USA BASEBALL NEWS

Pro Team

Jim Leyland To Manage Team USA in 2017 World Baseball Classic

April 15, 2016

DURHAM, N.C. -- USA Baseball announced Friday that Jim Leyland has been named the manager of Team USA for the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

Currently serving as a special assistant for the Detroit Tigers, Leyland, a three-time Manager of the Year Award winner, will make his international coaching debut for Team USA in the fourth installment of the World Baseball Classic.

"It's a great honor to be named Manager of Team USA," said Leyland. "I'm looking forward to working with USA Baseball on this challenge in my career. I'm excited to get started & flattered with this opportunity."

"We could not be happier to have Jim Leyland serve as the manager of the 2017 U.S. World Baseball Classic team," said Paul Seiler, Executive Director/CEO of USA Baseball. "His tremendous managerial success will produce immediate respect and rapport amongst the players and staff and we look forward to him leading Team USA to new heights in the World Baseball Classic."

The U.S. is looking for its first World Baseball Classic title after a semifinal appearance in 2009 and two second-round exits in 2006 and 2013.

Leyland served as a Major League manager for 22 seasons, leading the Pittsburgh Pirates (1986-1996), the Florida Marlins (1997-1998), the Colorado Rockies (1999), and the Detroit Tigers (2006-2013). Leyland ranks 15th on the all-time wins list among Major League managers with 1,769 wins. He was named the National League Manager of the Year in 1990 and 1992 and the American League Manager of the Year in 2006. Leyland led the Florida Marlins to a World Series title in 1997 and the Detroit Tigers to two American League Championships in 2006 and 2012, before stepping down as manager after the 2013 season.

Leyland will be USA Baseball's fourth World Baseball Classic Manager following stints by Buck Martinez (2006), Davey Johnson (2009), and Joe Torre (2013).

Joining Leyland on the coaching staff are Jeff Jones, Marcel Lachemann, Lloyd McClendon, Willie Randolph, and Alan Trammell. USA Baseball will look to finalize the coaching staff and U.S. roster over the next several months.

Lachemann and Randolph collectively hold nine years of international coaching experience and will join the staff as assistant coaches. Lachemann will be coaching with USA Baseball for the eighth time in 2017. He has served as the pitching coach in all three previous World Baseball Classics and was an assistant for the 2007 USA Baseball World Cup team and Beijing 2008 Olympic team, winning a gold medal and bronze medal respectively. Lachemann served as the manager for the then-named California Angels from 1994-1996 and currently serves as a special assistant to the general manager of the Los Angeles Angels.

Randolph will be coaching for Team USA for the third time and in his second World Baseball Classic (2013). Most recently he was the manager of the inaugural Premier12™ team that won a silver medal in 2015 for which he was named the USA Baseball Rod Dedeaux Coach of the Year. Randolph is a baseball veteran with 18 years of playing experience and 16 years of coaching and managerial experience. A six-time All-Star, he won back-to-back World Series titles as a second baseman in 1977 and 1978 for the New York Yankees and managed the New York Mets to a NL East division title in 2006.

Making their respective international coaching debuts for Team USA are Jones, McClendon and Trammell, who will serve as assistant coaches in 2017.

Jones, who most recently served as pitching coach of the Detroit Tigers from 2007-2015, pitched for the Oakland Athletics from 1980-1984, also spent time as a coach for the Tigers during the 1995, 1999-2000 and 2002 seasons. During his tenure as pitching coach with the Tigers, Justin Verlander (2011) and Max Scherzer (2013) both enjoyed CY Young Award winning seasons.

McClendon has 19 years of coaching experience at the major league level. The New York Mets drafted McClendon in 1980 and he spent time with the Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates prior to joining the coaching ranks with the Pirates in 1997. In seven years as the Detroit Tigers' hitting coach from 2006-2013, a Detroit player won the American League batting title four times. He served as manager of the Pirates from 2001-2005 and the Seattle Mariners from 2014-2015. McClendon is currently the manager of the Toledo Mud Hens, the Triple-A affiliate of the Tigers.

Trammell played his entire career as a shortstop with the Tigers from 1977-1996, for whom he was named the World Series MVP during their title run in 1984. He won three Silver Slugger awards and four Gold Gloves. He was also a six-time All-Star. Trammell served as the Manager of the Tigers from 2003-2005 and recently rejoined the organization as a special assistant in 2014. Trammell will make his international coaching debut for the red, white, and blue as an assistant coach in 2017.

The final WBC qualifying round will be held in September at MCU Park in Brooklyn, N.Y and will feature teams from Brazil, Great Britain, Israel and Pakistan. The winner of that tournament will join Australia, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Italy, Japan, Korea, The Netherlands, Mexico, Puerto Rico, United States and Venezuela in pool play at the 2017 event.

About the World Baseball Classic
The World Baseball Classic is the premier international baseball tournament, sanctioned by the World Baseball Softball Confederation, and features the best players in the world competing for their home countries and territories. More than 1.5 million fans from all over the world have attended tournament games, held in March 2006, 2009, and 2013. The upcoming World Baseball Classic will be played in March 2017 and will again feature the greatest baseball-playing nationals in the world. The tournament will be held every four years thereafter.

About USA Baseball
USA Baseball is the national governing body for the sport of baseball in the United States and is a member of the United States Olympic Committee and the World Baseball Softball Confederation. The organization selects and trains the World Baseball Classic, Premier12 and Pan Am teams (and all other USA Baseball Professional Teams); the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team; the USA Baseball 18U, 15U and 12U National Teams; and the USA Baseball Women's National Team, all of which participate in various international competitions each year. The organization is responsible for the continued proliferation and health of the sport, and leads a number of amateur initiatives including PLAYBALL and Pitch Smart. USA Baseball also presents the Golden Spikes Award annually to the top amateur baseball player in the country. For more information, please visit the organization's official websites: USABaseball.com, PLAYBALL.org, PitchSmart.org, GoldenSpikesAward.com and USABaseballShop.com.

