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U.S. curler throws first pitch to wrong catcher (video)

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The U.S. men’s curling team had an inspiring run to gold in PyeongChang. Collectively, their ceremonial first pitches at the Minnesota Twins’ home opener on Thursday were not as impressive.

The five team members lined up in a row from right of the pitcher’s mound to its left. In order: alternate Joe Polo, skip John Shuster, vice skip Tyler George, second Matt Hamilton and lead John Landsteiner.

Polo was fine. He threw a strike. Now, for everyone else:

Shuster airmailed his, but it looked worse because his catcher had to duck out of the way of George’s errant throw that went to the wrong Twins player. Hamilton didn’t risk bodily harm, rolling his ball along the grass like a curling stone. Landsteiner threw a floater.

All team members are from Minnesota except Hamilton, who is from Wisconsin. Shuster attended Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.

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MORE: Top moments from Team USA’s run to curling gold

U.S. gold-medal curling team misses nationals to promote the sport

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FARGO, N.D. (AP) — John Shuster‘s U.S. Olympic curling team had planned for a whirlwind couple of months in 2018, hoping to bounce from PyeongChang to the U.S. Championships in Fargo and then perhaps on to the world championship in Las Vegas.

Then they won a gold medal.

On Friday, the day before the start of the national tournament, Shuster’s team found themselves being chauffeured around the Big Apple after ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

It’s part of a celebrity tour that includes television appearances, a Sports Illustrated photo shoot, the ceremonial puck drop at an NHL game, an outdoor curling exhibition in Manhattan’s Bryant Park and even a cameo by Tyler George and Matt Hamilton in a Broadway play.

As a result, the team bowed out of the Fargo event. John Landsteiner said “it hurts a little bit” to miss his first national tournament in 12 years and a shot at worlds, but it’s tough to complain about the VIP treatment in New York.

“We keep kind of joking about it: ‘Well, we could be in Fargo right now,'” Landsteiner said, chuckling.

Rick Patzke, the CEO of USA Curling who is accompanying the group in New York, said the team is handling its newfound fame well, knowing that it’s the best chance any U.S. curling team has had to promote the game that has seen steady growth since it became an Olympic medal sport in 1998.

“They kind of wake up and say, “Where do we go today?’ It’s kind of like ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ times a thousand,” Patzke said.

Said Landsteiner, “It all feels pretty cool to a bunch of small-town guys from Minnesota.”

Patzke said Shuster’s team is still hoping to make an appearance in Fargo, although that could be nixed by a West Coast media tour.

“If we can have a plane change in Fargo, that would be great,” he said.

The national tournament at Scheels Arena in Fargo kicks off with the opening ceremony Saturday and ends with the men’s and women’s championships March 10.

While fans may be disappointed that Team Shuster isn’t playing, tourney organizers say their gold medal places more attention on the event and there are several men’s and women’s teams that could be future Olympic medalists.

“They are on a massive tour right now promoting the sport. And it’s good for it,” said Evan Workin, the manager of the Fargo-Moorhead Curling Club and a member of the Jed Brundidge team that’s playing for a national title. “It’s obviously something you need to do.”

USA Curling staff member Tom Violette, who was helping Friday with finishing touches inside the Fargo arena, said the opportunities that come with an Olympic title are “just too important and too numerous” to pass up. He also said the interest that goes with the gold medal has made it “enjoyable and challenging” for the curling organization.

“Pretty crazy times right now. It’s just nuts. I can’t come up for a better word for it,” Violette said. “I don’t think anyone in the world expected a gold medal.”

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MORE: Top moments from Team USA’s run to curling gold

Matt, Becca Hamilton are first U.S. Olympic mixed doubles curling team

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A brother and sister from Wisconsin will be the busiest athletes at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

A month ago the Hamilton siblings, Matt and Becca, qualified to compete at the Olympics with the U.S. men’s and women’s curling teams, and today they also qualified to play as a mixed doubles team.

With a win over two of their teammates, John Shuster (skip of Matt’s four-man team) and Cory Christensen (alternate on Becca’s four-woman team), at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for mixed doubles curling, the Hamiltons earned the opportunity to curl on potentially every day of the Olympics.

The Hamiltons will start their Olympic competitions with the mixed doubles tournament on Thursday, Feb. 8, the day before the the Opening Ceremony marks the official beginning of the Olympics. When mixed doubles wraps up on Tuesday the 13th, they’ll start playing separately in the men’s and women’s tournaments on Wednesday the 14th. The traditional curling tournaments go until Sunday, Feb. 25, the day of the Closing Ceremony.

Of course, if one of their teams doesn’t advance past the round-robin rounds to the semifinals and medal games, they’ll have some time off. But if they do go all the way to the gold medal matches, it’ll mean 18 straight days of competition for the Hamiltons.

Matt and Becca showed their readiness during the Olympic Trials. They had the second-best record of the round-robin stage, 5-2, then beat Shuster and Christensen twice in two days to win the Olympic berth. The score of the final was 6-5.

After the match, the siblings–who say their partnership works because they can be brutally honest on the ice–had nothing but kind words for each other.

Becca, the younger Hamilton by a year and a half, said her older brother “taught me everything I know.”

Matt then said of Becca, “it’s been impressive to watch her grow up and become the superstar she is now.”

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