DURHAM, N.C. - USA Baseball announced the coaching staff and evaluators for the 2018 14U National Team Development Program on Thursday. Current St. Thomas Aquinas (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) head coach and former 15U National Team assistant coach, Troy Cameron, was selected as the 14U NTDP field coordinator.
The National Team Development Program (NTDP) offers athletes with an opportunity to connect with USA Baseball staff to better prepare for a future national team experience. The program includes skill development sessions, off-field education seminars and intrasquad Stars vs. Stripes games to assist in the development of the athletes as both a player and a person.
Cameron is no stranger to USA Baseball, having served as a coach at the 2016 15U National Team Trials, as well as helping lead the 15U National Team to a gold medal at the 2017 COPABE Pan American "AA" Championships as an assistant coach. He has also assisted in identifying players for USA Baseball national teams at the National Team Championships and National Team Identification Series (NTIS). In addition, Cameron's St. Thomas Aquinas Raiders were invited to participate in the USA Baseball National High School Invitational (NHSI) in 2015.
Scott Grove, the head coach at The First Academy (Orlando, Fla.), will join Cameron on the staff and will serve as the event's pitching coordinator. Grove was named the Sunbelt Classic National Coach of the Year in 2010 and led the Royals to the 2014 NHSI title.
In addition to Cameron and Grove, eight coaches will join the staff and run the Stars and Stripes teams. Current St. Mary's College head coach, Eric Valenzuela, and current Indiana University head coach, Chris Lemonis, will manage the Stars and Stripes teams, respectively.
Joining Valenzuela on the Stars staff will be Austin Preparatory School (Reading, Mass.) Athletic Director, Jonathan Pollard, Eastern Tennessee State University Assistant Coach James "Xan" Barksdale and Tulane University Assistant Coach Eddie Smith. Pollard will lead the team's pitching staff, while Barksdale and Smith will serve as assistant coaches.
Former University of Florida pitcher and 2009 18U National Team alumnus Karsten Whitson will join Lemonis' staff as the Stripes pitching coach. Harvard-Westlake High School (Studio City, Calif.) Head Coach Jared Halpert and Kent State University Assistant Coach Derek Simmons will serve as assistant coaches for the Stripes.
USA Baseball will utilize a rolling invitation process for the 14U NTDP participants in 2018. The athletes were selected from the 2017 NTIS, the 2018 14U National Team Championships in Arizona and Florida, and through recommendations from scouts, coaches and the amateur baseball community.
The 2018 14U NTDP will take place July 24-27 at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, North Carolina. The 14U NTDP will once again serve as an identification event for the 15U National Team Trials roster. For the second straight year, 18 athletes will be selected to the 15U Trials roster and immediately compete for a spot on the 2018 15U Team that will compete in the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) U-15 Baseball World Cup in David, Panama. Additionally, four athletes from the event will earn an invitation to the 2019 15U National Team Trials.
The coaching staff and their bios are as follows:
Name, NTDP Position:
Xan Barksdale, Stars Assistant Coach
Scott Grove, Pitching Coordinator
Jared Halpert, Stripes Assistant Coach
Chris Lemonis, Stripes Manager
Jonathan Pollard, Stars Pitching Coach
Derek Simmons, Stripes Assistant Coach
Eddie Smith, Stars Assistant Coach
Eric Valenzuela, Stars Manager
Karsten Whitson, Stripes Pitching Coach
Xan Barksdale is currently in his fourth year as an assistant coach at Eastern Tennessee State University. Prior to joining the Buccaneers, he spent five seasons as an assistant coach at the University of Louisville. During that time, the Cardinals won three consecutive Big East Championships (2008-2010) and advanced to the 2007 College World Series. This will be Barksdale's third consecutive year working with the 14U National Team Development Program following stints as the catching coordinator for the event in 2016 and 2017. Barksdale spent two years playing in the Atlanta Braves minor league system from 2004-2006.
Scott Grove is currently the coach at The First Academy in Orlando, Florida, where he notched his 400th career win last March. Under his leadership, the Royals participated in the 2014 and 2016 USA Baseball National High School Invitationals (NHSI), winning the title in 2014. Grove is familiar with the National Team Development Program, as he was a pitching coach in 2016 and an assistant coach in 2017 for the 14U NTDP. Grove was named Sunbelt Classic National Coach of the Year in 2010 and Metro's Coach of the Year in 2010 and 2011. He was also recognized as the Florida Coach of the Year in 2010 and 2011. Before beginning his coaching career, Grove was drafted in the 1987 MLB Amateur Draft and played in the Atlanta Braves, Milwaukee Brewers and Toronto Blue Jays minor league systems.