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GSA Spotlight: Ryan Garcia

May 23, 2019

UCLA righthander Ryan Garcia, the No. 1 pitcher on the No. 1 team in the nation, couldn't stop crying.

Granted, he was just 4 years old at the time, and he was a most-reluctant T-ball player.

"'I don't want to be here'," said Garcia's father, Edgar, quoting his son from 17 years ago. "But I put the ball on the tee for him, and he smacked it to left field.

"When he got to first base, I asked him if he wanted to go home, and he said, 'No, daddy, I want to stay here.'"

Unfortunately for Bruins opponents, Garcia stuck to baseball from that point forward, arriving on UCLA's campus in the fall of 2016 as an infielder/pitcher. Right away, Bruins coach John Savage decided that Garcia's best position was pitcher.

Good call.

After a freshman season in the bullpen, Garcia became a starter in 2018, going 8-1, 2.23.

This year, he has been even more dominant: 8-0 with a 1.30 ERA in 12 appearances, including 10 starts.

In 69 innings, Garcia has allowed just 38 hits (.161 batting average), including seven doubles and four homers, and 21 walks.

He is a Golden Spikes semifinalist who ranks third in the nation in ERA and first among Power Five conferences.

"I'm not saying he's in the Trevor Bauer/Gerrit Cole class," Savage said of two former UCLA first-round pitchers now in the majors. "But he's in that company."

Diamond Destiny

Garcia's parents, Edgar and Liz, have known each other since elementary school, and they were baseball teammates in middle school.

Liz made her high school baseball freshman team - against boys - but opted to play varsity softball instead.

Edgar and Liz became high school sweethearts, and he had a scholarship offer to play baseball as a catcher for Cal State Northridge. But Liz, who was in college at the time, became pregnant with Ryan just before Edgar graduated high school.

That was the end of Edgar's baseball career. He went to work to support his growing family, and he and Liz married one year after Ryan was born. Edgar and Liz have another child, Dylan, 12, who is also an aspiring baseball player.

Meanwhile, Ryan, who is California-born but has Mexican heritage on his father's side, didn't really get serious about pitching until he got to UCLA.

Bruins catcher Will McInerny, a fellow junior, remembers the first time he caught Garcia in the fall of 2016.

"He has such an easy delivery, it doesn't feel like you're catching someone throwing in the 90s," McInerny said. "It feels like you're just playing catch with another position player."

The fact that Garcia played shortstop and third base in high school helps him on the mound.

"He's like a fifth infielder," McInerny said. "He's a really good athlete. And with his history as a hitter, he trusts his pitches. He knows how hard it is to hit."

Slow Start

Garcia started this season on the sidelines with an injury to his right forearm. He made his season debut on March 9 as a middle reliever, pitching one scoreless inning against Oklahoma State.

On March 24, he made his first weekend start of the year, on a Sunday, and he allowed just one hit and one walk in 7 1/3 scoreless innings, striking out eight Arizona hitters.

His biggest breakthrough came on April 26, his first Friday start as a member of the Bruins.

In that win over Utah, he became the first Bruins pitcher to throw a complete game since 2017 and the first since Bauer in 2011 to get 14 strikeouts. He threw a two-hitter, requiring just 106 pitches and allowing three baserunners, including one walk.

No Utah hitter got past first base.

"That game felt great," said Garcia, who is much more shy and silent than bold and brash. "I try to pitch every game like I'm the Friday starter. But, on Fridays, it is an important task to set the tone for the weekend."

Garcia has done that for the Bruins, who are 45-8 - including 18-4 away from home - and have won eight straight games.

No team has beaten UCLA more than once this season, and the Bruins have not lost consecutive games since March 8.

Inner Intensity

Garcia said he gets far more nervous during media interviews than he does when he's staring at a batter from a distance of 60 feet, six inches.

But even though he doesn't wear his emotions on his Bruins jersey, he didn't get this far without being competitive. An example of that comes out when asked about his size - he is a 6-foot, 185-pounder, which is smaller than most top prospects at his position.

"It adds fuel to my fire," Garcia said when asked about his doubters.

Garcia gets batters out by having a superior mix of four pitches: a four-seam fastball that ranges between 89-94 mph; an 81-84 slider with sharp, late tilt; a mid-80s changeup and a 73-75 curve.

"All four of Ryan's pitches are beneficial to each other," McInerny said. "His arm speed and spin rate add zippiness to his fastball. As a hitter, you think you are on time … but you're late.

"Batters leave the box confused as to why they are not hitting him. Guys start the game against him in a groove, and, by the end, they're in a slump."

After not getting drafted out of high school, Garcia is projected to go in the top four rounds next month. In fact, a selection in the top two rounds would not be a surprise, given his success this season.

Savage, who led UCLA to its only College World Series title in 2013 and may have the horses to do it again this year, said he is not surprised at how Garcia has developed.

"I thought he could be special," Savage said. "I knew it would take time - and it has. He was a high school shortstop with a terrific arm. We had him at our camp, and he had a clean delivery. The way the ball came out of his hand, it wasn't hard to see he could be a legit pitcher in our program.

"We dug into him and invested into him, and he has become our No. 1 guy. … His (forearm) injury has been a blessing in disguise because he has just 69 innings - he's fresh and pitching at the highest level of his career."

Garcia's career record at UCLA is 18-1. In two years as a starter, he is 14-1, 1.58 with 145 strikeouts in 125 2/3 innings.

