Bard honored to represent Team USA again
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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies closer Daniel Bard represented Team USA and won the 2004 World University Baseball Championships while he was at the University of North Carolina. Ian Kennedy, currently on a Minor League contract with the Rangers, is the only other player from that team in a big league camp this spring.
Given Bard’s complete absence from the Majors between his two games with the Red Sox in 2013 and his National League Comeback Player of the Year-winning performance with the Rockies in '20, he may be the unlikeliest player on Team USA for the upcoming World Baseball Classic.
Bard, 37, isn’t the oldest player on this year’s team. That honor goes to Cardinals righty Adam Wainwright (41). Still, it’s the continuation of a golden era in Bard’s career. In 2022, he earned 34 saves, posted a 1.79 ERA, struck out 69 in 60 1/3 innings -- and signed a two-year, $19 million extension through '24.
“I didn’t think it would come at 37, the best year of my career,” Bard said. “But I don’t think age really mattered, the way I was throwing the ball. When the year ended, I knew the WBC was happening. I looked at who might be the relievers on that team and was like, 'I feel like I should be in that group.'”
Bard, who was on the U.S. Junior National Team before the World University team, played with Kennedy, former Rockies star Troy Tulowitzki, former Nationals star Ryan Zimmerman and longtime infielder Jed Lowrie in 2004. This year’s honor, however, tops that one.
“That was a cool team to be a part of, but this is just different -- it’s a lot more high-profile than the games I played in college,” Bard said. “We played in a tournament in Japan, and nobody saw it. But this is different because of when it takes place. Everybody’s excited about baseball, and then we put All-Star teams on the field in March. That just doesn’t happen.
“I never followed the tournament closely in the past. I was too busy getting myself ready, or in 2017, I was just not very good at baseball, so it didn’t appeal to me a whole lot. But I’ve gone back and watched a bunch of highlights. Every time I see it, it gets me even more excited.”