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Homegrown Olympians throw out first pitches

September 22, 2010

MILWAUKEE — It was a big night Wednesday for Wisconsin athletes at Miller Park, capped by veteran infielder Craig Counsell’s three-run homer in the second inning. Before Counsell’s heroics, though, a pair of homegrown Olympians shared the spotlight.

Tossing ceremonial first pitches before the Brewers hosted the Reds were goalie Jessie Vetter and forward Jinelle Zaugg-Siergiej of the United States’ silver-medal winning women’s hockey team.

Since their final game against Canada in February, Vetter and Zaugg-Siergiej have been keeping busy with a number of guest appearances, including one at a Milwaukee Admirals game. So how did throwing a pitch in front of 27,004 fans at Miller Park rank?

“It’s pretty special because Jessie and I are both from Wisconsin,” Zaugg-Siergiej said. “Being able to throw an opening pitch and doing it in your home state, especially now that I’m living in Milwaukee, it means a lot, it’s a lot of fun.

“It’s a great feeling to represent something bigger than yourself and bigger even than Milwaukee with Team USA and the Olympics.”

Vetter and Zaugg-Siergiej are from Cottage Grove and Eagle River respectively. The two were teammates on the Wisconsin Badgers’ national championship team in 2006.

Between celebrating their silver medal victory with the rest of the country through various appearances and coaching and playing hockey, the two have remained busy in the offseason.

In fact, Zaugg-Siergiej recently got a new job, which resulted in her moving to the Milwaukee area.

“I actually just accepted a coaching position out at Arrowhead for their girls team,” Zaugg-Siergiej said. “I’m also coaching a U14 winter club youth team. Between those two I’m still playing myself, so I still travel and play and train all that kind of stuff.

“In the summers I also run a camp, so the entire summer was incredibly busy.”

While it was not the most well-attended game of the season for the Brewers, Miller Park still exceeded the 16,805 in attendance for the gold medal game in Vancouver on Feb. 25.

Vetter and Zaugg-Siergiej each stepped up in front of that crowd and delivered strong pitches to catcher Jonathan Lucroy behind the plate.

“I got a little nervous, but it was fun,” said Zaugg-Siergiej, who added that Vetter’s pitch was the more impressive of the two. “I’m just glad I made it on target all the way to home plate. She did play baseball growing up and I’ve never played baseball before.

“Hers was pretty hard. I’m going to give her that one.”

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