In addition, he pitched in Cape Cod for the first time last summer, and he was an all-star for the league champs, going 2-0, 1.28 with 33 strikeouts in 28 1/3 innings.

He also finished the summer with a streak of 25 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run.

"Statistically, Ryan is lights out," McInerny said. "But he hasn't been pitching that long. He still hasn't hit his ceiling, and that's what's most exciting."

D1Baseball.com is your online home for college baseball scores, schedules, standings, statistics, analysis, features, podcasts and prospect coverage.
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Sport Dev

"Fun At Bat," An Introductory & Character Building and Softball Program, To Be Implemented In Schools Throughout Mexico

More Than One Million Mexican Children Will Have Access to the Bat-and-Ball Program, Which Currently Reaches Students in the United States and Puerto Rico
May 22, 2019

EL PROGRAMA "FUN AT BAT" SE IMPLEMENTARÁ COMO PARTE DEL CURRÍCULO DE EDUCACIÓN FÍSICA EN ESCUELAS EN MEXICO PRIMARIAS DE PUERTO RICO

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - Major League Baseball and USA Baseball today announced that "Fun At Bat" (www.funatbat.org), the introductory and character building bat-and-ball program designed for use in physical education (P.E.) classes, will now be available to elementary school students throughout Mexico. The free program, which is currently reaching more than one million children in all 50 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico, will be administered in Mexico by the Presidential Office for Baseball Development and Promotion in Mexico (PROBEIS), an initiative commissioned by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to develop and promote baseball in the country, with support from both MLB and USA Baseball.

The Mexico Fun At Bat program will serve more than 1.3 million students throughout the country. Franklin Sports, a long-time MLB and USA Baseball partner, has created custom Fun At Bat Baseball equipment to help activate this program since its inception in 2016.

A joint MLB and USA Baseball youth program, Fun At Bat promotes fun and active lifestyles for children, while also teaching the fundamental skills of bat-and-ball sports. The program, available in both English and Spanish, also includes a literacy component focusing on character development and teaching traits such as leadership, teamwork and responsibility. Fun At Bat is part of the PLAY BALL initiative (www.PlayBall.org) - the sport's largest collective effort to encourage young people to participate in baseball- or softball-related activities, including formal and casual forms of play. Since the initiative's launch in 2015, the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) has reported a 52.8 percent increase in casual baseball participation in the United States.

"Baseball's future in Mexico is a bright one, and this collaborative effort between MLB, USA Baseball and PROBEIS will contribute greatly toward that end," said Tony Reagins, Executive Vice President of Baseball & Softball Development, Major League Baseball. "In line with our larger PLAY BALL initiative, Fun At Bat will give children in Mexico the opportunity to discover the game at its most basic levels, which we believe will be the beginning of a lifelong passion for baseball." 

"We are thrilled to have the opportunity to deliver this program to students across Mexico," said Rick Riccobono, USA Baseball's Chief Development Officer. "Fun At Bat is the fastest growing bat-and-ball program in the world. With its comprehensive curriculum and fun-first approach, it is the ideal way to introduce kids from across the globe to our great game."

"We couldn't be more thrilled about this historic opportunity to formally implement baseball in public grammar schools in Mexico as part of our strategy to develop and promote the sport, as instructed by President Lopez Obrador," said Edgar Gonzalez, Director of PROBEIS. "Teachers are the backbone of our social development and it is exciting to know they are participating in this amazing program designed exclusively for the purpose of teaching fundamental principles to children. Naturally, we are looking forward to implementing additional projects jointly with USA Baseball and Major League Baseball to continue furthering mission."

Adam Franklin, Vice President at Franklin Sports said: "Franklin Sports is proud to be the Official Equipment Partner of the Fun At Bat program. As long time partners of USA Baseball and Major League Baseball, we are committed to the collective goals of growing youth participation and creating young fans of the sport of baseball."

The expansion of Fun At Bat to Mexico is MLB's latest efforts to grow the game among young people throughout the world. In addition to the multiple PLAY BALL events held in various parts of the United States as well as in Mexico, Brazil, and Panama, MLB has had a substantive imprint on the youth & amateur levels of the sport throughout the world. Over the last three years, the MLB CUP, MLB's signature international youth league competition, has served nearly 10,000 kids in Japan, Taiwan and Mexico in tournament play.

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CNT

Tyler Thornton Earns Spot at USA Baseball National Team Camp

May 21, 2019

MORAGA, Calif. - Freshman Tyler Thornton made the record books on Monday: the right-hander is just the second baseball player in Saint Mary's history to be selected to the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team training camp roster. The last was Von Hayes in 1979.

After a record and accolade-laden regular season campaign, Thornton will head to the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, North Carolina where he will compete for a spot on the 26-man roster. The camp will consist of four intrasquad exhibition contests and a game against the Coastal Plain League. The final roster will take on Cuba, Chinese Taipei, and Japan over the summer.

Thornton earned the prestigious invitation as he is one of the top freshmen pitchers in the nation. He has amassed a 9-2 record in 12 starts (70.1 innings pitched) and his 2.56 earned run average is the lowest of any starter on the team. He is ranked 11th in the country and first in the West Coast Conference in hits allowed per nine innings (5.37) and his nine wins are tied for the 12th-most in the nation (first in the WCC). Along with teammate Carlos Lomeli (also nine wins), he has collected the most wins by any Gael pitcher since Martin Agosta's nine favorable decision in 2012 (fourth-most since 1968).

Thornton's 10.88 strikeouts per nine are ranked third in the WCC and his WHIP of 0.97 is also third in the conference (28th in the nation). The San Diego native has twice been named the WCC Pitcher of the Week and both times were in a span of three weeks. Furthermore, he went on a streak earlier this season of three starts without allowing an earned run (22.1 innings in total), allowing just six hits during that time while striking out 26 batters.