Harvard-Westlake's Jared Halpert is currently in his third season as the Wolverine's head coach following four years as an assistant coach for the program. Halpert began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at his alma mater, Fresno State, helping the Bulldogs reach the College World Series and win their first national championship in 2008. He has previous USA Baseball experience, working at both the USA Baseball National Team Championships and the National Team Identification Series.
Chris Lemonis is currently the head coach at the University of Indiana. Prior to assuming that role, Lemonis served as an assistant coach at The Citadel (1995-2006) and Louisville (2007-2014). He was named the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA)/Baseball America Assistant Coach of the Year in 2013. Lemonis played college baseball at The Citadel and was a member of the 1990 College World Series team.
Currently the athletic director at Austin Preparatory School, Jonathan Pollard has worked with USA Baseball since 2012. He first served as the pitching coach for the 2012 Women's National Team before taking the reins as manager in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Pollard boasts a 25-3 record as a manager for USA Baseball, including an undefeated run in 2015 to secure gold at the Toronto 2015 Pan-American Games. He also led Team USA to a silver medal in the 2014 World Baseball Softball Confederation Women's Baseball World Cup. He was named the USA Baseball Developmental Coach of the Year in 2014 and was also a coach for the 14U National Team Development Program in 2013. In addition, he founded the New England Stampede Baseball program, which began play in 2010.
Derek Simmons joined the Kent State University baseball staff last July as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator. He started his coaching career with a two-year period at Central Michigan University. Simmons also spent time as a member of the coaching staffs at the University of Alabama and Kennesaw State University. Additionally, he served as the Stars assistant coach in 2014 and as the PONY coach in the 2012 and 2013 USA Baseball Tournament of Stars. Prior to beginning his coaching career, Simmons played for the University of Montevallo, where he helped lead the team to the 2006 Division II College World Series before transferring to Georgia State University.
Former 17U NTDP assistant coach Eddie Smith is currently in his first year as the hitting and third base coach for Tulane University. Prior to his time with the Green Wave, Smith spent time as the head coach at Lower Columbia College, where he led the Red Devils to three straight West Region titles as well as two Athletic Conference Championships in 2015 and 2017. He began his coaching career as an assistant coach at Virginia, where the Cavaliers earned three ACC Championships and two College World Series appearances in his five years with the program. Smith spent a year on the Santa Clara coaching staff before returning to his alma mater, Notre Dame, as an assistant coach in 2013. In two years with the Fighting Irish, Smith was a part of a team who compiled two Big East Conference Championship titles and two NCAA Tournament appearances. He was inducted into the Centralia College Sports Hall of Fame in 2012.
Eric Valenzuela is currently in his fifth season at the helm for the Saint Mary's Gaels. The Gaels won their first-ever West Coast Conference season title, their first WCC Tournament title and secured their first trip to an NCAA Regional in just his third year. The 2016 season was further capped off with Valenzuela being named the WCC Coach of the Year. Prior to his time at Saint Mary's, Valenzuela spent four seasons at San Diego State as a pitching coach, where in 2013 the staff led the Aztecs to their first Mountain West title since 2000, as well as their first NCAA appearance in four years. He also spent six years at San Diego, where he helped the Toreros reach the NCAA Tournament three times as well as capture two West Coast Conference regular season titles. He played collegiately at Arizona State, where he was a part of the 1998 team that made a College World Series appearance. He ultimately transferred to Pepperdine, where he was a team captain in the Waves' 2001 West Coast Conference title winning season.
Karsten Whitson is a former USA Baseball and University of Florida pitcher. As a member of the 2009 USA Baseball 18U National Team, he won a gold medal at the COPABE Pan Am "AAA" Championships in Barquisimeto, Venezuela. He was selected with the ninth overall pick in the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft by the San Deigo Padres but elected to go to college. Whitson was later selected in the 11th round of the 2014 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Boston Red Sox. While at Florida, Whitson was named a Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper.