wind up in another big-league uniform. Either scenario would be fine with Kissock, but he says sticking with the Phillies is his preference.

“I have the confidence right now to be in there especially after this tournament,” said Kissock. “I think I can pitch at that level and giving my split-finger back to me kind of gives me that boost . . . But you got to be patient, it’s something you can’t control. You get control by the way you pitch, that’s all you can do.”