Thornton and rest of his teammates will head to Stockton this week to compete as the No. 3 seed in the West Coast Conference Tournament.

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CNT

Lacy Earns USA Baseball Collegiate National Team Invitation

Lacy is 7-4 on the season with a 2.13 ERA, and 115 strikeouts
May 21, 2019

HOOVER, Alabama - Texas A&M sophomore pitcher Asa Lacy was selected to play for the USA Baseball 2019 Collegiate National Team, it was announced Monday.

The USA Baseball Collegiate National Team will participate in three international friendship series in 2019, beginning with the eighth USA vs. Cuba International Friendship Series that will take place July 2-6 in Cary, Charlotte, Durham and Hickory, North Carolina. The U.S. travels to Taiwan and Japan to compete in the 19th USA vs. Chinese Taipei International Friendship Series from July 9-12 and the 43rd USA vs. Japan Collegiate All-Star Series from July 16-21.

The southpaw is 7-4 on the season with a 2.13 ERA, .162 opponent batting average and 115 strikeouts over 76.0 innings in his 13 starts. He is the first Aggie sophomore to record 100 strikeouts in a season since Michael Wacha in 2011. Lacy was named to the Perfect Game Midseason All-America Second Team and was tabbed a Golden Spikes Award semifinalist.

Lacy ranks second in the SEC in strikeouts per nine innings (13.62), third in strikeouts, fourth in hits allowed per nine innings (4.97) and opponent batting average and fifth in ERA. Nationally, he ranks seventh in hits allowed per nine innings, eighth in strikeouts per nine innings and 12 in strikeouts.

The list of recent Aggies to play for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team include John Doxakis (2018), Braden Shewmake (2017 & '18), Ryan Hendrix (2015), Nick Banks (2014 & 2015), A.J. Minter (2014), Daniel Mengden (2013), Tyler Naquin (2011) and Michael Wacha (2011).

For more information on USA Baseball and the Collegiate National Team, follow @USABaseball on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter; and @USABaseballCNT on Twitter.

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USA Baseball Announces Multi-Year Partnership with Diamond Kinetics

Partnership names the Pittsburgh-based company an Official Player Development Partner for USA Baseball
May 21, 2019

DURHAM, N.C. - USA Baseball announced a multi-year partnership with Diamond Kinetics on Tuesday, making the Pittsburgh-based technology company an Official Player Development Partner of the organization.

As part of the partnership, USA Baseball will utilize Diamond Kinetics' SwingTracker bat sensor and PitchTracker smart baseball technologies for its six national teams and three national team development programs, as well as select national team identification events and development programs.

"We are very pleased and excited to partner with Diamond Kinetics to usher in state-of-the-art tools, technology and collaborative content to USA Baseball," said Paul Seiler, USA Baseball's Executive Director and CEO. "It is critical in this new era of baseball evaluation, training and development to have quantifiable, objective information accessible at a moment's notice and Diamond Kinetics will allow USA Baseball to utilize this essential data in its efforts to further develop its athletes."

USA Baseball will introduce this innovative technology to its 2019 programming during the Prospect Development Pipeline and the recently announced Prospect Development Pipeline League. Additionally, the Diamond Kinetics technology will be utilized during evaluation days at the National Team Championships in Arizona and Florida, and the National Team Identification Series Champions Cup at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, North Carolina.

All USA Baseball national team and national team development program members will have access to the smart, sensor-based technology beginning in 2019 and both organizations will jointly collaborate on custom software tools to further enhance the technology and its impact on total athlete development.

"We are very excited at the opportunity to partner with such an esteemed, respected and influential organization as USA Baseball," said Diamond Kinetics CEO C.J. Handron. "Together, we can fully modernize how players are scouted and evaluated with Diamond Kinetic's wide array of smart, capable technologies. We are excited to tap USA Baseball's expertise to develop and distribute high-quality instructional and educational content through our apps and digital channels."

Furthermore, USA Baseball and Diamond Kinetics will work together to produce free educational and instructional content that will be accessible via Diamond Kinetics' mobile apps and throughout all of USA Baseball's online education platforms, including the Mobile Coach App and SportDev.org.

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GSA Spotlight: George Kirby

May 16, 2019

ELON, N.C. - It's the kind of stat you'd expect to see from a finesse pitcher: just six walks in 82.2 innings, spanning 13 starts. But Elon's George Kirby is no thumber - he's one of the premier power arms in college baseball.

Kirby also has 105 strikeouts and has held batters to a .203 average this season, while going8-1, 2.07 for the Colonial Athletic Association regular-season champion Phoenix. Kirby ranks fifth nationally with a 0.83 WHIP, and he leads all of Division I with a ridiculous 17.5-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

"It's quite a floor, ain't it?" said Elon pitching coach Sean McGrath. "He's the best of both worlds. He's a command guy, kind of what you see from a mid-major Friday or Saturday guy who's a mid-to-upper-80s guy, and he's doing it at 95. And beyond that, he's doing it probably better than most ever do it."

The combination of plus fastball velocity, an ideal pitcher's frame at 6-foot-4, 201 pounds, and elite strike-throwing ability gives Kirby perhaps a better combination of a high floor and a high ceiling than any other pitcher in the 2019 draft class. In his final regular-season start Sunday against UNC Wilmington, Kirby came out of the chute sitting at 96 mph with his fastball and bumped 97. He pitched comfortably at 94-95 and touched 96 repeatedly over the first four innings, and he didn't throw a fastball below 93 mph in his five excellent innings of work, before Elon pulled him at the 79-pitch mark to get him a little extra rest heading into the conference tournament and hopefully the NCAA tournament. It was typical Kirby dominance: he allowed just one unearned run on two hits while striking out nine - and walking none, as usual.

