For John Gall, who starred on the U.S. Olympic Baseball Team at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, the feeling of winning a medal while representing your country is truly indescribable.
“It’s surreal, it’s tough to really describe that feeling of how proud you are representing the country at that moment,” Gall remembers. “It’s something I won’t forget.”
Before his stint as an Olympian, Gall grew up just minutes from Stanford University, in Palo Alto, California. In fact, Stanford was actually closer to his childhood home than his high school. So, when it came time to choose where he would further his education and baseball career, the decision was easy. He was going to be a Cardinal.
When Gall first arrived on campus, he had mild expectations because of his natural stature and just wanted to help the team succeed any way that he could.
“When I got to Stanford, I was so excited and just hoping to make the travel squad,” Gall said. “My expectations weren’t as high as some others being under six feet. I battled my way into the lineup and before I knew it I played just about every game in college for four years.”
However, Gall did more than play in those games, he excelled with the Cardinal, making it to the College World Series in three of his four years at Stanford. He also still holds Pac-12 records amassing 368 hits, 80 doubles and amassing an incredible 600 total bases in his career.
During his junior and senior seasons, Gall got his first taste of USA Baseball when he played on the Collegiate National Teams in 1998 and 1999. In his two stints with the team, he registered 84 hits, while batting .370 at the plate. Traveling with those teams during these two years not only shaped his baseball career, but also helped him see the world, something that he tries to show his children today.
“As I look back at baseball… I think the USA experience, as much as any experience, was just being able to see the world; in fact, it still inspires me to show my kids even today because we saw a lot. Baseball gave me a lot of opportunity to see the world.”
Following his time at Stanford and the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team, Gall was selected in the 11th round of the 2000 draft by the St. Louis Cardinals. After five years in the minor leagues, his long-awaited major league debut occurred on July 26, 2005, a day that he will remember for the rest of his life.
“The first game in the major leagues is an out of body experience for anyone. It’s surreal and something that you rarely see in life. You’re lucky if you can recreate it. I still have those chills as I put myself back there.”
In his debut, he went two-for-four in front of a group of family and friends in San Diego. In total, he played three seasons in the majors, two with the Cardinals and one with the Florida (now Miami) Marlins.
While he played professional baseball for 10 seasons, it went by before he knew it.
“The Cardinals were a great experience. I was fortunate enough to be a role player on a championship team in 2006, albeit just during the regular season, but it happened in a blink of an eye. I played professionally 10 years. It sounds long when you say it but it went by really fast.”
In 2008, Gall had the honor of being selected by USA Baseball for the Olympic team, where he and 24 other players with very limited time with each other came together and formed an incredible bond.
“We did come together. Most of the guys didn’t know each other and we were stuck together pretty tight for four or five weeks. You create a bond pretty fast just getting on airplanes for 15 hours at a time. Most importantly, Davey Johnson, who was our manager, had a really good attitude as far as having perspective and enjoying the moment, but also competing. And seeing everything.”
The opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing were an incredible spectacle, even by Olympic standards for everyone around the world. However, what impressed Gall the most was the magnitude of the opening ceremony.
“The overall size and energy that is around the Olympic games, particularly to me what sticks out is the opening ceremony. You have all of the leaders of the world and it is just this amazing performance and show. The country is trying to put their best foot forward. There is this energy that is very unique. A Super Bowl, a Final Four, a World Series… I have been to all of those events and I think the Olympics stands out on its own.”
In competition, Team USA dropped its first game to the eventual gold medalists, South Korea, 7-6, before rallying to top the Netherlands in the second game. In total, the team finished pool play with a 5-2 record and later found itself up against a familiar face in the bronze medal game versus Japan.
With an Olympic medal on the line, the U.S. overwhelmed their Japanese counterparts, besting them 8-4 to earn the bronze medal. It was a hard-fought game by both countries; however, Gall remembers more about what happened after that game than anything that happened during it.
“We were really excited to get a medal, particularly against the Japanese team. What I really remember is all of us getting our medals and the excitement of being a part of a medal ceremony. That is something that I will never get to do again.”
After returning home to the United States an Olympic medalist, Gall found of number of invitations to high profile events. Among the list were the Oprah Winfrey Show, a dinner with then California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and a trip to the White House. Of all of these special invitations, Gall says that dinner with Schwarzenegger was his favorite experience.
“That was great. That was more intimate with how many Californians showed up – I want to say it was 10 or 15. We all sat around the table and told stories. That was very entertaining. He was very fun to eat and hang out with. He was engaged with us.”
In 2013, Gall once again got the opportunity to be a part of USA Baseball, this time, however, as a member of its Board of Directors. In addition to helping USA Baseball promote the game in a positive light throughout the United States, he assists in making the key decisions within the organization.
In addition to his responsibilities with USA Baseball, Gall is the managing partner of a real estate investment firm in San Francisco. What was the biggest lesson that he learned from the game of baseball that has helped him the most in his professional career?
“Perseverance. I think having a goal with perseverance and the ability to keep grinding away and being able keep your eye on a goal. “
The game of baseball has taken Gall around the world and has given him experiences that he would not have had otherwise. But no matter what he has done before or whatever it is he’ll do next, among his long list of accomplishments, Gall is proud to be one of the 2,522.