USA Baseball Unveils 2018 18U Coaching Staff
USA Baseball announced the coaching staff for the 2018 18U National Team Thursday afternoon, naming former Clemson head coach and American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Jack Leggett as manager.
The 18U team has had an immensely successful decade, including winning seven consecutive international events dating back to 2011. The 18U team has also won four straight World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) World Cups—including the gold medal in 2017 in a 9-0 route of Korea in Thunder Bay, Canada—and four straight COPABE Pan American "AAA" Championships.
“Jack brings a wealth of baseball experience to this team and coaching staff, and we are happy to have his passion, history of success and proven ability to motivate and mentor athletes leading the 18U program this year,” USA Baseball Executive Director and CEO, Paul Seiler, said in a press release. “This entire coaching staff brings together an immensely talented group of coaches and we are confident they can continue to build on the success USA Baseball has had at this age level.”
Alongside Leggett will be pitching coach Scott Bankhead (North Carolina Baseball Academy) and assistant coaches Joe Almaraz (St. Louis Cardinals) and Gregg Ritchie (George Washington). Ritchie is the only returning coach from the 2017 staff, and he will continue to serve as the team's hitting coach for the second consecutive year. Bankhead and Almaraz will be making their national team coaching debuts.
Leggett has a high bar set in front of him thanks to the success of the 18U program since 2011—including one of the most dominant teams in recent years coming in 2017. The 64-year old is more than equipped to handle the position, however, with an extensive track record of success at the collegiate level, where he led Clemson to 955 wins, 21 NCAA Tournament appearances and six College World Series appearances from 1994-2015.
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The 2018 18U club will head to Panama City, Panama later this year to try and win its fifth straight COPABE gold, with the former Clemson coaching legend at the helm for his first time with the 18U team. Leggett should bring some consistency to the club after coaching USA Baseball's 17U National Team Development Program, which likely had several players who will eventually make up the final 18U roster.
“Coaching for Team USA is something I have always wanted to do and I am excited to begin working with an exceptional group of athletes who are ready to learn and represent the United States,” Leggett said. “I am tremendously proud to head to the Pan American Championships with this team to showcase our brand of baseball to the world.”
While the coaching staff is now set, the makeup of the 18U roster won't happen for several months, as USA Baseball's Tournament of Stars is set for June 18-23 at USA Baseball's National Training Complex in Cary, N.C. The event serves as the starting point for finalizing the roster. Following TOS, certain players are invited to attend the 18U National Team Trials with the final 18U roster being chosen from this select group.