For most college pitchers, learning to pound the strike zone is paramount. Kirby, however, has had to learn to expand the zone more often.

"He's really taken to being able to leave the zone, because the beginning portion of this year, he was so much in the zone that he was putting guys in swing mode," McGrath said. "Then he learned, 'OK, I can pitch a couple balls off or I can pitch a couple balls up, and they're probably still gonna offer.' And he commands it well enough that even if you do it 1-0 and 2-1, you're not afraid you're gonna go walk them, and it gets called more because he has the reputation."

Kirby showed good control as a sophomore too, going 10-3, 2.89 with a 96-27 K-BB mark in 90.1 innings. But he's gotten better across the board as a junior.

"One thing I've done a lot better this year is be able to command and limit the walks, which has helped me a lot. I expect to do this well every time I go out," Kirby said. "I think just the work I do during the week, trying to hone in my mechanics, I think that's helped me a lot. The pitch calling helps me a lot to expand, so I just try to hit those spots, keep it out of the zone. I didn't really change anything mechanically, I just tried to add more flow in my delivery. I changed the way I step back, I'm a little quicker to the plate now, which has helped me in the flow of the game, staying consistent. … It kind of just clicked."

Kirby took an important step forward last summer in the Cape Cod League, where he posted a 1.20 ERA in 11 relief appearances for Harwich. He said he enjoyed the closer role last summer, and he gained confidence from facing the best hitters in college baseball day-in and day-out. He also worked hard to improve his changeup and slider in the summer and throughout the fall.

Kirby's calling card remains that electric fastball, which served as the putaway pitch on eight of his nine strikeouts against UNCW. But he has refined his secondary stuff to the point that he now feels comfortable mixing with four quality pitches. His 85-86 mph straight changeup has been his best secondary pitch for most of his collegiate career, and he threw it with good arm speed against the Seahawks, helping him get ahead of hitters early in counts. He also excels at throwing his 78-80 mph curveball as a backdoor strike against lefties. It's not a hammer, but he has developed it to the point that he can get occasional swing-and-misses with it, as he did Sunday against Riley Zayicek, who struck out on the pitch.

"He's been able to go ahead and leave that thing short and believable, more often than he was last year," McGrath said. "Last year it was almost, how do you mix early to finish with fastball? Now we can give any assortment of pitches early in the AB and finish them whichever way we see fit late in the AB."

The biggest difference from last year is the development of Kirby's slider, an 82-85 mph offering that flashes solid-average. That's become an important weapon for him, as he has learned to throw it harder, with more intent, as he put it.

"We tried to add a slider last spring and it never really took shape. Some days he'd have it and would be able to throw a couple, and other days it just wouldn't be there," McGrath said. "And then this fall, a little bit this summer when he was up in the Cape, he was able to go ahead and fiddle around with grips and fiddle around with thoughts of what exactly he's looking to do with the slider, if he were to add one. Man, he's hammered away at it in bullpens and game plan, and it's taken shape. But he went from fastball-changeup with a show-me breaking ball, to now he can put people away with four different pitches."

Kirby and fellow junior righthander Kyle Brnovich form one of the best one-two pitching duos in college baseball, giving Elon a chance to beat any team in America in a weekend series. They have two very different styles - Brnovich pitches heavily off his devastating slider, one of the best in the country, while Kirby lives off that fastball - but they complement each other well. They also have a healthy competitive relationship; last year Kirby pitched on Friday and Brnovich went 8-2, 1.71 with 147 strikeouts in 105 innings as the Saturday starter. This year, Brnovich is 6-3, 3.81 on Fridays, and Kirby has been utterly dominant on Saturdays.

"We definitely push each other, but I'd say it's more individual, honestly," Kirby said. "We both have different styles of pitching, and we both worked on that during the week all the time, bullpens and everything. But we definitely do push each other a little bit, because Friday-Saturday, either of us could really have the Friday spot. So we're both competing with each other, and it's good to be competitive when you're good friends."

Kirby places great value in being a model teammate and helping Elon's young arms improve. He's soft-spoken and even-keeled, and he isn't afraid to offer teammates some insights.

"He's a guy's guy. Teammates love him. They know not to bother him too much on game day, but you won't to be able to tell, 'Oh, that's George Kirby.' He doesn't want to look any different than any of these other 33, 34 guys," McGrath said. "He's just one of the boys. The guys take to him. The other thing he's been really, really good at is he's been a great leader, whether it be allowing young guys to watch his bullpens and allowing them to take something from him, or he'll sit down with guys and talk about how he thinks about using his lower half, or his thoughts on certain pitches, where to execute, how to execute. He's done as much developing as I have with those freshman and sophomore arms, in terms of getting in touch with them and making sure in his catch play that he's a good example for others. He's diligent, and I think he's helped some buy-in, and other guys carry themselves pretty similarly."

"I'm just trying to share all the information I can give them," Kirby added. "A lot of times we struggle just hitting the zone, so I'll spot some things that guys are doing down there that I think have worked for me. I think having McGrath down there, we're both on the same page, so if I have something to say he'll let me say it, and he usually agrees with it. I think just giving my advice has helped them get a little more confidence on the mound, and I think it's shown. The past couple weeks the younger guys have gone out and done pretty well."

After going 19-5 in CAA play to run away with the regular-season title, Elon is now focused on winning the automatic bid that goes to the conference tournament champion, and getting the program back to regionals for the first time since 2013. With Kirby and Brnovich leading the way, and talented sophomore Jared Wetherbee rounding out the rotation with flame-thrower Ty Adcock anchoring the back of the bullpen, the Phoenix have the pitching firepower to make some serious noise in the postseason. And Elon's progression over the last three years has been very gratifying for Kirby, as you might imagine.

