USA Baseball Adds 14-And-Under Program
After almost three decades of organizing amateur and professional teams for international competition, USA Baseball's grassroots reach has gotten even deeper.
For the first time, USA Baseball has selected a team of players age 14 and under to compete in annual international tournaments, beginning Jan. 20-27 in Guatemala City, Guatemala.
"The development of a team at this age group has been in the makings for several years and we're excited to be able to increase the athlete pipeline for USA Baseball," said David Perkins, USA Baseball's director of marketing. "Expanding our brand to the 14-and-under age group not only enables us to get players and parents acclimated with the international baseball structure sooner, but it also brings USA Baseball to a wider audience than we've been exposed to in the past."
The 14-and-under national team joins the youth (16-and-under) and junior (18-and-under) national teams to form a third tier of player development and international competition under the USA Baseball umbrella. Many of the same players who have played for the youth and junior teams have gone on to play for USA Baseball's college national team and, in some cases, even the U.S. Olympic team and USA Baseball's professional teams.
The 14-and-under entry will represent the United States at the North/Central American regional qualifying tournament for the COPABE Pan-Am "A" Championships at the end of January. Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua and Panama are expected to compete with Team USA in the qualifying tournament, one of two such events organized by COPABE that serve as qualifiers for the Pan-Am "A" Championships. The top four countries from the tournament will advance to the Pan-Am “A” Championships, to be held in November in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
USA Baseball announced the 18-man roster that will compete in Guatemala. The players were selected exclusively from one of four USA Baseball Champions Program sectional tournaments, which took place in October and November 2006.
USA Baseball plans to expand its new Champions Program to 25 sites in 2007, enabling it to see widen its pool of players from which to select the 14-and-under national team.
Ten of the players on the inaugural team come from California, four hail from Arizona, three from Washington and one is a native of Utah.
The coaching staff is led by Tom Succow (Glendale, Ariz.), who has served on two youth national team coaching staffs, including a tour as head coach in 2004. Joining Succow are Tim O’Brien (Columbia, Md.), George Sanchez (Gilbert, Ariz.) and David Webb (Gilbert, Ariz.).