After seeing its first game get postponed because of rain, USA Baseball's 18-and-under team opened play at the IBAF 18U World Championships with a rout of the Netherlands. Team USA pounded out 16 hits, including six for extra bases, on the way to the 17-0 win.
"The first couple of innings was just everyone trying to get their feet wet," manager Scott Brosius said in a postgame release. "We've had two or three days off, and I think once they settled into the rhythm of the game they performed well."
Lefthander Garrett Williams (Calvary Baptist Academy, Shreveport, La.) got the start on the mound and pitched six shutout innings, allowing five hits and three walks while striking out nine.
"I really relied on my team with those ground ball outs," Williams said. "My command was off the first couple of innings, but I settled in and started pumping the strike zone and we came out with the victory."
Team USA first got on the board in the top of the second inning when Andy McGuire (Madison HS, Vienna, Va.) singled, advanced to second on a hit batter and scored on an infield single by Dom Nunez (Elk Grove, Calif., HS). After a scoreless third inning, the U.S. blew the doors open with at least one run in the next four innings. They scored two in the fourth when Nunez drove in McGuire for a second time and then scored on a double by Christian Arroyo (Hernando HS, Brooksville, Fla.). A four-run fifth and one-run sixth made it 8-0 before the offense erupted for nine runs in the seventh.
Arroyo finished the game 3-for-5 with two doubles, three RBIs and two runs scored. McGuire went 1-for-2 with two walks and four runs scored while Jeremy Martinez (Mater Dei HS, Santa Ana, Calif.) went 2-for-4 with a double, three RBIs and two runs scored.
Next up for Team USA is Korea, the tournament host. That game will be played Sept. 1 at 2 p.m. local time (1 a.m. EST). Korea is also 1-0 after beating Venezuela 2-1.
Dozens of high school prospects hope to get a chance to play in the Under Armour All-America Game, but fewer than 40 players actually get the opportunity each year. Being an all-American takes talent and hard work, but there's more to the honor than playing in a nationally televised game. It's been more than four years since I tried out for the Detroit Tigers and the itch to participate recently returned. I wanted to get a closer look at the Under Armour All-America experience so I put down my recorder and donned some workout gear. Under Armour and Baseball Factory made me an honorary All-American so I could participate in the workouts and other events surrounding the main feature. Luckily, for everyone's amusement, the camera was rolling… [...] Continue Reading »
Siblings are common in baseball. The sport's history is filled with famous brotherly duos and trios. The DiMaggios, the Niekros, the Alous, the Alomars, the Uptons. . . the list goes on and on. While brothers playing baseball is common, it's rare for a mother to be 2,300 miles from home and still be able to see her two sons play.
Such was the case for Traci Kelly this weekend, as she was able to see her oldest son Carson play with the Rookie-level Johnson City Cardinals and her youngest son Parker participate in USA Baseball's National Team Identification Series.
Carson was a second round pick by the Cardinals and signed for $1.6 million. Over his first 206 pro at-bats, he is hitting .223/.263/.388 with 10 doubles and eight home runs.
"It's been awesome, it's been a ride, I can tell you that," Carson Kelly said. "At first, it was a little bit of a tough transition, but now I'm starting to get the hang of it and I'm having a blast. These guys have been great and I'm learning a lot.
"The biggest thing I've learned is kind of just controlling my emotions. Just learning how to relax during times of stress. I'm just taking it day by day. You've got to come back to the ballpark every day, if you did well the day before or if it didn't go your way. It's just a daily grind, but it's been fun."
[...] Continue Reading »
USA Baseball's National Team Identification Series brings in 32 teams of players from all around the country and serves as a first look at some of the players who will be on next year's 18-and-under and 17-and-under teams.
The player who stood out the most at the first day of the event was righthander Luis Ortiz from Sanger (Calif.) High. With his stuff, Ortiz would be one of the best high school players in the 2013 draft class, but he's only a rising junior.
Ortiz has a thick, workhorse frame at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds. He has a balanced delivery with good shoulder tilt and stayed in-line to the plate well. He also incorporates the strength in his lower half and showed a quick, loose arm. Ortiz's fastball sat in the 91-93 mph range and he mixed in a sharp 80-82 mph slider.
Over three innings of work, Ortiz threw three no-hit innings with three walks and three strikeouts. He was getting squeezed a little bit and was always around the zone. Most of the balls in play were the result of weak contact, as Ortiz was not afraid to pitch inside and his fastball featured some late armside life.
"I just basically (try to) blow the fastball by everyone then see if I need to use my offspeed pitches," Ortiz said. "Today I just threw fastballs and sliders. I saw slow bats, so I used more fastballs."
[...] Continue Reading »
BY PAT HICKEY
It didn’t take long for Mater Academy (Hialeah Gardens, Fla.) head coach Eddie Gorriz to realize Willie Abreu was not normal.
Back when he was a rising junior outfielder at Miami Springs High, Abreu was in the process of transferring to Mater Academy, which already featured star outfielder Albert Almora—a six-time USA Baseball alumni who would become the sixth overall selection in the draft by the Cubs in 2012.
A year ago, Abreu got his first taste of USA Baseball with the 16-and-under National Team that took home a gold medal for the sixth straight year at the IBAF 16U World Youth Championships in Mexico. He hit .423 (11-for-26) in seven games and said the experience was the most memorable of his career.
The idea of patrolling the same outfield as Almora would create more exposure for Abreu while also playing for a better program and against stronger competition.
“(Almora) was max-effort in everything he did, on and off the field,” Abreu said. “I try to approach everything the same way.