"Came here freshman year, we didn't do very well. Last year we got bumped out in the semis. So I'm just glad we're making progress every year," Kirby said. "We have a special group of guys, our pitching staff's really good, gave our guys a chance to win every time out there. You see we just dominated the CAA this year, so it was pretty fun to watch."

Kirby is awfully fun to watch, too.

D1Baseball.com is your online home for college baseball scores, schedules, standings, statistics, analysis, features, podcasts and prospect coverage.
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CNT

Mitchell Invited to USA Baseball Collegiate National Team

May 15, 2019

LOS ANGELES - UCLA sophomore outfielder Garrett Mitchell has been invited to play with the United States Collegiate National Team this summer, it was announced on Wednesday by USA Baseball.

Mitchell, who was in the midst of a breakout sophomore season, joins a rich history of Bruins to have suited up for the Collegiate National Team. He is set to become the 18th UCLA player to don the red, white, and blue, following in the footsteps of established MLB stars such as Gerrit Cole, Trevor Bauer, Brandon Crawford, and Troy Glaus.

The Orange, Calif. native is poised to be UCLA's first position player on the Collegiate National Team since Steve Rodriguez in 2010. Current Bruin second baseman Chase Strumpf was selected to the team in the summer of 2018, but did not participate due to injury.

The USA Baseball Collegiate National Team will participate in series of four intrasquad exhibition games and a game against the Coastal Plain League Select before announcing a 26-man roster prior to the 8th USA vs. Cuba International Friendship Series that will take place July 2-6 in Cary, Charlotte, Durham and Hickory, North Carolina.

Team USA's 26-man roster will then travel to Taiwan for the 19th USA vs. Chinese Taipei International Friendship Series after which USA Baseball will announce a final 24-man roster to compete in the 43rd USA vs. Japan Collegiate All-Star Series from July 16-21 in Japan.

As of May 15, Mitchell is slashing .353/.425/.544 for the Bruins with 24 extra-base hits and 29 RBIs. UCLA's leadoff hitter, he's stolen a team-high 15 bases in 19 tries. He ranks in the top-10 in the Pac-12 in a bevy of statistics, including batting average (eighth), runs (46, 10th), hits (72, fourth), doubles (14, seventh), triples (five, second), stolen bases (fourth), and total bases (111, ninth). Mitchell has also been a lock-down defender in right field - his primary position - and center field, earning a national ABCA Gold Glove nomination.

Keep up-to-date on all things UCLA Baseball by following the team Twitter account at @UCLABaseball. Fans can follow the Collegiate National Team on Twitter at @USCBaseballCNT.

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GSA

USA Baseball Names 2019 Golden Spikes Award Semifinalists

The 42nd Golden Spikes Award will be presented on June 14 in Omaha
May 15, 2019

Vote for your favorite Golden Spikes Award Semifinalist here

 

DURHAM, N.C. - USA Baseball named the 25 semifinalists for its Golden Spikes Award on Wednesday. Presented in partnership with the Rod Dedeaux Foundation, the 42nd Golden Spikes Award winner will be announced on June 14 at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska.

The list of semifinalists spans 20 different colleges and universities, one high school and nine NCAA conferences. The list also features three athletes who were also a semifinalist in 2018 with Josh Jung (Texas Tech), Spencer Torkelson (Arizona State) and 2018 Golden Spikes Award winner Andrew Vaughn (California). Since 2007, 29 athletes have been named a semifinalist more than once in their careers, including past Golden Spikes Award winners Stephen Strasburg (2009), Trevor Bauer (2011), Mike Zunino (2012), Kris Bryant (2013), Brendan McKay (2017) and Vaughn (2018).

"The twenty-five student-athletes honored as Golden Spikes Award semifinalists this year highlight the depth of elite amateur baseball talent in the United States," said USA Baseball Executive Director and CEO Paul Seiler. "Each and every one of these athletes have excelled on the field this season and we are honored to continue our partnership with the Rod Dedeaux Foundation to recognize their contributions to their teams and schools."

Joining Sun Devils teammate Torkelson as a 2019 semifinalist is Hunter Bishop (IF; Arizona State), meanwhile Mississippi State, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt join Arizona State as the only schools with multiple semifinalists with the selections of Jake Mangum (Mississippi State), Ethan Small (Mississippi State), John Doxakis (Texas A&M), Asa Lacy (Texas A&M), JJ Bleday (Vanderbilt) and Austin Martin (Vanderbilt), respectively.

Jackson Rutledge (San Jacinto College) and Bobby Witt Jr. (Colleyville-Heritage High School) have also been named a Golden Spikes semifinalist in 2019. Since USA Baseball introduced semifinalists to the voting process in 2007, Rutledge is the fourth semifinalist from the junior college ranks while Witt is the first-ever high school student athlete to earn this honor. To this date, Alex Fernandez (1990) and Bryce Harper (2010) are the only non-NCAA Division I athletes to win the Golden Spikes Award.

Last year, Cal's Vaughn took home the prestigious award, joining a group of recent winners that include Brendan McKay (2017), Kyle Lewis (2016), Andrew Benintendi (2015), A.J. Reed (2014), Kris Bryant (2013), Mike Zunino (2012), Trevor Bauer (2011), Bryce Harper (2010), Stephen Strasburg (2009), Buster Posey (2008), and David Price (2007).

Beginning with the announcement of semifinalists, a ballot will be sent to the Golden Spikes Award voting body consisting of national baseball media, select professional baseball personnel, previous Golden Spikes Award winners and select USA Baseball staff, totaling a group of over 200 voters. From Wednesday, May 15 through Sunday, May 26, each voting member will select three athletes from the Golden Spikes Award ballot of semifinalists and fan voting will simultaneously be open on GoldenSpikesAward.com. Selections made by the voting body will carry a 95% weight of each athlete's total, while fan votes will account for the remaining 5%. 

