WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The eagle has landed.The ceramic eagle that became the de facto mascot of the United States team that won the World Baseball Classic -- and had one if its wings clipped in the dogpile celebration Wednesday night -- was displayed proudly in the Astros' clubhouse
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The eagle has landed.
The ceramic eagle that became the de facto mascot of the United States team that won the World Baseball Classic -- and had one if its wings clipped in the dogpile celebration Wednesday night -- was displayed proudly in the Astros' clubhouse at Ballpark of the Palm Beaches on Friday morning.
The eagle came out of the garage of Astros pitcher Luke Gregerson and followed him from his home in Orlando, to the first round of the World Baseball Classic in Miami, and then went on to San Diego and Los Angeles for the final round. When the U.S. recorded the final out to beat Puerto Rico on Wednesday, former Astros reliever Pat Neshek brought it onto the field to share in the celebration.
:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::
"We had already talked about that," Gregerson said of his conversation with Neshek, a former teammate in Houston. "'If I'm in the game, you bring it out. If you're in the game, I'll bring it out.' It worked out nice."
The eagle, which weighs about 45 pounds, actually belongs to Gregerson's father-in-law, Chuck, who Gregerson says has a fascination with the bird. When Chuck picked up Gregerson at the airport, he joked he was keeping the eagle.
"Over the years, he's accrued many different types of sculptures -- wooden, stone -- pictures, little medallion on his chain," he said. "He was fascinated with eagles. He's got a bunch of eagles in my garage in my house right now and guys were looking for an eagle, and I said, 'Hey, I got an eagle guy. I know where there's a bunch of eagles.' I brought that one over; they liked it."
Gregerson carted the eagle back to Florida on Thursday and displayed it proudly in the Astros' clubhouse, where some players posed for pictures with it draped with a gold medal. In addition to the signatures, the left wing of the statue is missing a large piece that Gregerson might fix. Or maybe not.
"Casualty of war," he said.
What becomes of the eagle now isn't clear, but Gregerson plans to hold onto it as a cherished memory of his time with Team USA.
'"Maybe I'll find a nice pedestal for it and put the USA jersey up and put that in front of it," he said. "I have no idea. We'll see."
Gregerson said playing in his first World Baseball Classic was a memory he'll cherish forever, and it would be hard for him to forget it anyway if the eagle is displayed in a place where he can see it often.
"It was a lot of fun," he said. "It takes you back to some old-school baseball when you were a kid, when you keep playing 'til you lose -- those tournaments you play in Little League and high school or whatever. An amazing group of guys to play with. They're All-Star caliber, if not already All-Stars, and a lot of fun. Everyone got together and got along right away. It's a good time."
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.