PAWTUCKET – The Elizabeth Beisel Welcome Home Tour made a stop at McCoy Stadium Wednesday evening, as the North Kingstown native and Olympic medalist threw out the first pitch and signed autographs at the ballpark’s Cox Fan Center.
Standing on the field in her Team USA jacket and a PawSox cap, Beisel was presented a Pawtucket team jacket by General Manager Lou Schweichheimer and infielder Tony Thomas, who took the occasion to tweet the following after catching the ceremonial toss: “Not a bad arm for a swimmer; thanks for keeping it close so I could catch it!”
Beisel admits she’s still on cloud nine after returning to Rhode Island a week ago after exiting the just-completed London Games with a silver medal in the 400-meter individual medley and a bronze medal in the 200-meter backstroke. There’s a part of her, however, that has enjoyed the aspect of being in the company of friends and family following many months of intense training.
“I’ve missed home a lot,” Beisel admitted, “but it’s weird because I still don’t see myself as a big deal.”
Try telling that to the crowds that have seemingly flocked toward Beisel whenever the junior-to-be at the University of Florida has stepped out in public, whether the setting is the mall or the movies. While there’s no doubt that Beisel is deserving in her hometown hero status, to her what sticks out is the impact she’s been able to register with the state’s aquatic community.
“When I came home for that little homecoming gathering (at North Kingstown High School), there were little kids in bathing suits and caps,” Beisel noted. “In the Northeast and even in Rhode Island, swimming isn’t big at all. To see little kids get inspired because of something that I did is really cool because obviously I really love swimming and would love to see Rhode Island get more involved in it.”
Beisel was asked to share some of her Olympic memories that didn’t pertain to competition. That triggered a quick response as to the teenager, what stood out were the bonding sessions with her fellow Red, White & Blue representatives.
“Kobe Bryant was my absolute favorite,” remarked Beisel, referring to the men’s basketball star. “He gave all us (meaning members of the U.S. women’s swim team) a hug and was so excited to meet us.”
There’s no rest for the weary as Beisel will return to Gainesville in five days to get ready for a new school year and college swim season. The Red Sox reached out to have her partake in an on-field ceremony prior to a game, but Beisel had to politely decline due to school commitments.
“Getting back to reality will be a little tough, but I’m excited to go back to school,” she admits. “College swimming is much more relaxed (as opposed to Olympic swimming) and there’s not as much pressure. Plus you’re getting ready for a meet with all your best friends. With the Olympics it’s a little bit harder because there’s so much more pressure.”