The finalists will then be announced on Wednesday, May 29. Beginning that same day through Monday, June 10, the voting body and fans will be able to cast their final vote for the Golden Spikes Award winner.

The winner of the 42nd Golden Spikes Award will be named on Friday, June 14.

USA Baseball has partnered with the Rod Dedeaux Foundation to host the Golden Spikes Award since 2013. The Foundation was formed to honor legendary University of Southern California and USA Baseball Olympic team coach, Rod Dedeaux, and supports youth baseball and softball programs in underserved communities throughout Southern California.

A complete list of the 25 Golden Spikes Award semifinalists is as follows:

Name, Class, Position, School, Conference
Hunter Bishop, Jr., OF, Arizona St., Pac-12
JJ Bleday, Jr., OF, Vanderbilt, SEC
Isaiah Campbell, RS-Jr., P, Arkansas, SEC
Reid Detmers, So., P, Louisville, ACC
John Doxakis, Jr., P, Texas A&M, SEC
Ryan Garcia, Jr., P, UCLA, Pac-12
Nick Gonzales, So., IF, New Mexico St., WAC
Emerson Hancock, So., P, Georgia, SEC
Kody Hoese, Jr., IF, Tulane, AAC
Josh Jung, Jr., IF, Texas Tech, Big 12
George Kirby, Jr., P, Elon, CAA
Asa Lacy, So., P, Texas A&M, SEC
Jake Mangum, Sr., OF, Mississippi St., SEC
Alek Manoah, Jr., P, West Virginia, Big 12
Austin Martin, So., IF, Vanderbilt, SEC
Jackson Rutledge, So., P, San Jacinto, Region XIV
Adley Rutschman, Jr., C, Oregon St., Pac-12
T.J. Sikkema, Jr., P, Missouri, SEC
Ethan Small, RS-Jr., P, Mississippi St., SEC
Noah Song, Sr., P, Navy, Patriot
Bryson Stott, Jr., IF, UNLV, MWC
Zack Thompson, Jr., P, Kentucky, SEC
Spencer Torkelson, So., IF, Arizona St., Pac-12
Andrew Vaughn, Jr., IF, California, Pac-12
Bobby Witt Jr., HS-Sr., IF, Colleyville-Heritage High School

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CNT

Spencer Torkelson Named to USA Baseball Collegiate National Team for Second Time

Torkelson is the first player from Arizona State to be named to the Collegiate National Team twice
May 14, 2019

PHOENIX - For the second consecutive season, Sun Devil Baseball's Spencer Torkelson will shed the Maroon and Gold this summer in favor of the Red, White and Blue as the sophomore infielder has been selected to represent the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team and will join the 2019 edition of Team USA in three international friendly series this summer.  

Torkelson is the first Sun Devil to become a two-time selection for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team since Ryan Burr was selected in 2013 and 2014. Torkelson, Burr and Dustin Pedroia represent the only Sun Devils in program history to represent their country on more than one occasion.  

Torkelson joins an illustrious list of Sun Devils to represent their country over the years, including Floyd Bannister (1975), Bob Horner (1976), Kevin Romine (1981), Oddibe McDowell (1984), Dustin Pedroia (2002 and 2003) and current MLB players Mike Leake (2008), Deven Marrero (2011) and Trevor Williams (2012).  

In total, 36 Sun Devils have been selected a total 40 times to represent the United States with Torkelson's addition this summer. Only USC (70) and Stanford (51) have more all-time selections than ASU among all teams in the NCAA.  

After an All-American caliber freshman season, Torkelson has followed that with an equally impressive sophomore campaign for the Sun Devils. Torkelson has 19 home runs this season, second in the Pac-12 and ninth in the country. He has at least one home run in each of the last nine weekend series that the Sun Devils have played - including every single series of Pac-12 play.  

After posting 25 homers as a freshman, Torkelson now has 44 in his career at ASU - tied for sixth in program history despite only being a sophomore and just 12 shy of the Sun Devil school record of 56 held by Bob Horner. He is one home run away from joining Horner as the only other player in ASU history to have 20 or more home runs in consecutive seasons.  

With another big fly, Torkelson would also join former Missouri State First-Round Draft Pick Jake Burger as the only player in the BBCOR era of batting standards to log multiple seasons with 20 or more home runs.  

Torkelson enters this weekend ranked in the Top-10 in nearly every major offensive category, including average (10th/.351), slugging percentage (4th/.688), RBIs (3rd/57), runs (4th/58), doubles (10th/13), total bases (2nd/143), walks (8th/36) and hits (3rd/73) in addition to his spot among the home run leaders. He sits in the Top-30 nationally in home runs, run, RBIs, slugging and total bases.  

Defensively, Torkelson has made huge strides and helped turn 12 more double plays than any other player in the Pac-12 (51). He has just two errors on the year despite being in the Pac-12 in defensive chances (404) and one of those came while he was playing out of position in right field for one inning in a game earlier this season. Among Pac-12 players with 350 or more chances, Torkelson's two errors are third behind Stanford's Andrew Daschbach and Oregon's Gabe Matthews (1).  

2019 TEAM USA BASEBALL
The USA Baseball Collegiate National Team will participate in three international friendship series in 2019, beginning with the 8th USA vs. Cuba International Friendship Series that will take place July 2-6 in Cary, Charlotte, Durham and Hickory, North Carolina. The U.S. will then travel to Taiwan and Japan to compete in the 19th USA vs. Chinese Taipei International Friendship Series from July 9-12 and the 43rd USA vs. Japan Collegiate All-Star Series from July 16-21. For more information on USA Baseball and the Collegiate National Team, follow @USABaseball on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter; and @USABaseballCNT on Twitter.