“He’s a phenomenal defender. Anyone that’s ever played with him could learn something just by watching him shag fly balls.”
Before Gorriz ever saw Abreu step onto a baseball field, he said his conditioning, training and work ethic were “out of this world." Even after having seen him play this past season after transferring to Mater Academy, Abreu continues to impress Gorriz with his athleticism.
“One thing I love having my kids do is weighted pull-ups, and if there’s a weight Willie can’t get over the bar, he’ll go after it three or four more times while everyone else is cleaning up and getting ready to leave. He’ll be like, ‘Coach, one more, one more. I can get this.' He’s that kind of kid, you know?” Gorriz said.
A 6-foot-3, 205-pound outfielder committed to play college ball at Miami, Abreu is a “freak athlete," according to Gorriz—not just for his size, but for anyone. Gorriz claims he’s seen Abreu jump flat footed off the ground onto a box that stands five feet high.
One time, Abreu was matched with two soccer players at Mater Academy and was tied together at the waists by a bungee cord and a ring holding the three together in the middle, with all three lines going in different directions. Gorriz said even though the soccer players were strong kids, Abreu dragged both of them on the ground, snapped the cord and had whip marks on his back from where it snapped the other two lines and hit him.
“When you’re good and you know you’re good, you have nothing to prove to people,” Gorriz said. “But, it allows him to be humble and he’s very positive and a tremendous teammate as well. And, it’s not just on the baseball field. It translates into the classroom as well. He’s a good student that works hard and has a bright future in whatever he chooses to do.”
Upon first glance, one wouldn’t expect Abreu to be a plus runner as well due to his strong and mature frame. Gorriz said Abreu has turned in several 60-yard dash times at 6.7 seconds, which is at least 0.2 seconds faster than he was at a year ago thanks to improvement with his stride.
Abreu was born and raised in Miami and comes from a family that has instilled a perfectionist mentality that was not only evident to Gorriz, but to the Team Dixie coaches he played for during the Tournament of Stars this summer. Abreu went on to play for Team USA and was recently named to the 18-and-under squad after they announced their final cuts. They will compete in the IBAF 18U World Championships in Seoul, South Korea, beginning Aug. 30.
“There’s nothing that I feel like I don’t need to improve on to help my team win games,” Abreu said. “It’s an honor to be invited to all of these great events, but now is not the time to relax. It’s a long journey, so I’m trying my best so there’s nothing anybody can point out and say that is my weakness.”
Gorriz said he tells his players all the time that he wants high school baseball to be a stepping stone for where they want to be someday—not only as players, but human beings as well. Even though Abreu has a bright future ahead in baseball, he said his parents still expect him to earn a college degree someday.
USA Baseball's 18-and-under squad traveled to Southern California last week with the roster that made it out of the team trials and Prospect Classic. They scrimmaged some travel and scout teams before announcing the final 20-man roster that will compete in the IBAF 18U World Championships in Seoul, South Korea. Team USA will travel Taiwan first for a three-game series against Chinese Taipei this weekend and then open the World Championship against Australia on Aug. 30. The following players made the final cut:
William Abreu, of, Mater Academy, Hialeah Gardens, Fla.
Christian Arroyo, if, Hernando HS, Brooksville, Fla.
Cavan Biggio, if/of, St. Thomas HS, Houston
Ryan Boldt, of, Red Wing (Minn.) HS
Bryson Brigman, if/of, Valley Christian HS, San Jose
Ian Clarkin, lhp, Madison HS, San Diego
Kevin Davis, rhp, Miller HS, Brewton, Ala.
Stephen Gonsalves, lhp, Cathedral Catholic HS, San Diego
Connor Heady, if/rhp, North Oldham HS, Goshen, Ky.
John Kilichowski, lhp, Jesuit HS, Tampa
Jeremy Martinez, c, Mater Dei HS, Santa Ana, Calif.
Andy McGuire, if, Madison HS, Vienna, Va.
Reese McGuire, c, Kentwood HS, Covington, Wash.
Dom Nunez, if, Elk Grove (Calif.) HS
Chris Okey, c, Eustis (Fla.) HS
Ryan Olson, rhp, Western Christian HS, Upland, Calif.
Carson Sands, lhp, North Florida Christian HS, Tallahassee
Dominic Taccolini, rhp, Kempner HS, Sugar Land, Texas
Keegan Thompson, rhp, Cullman (Ala.) HS
Garrett Williams, lhp, Calvary Baptist Academy, Shreveport, La.
On Thursday, August 16, a collection of talented teenage baseball players gathered in Chihuahua, Mexico for the first round of the IBAF’s inaugural 15-and-under Baseball World Championship. However, members of USA Baseball’s 15U National Team were noticeably absent. Instead, the players, coaches, and administrative staff were returning to the United States after a four day stay in the Dominican Republic.
Concerned with the safety and security in the Chihuahua region, USA Baseball elected to decline the IBAF’s invitation to the 15U World Championships.
“We have a close relationship with Major League Baseball and their security department,” said 15U director Jeff Singer. “We looked into Chihuahua and weren’t really comfortable, security-wise, especially considering the State Department’s travel advisory to that region of Mexico. The 16U team had been down to Mexico the last two summers and was treated very well in Lagos de Moreno. We loved it there. Had it been there or another region we certainly would have gone.”
In order to provide a similarly positive and competitive international experience for the players, USA Baseball’s staff worked in conjunction with Major League Baseball to set up a four-game series against some of the best young talent in the Caribbean, with two teams from the Dominican Republic’s newly-formed MLB Amateur Prospect League (with the talent split up along geographic lines) and one traveling in from Puerto Rico.
[...] Continue Reading »
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