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GSA

From Golden Spikes to First Overall

May 14, 2019

Since the inaugural Golden Spikes Award was presented in 1978, there have been eight winners selected first overall in the MLB First-Year Player Draft. In the spirit of the upcoming 2019 Draft, here are the eight Golden Spikes Award winners to be taken with the number one overall pick.

1978 - Bob Horner (Arizona State)

The winner of the first-ever Golden Spikes Award, Bob Horner was selected by the Atlanta Braves with the first overall pick in the 1978 MLB Draft after a junior season in which he batted .412 with 25 home runs and 100 RBIs. Horner skipped the minor league ranks entirely, becoming just the thirteenth player to do so in the decade, and went straight to the Major Leagues where he homered off of current Hall of Fame pitcher Bert Blyleven in his Major League debut. He played 10 years in the show, including nine with the Braves and one season with the St. Louis Cardinals. While still with the Braves, he had four home runs in one game on July 6, 1986, one of only 18 players to ever accomplish the feat.


1989 - Ben McDonald (LSU)

Ben McDonald was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles with the first overall pick in the 1989 MLB Draft after a stellar career at LSU that was capped off with him winning the Golden Spikes Award. In his time with LSU, McDonlad led the Tigers to the College World Series twice and set an SEC record by fanning 202 batters in 1989. The previous summer, he led Team USA to the gold medal at the Seoul 1988 Olympic Games, pitching complete-game victories against Korea and Puerto Rico. After McDonald was selected by the Orioles, he went on to become the second player from the 1989 Draft class to receive the call up the Majors. In total, McDonald enjoyed a nine-year Major League career, splitting time between the Orioles and the Milwaukee Brewers. He finished his career with a cumulative 3.91 ERA. 


1992 - Phil Nevin (Cal State Fullerton)

Phil Nevin had a big year in 1992 as he was named Most Outstanding Player of the 1992 College World Series, where his Cal State-Fullerton Titans finished second. Nevin was then selected first overall by the Houston Astros in the 1992 MLB Draft, becoming the third Golden Spikes Award winner to be selected first overall. After the Draft, Nevin went on to play in the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games for Team USA where he finished second on the team in batting average (.347) and first in doubles (9). The corner infielder and outfielder made his Major League debut in 1995 and played in the big leagues over the span of 12 years for seven teams. He was named an All-Star when he was with the San Diego Padres in 2001, finishing the season with a .301 batting average and a career-high 41 home runs. Nevin last played in 2006 as a member of the Minnesota Twins and finished his career with 208 home runs.


1998 - Pat Burrell (Miami)

Pat Burrell was the first overall pick out of the 1998 MLB Draft after winning the Golden Spikes Award. A force at the hot corner, Burrell capped off his college career with a .442 batting average and a .888 slugging percentage in his junior campaign, which both rank among the top 10 in college baseball history. Burrell made his Major League debut with the Philadelphia Phillies on May 24, 2000, and went 2-for-5 with a triple and two RBIs. In total, Burrell enjoyed 12 years in the big leagues between the Phillies, Tampa Bay Rays and San Francisco Giants. He won a World Series ring with both the Phillies (2008) and Giants (2010).


2007 - David Price (Vanderbilt)

David Price was the winner of the 2007 Golden Spikes Award after a fantastic season with Vanderbilt in which he recorded 194 strikeouts, shattering the Commodores' single-season record of 155. The figure represents the second most strikeouts in a single season in SEC history behind only fellow Golden Spikes Award winner Ben McDonald's 202 set in 1989. Price's efforts were rewarded as he was the first player selected in the 2007 MLB Draft, going to the Tampa Bay Rays. He would make his Major League debut the next season and was a key piece on a Tampa Bay team that went on to win the 2008 American League Pennant. Price won the American League Cy Young Award as a member of the Rays in 2012 and has since gone on to play for the Detroit Tigers, Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox. He has been named an All-Star five times and won a World Series with the Red Sox in 2018.


2009 - Stephen Strasburg (San Diego State)

Stephen Strasburg won the 2009 Golden Spikes Award after a stellar season with San Diego State University, just a year after he was the youngest member on a Team USA squad that won a bronze medal at the Beijing 2008 Olympics. He finished the 2009 season with a perfect 12-0 record, 1.34 ERA and 174 punchouts in 94.1 innings pitched and was named the 2009 Mountain West Conference Pitcher of the Year. Strasburg was selected by the Washington Nationals with the first pick and made his much-anticipated Major League debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2010, getting the 5-2 win and striking out 14 in seven innings of work. Strasburg is currently in the middle of his tenth year in the Major Leagues, all with the Nationals. He has been named an All-Star four times.


2010 - Bryce Harper (Southern Nevada)

Bryce Harper posted impressive numbers during his one season at the College of Southern Nevada, setting the school's single-season home run record with 31 home runs while also driving in 98 RBIs and posting a .443 batting average. The Las Vegas native was named the 2010 Southwestern Athletic Conference Player of the Year and First Team SWAC All-Conference. At the time, Harper joined Alex Fernandez (Miami Dade CC [JUCO], 1990), Michael Tucker (Longwood [Division II], 1992) and Alex Rodriguez (Westminster Christian High School [Fla.], 1993) as the only non-Division I players selected as Golden Spikes Award finalists in the last 20 years. Harper was the No. 1 overall selection by the Washington Nationals in the 2010 MLB Draft and made his debut in 2012, at the age of 19. He finished his rookie campaign with a .270 batting average and 22 home runs and was named 2012 National League Rookie of the Year. Harper has since gone on to win the 2015 National League MVP award, has been an All-Star six times and is currently a member of the Philadelphia Phillies.

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