CARY, N.C. – Many baseball stars, both past and present, have taken the fields at the USA Baseball National Training Complex over the years. Bryce Harper, Dansby Swanson, and Mike Trout are just three of the countless USA Baseball alumni who have stepped foot on the diamonds in Cary, North Carolina.
This week at the 2021 National Team Identification Series (NTIS) Champions Cup, 13U players from across the country are looking to become the next big stars added to the list of those that have played both at the complex and for Team USA.
And when they take the fields at the National Training Complex, the history and the players who came before them are certainly on their minds.
“Obviously, a bunch of great players have played on these fields,” said Diego Delventhal of the 13U Northwest Stars. “It’s just really cool to know that when I step on these fields, a bunch of players who are in the MLB now have played here too. It’s really cool to know that I’m on that path.”
Knowing that the players who came before them in Cary, North Carolina, have gone on to successful MLB careers adds a special element to the weekend at the NTIS. While the list of the players who have played on the fields is strong in itself, there is also an impressive core of past NTIS participants that have played in the event and then went on to have successful baseball careers, including stints with USA Baseball national teams.
Among those alumni are seven-time Team USA alum Albert Almora, as well as Collegiate National Team alums Alex Bregman, Rio Ruiz, and Blake Snell. Hearing those names and knowing that they could be the next players to join that list energizes this year’s NTIS athletes, and proves to them that anything is possible if they continue to work hard.
“To have the opportunity to play at the NTIS feels awesome,” said 13U Northwest Stars player Josiah Morris. “These are probably the nicest fields I’ve ever been to. I’m just really excited to take the field with my team.”
While the list of athletes who have played on these fields before them is one exciting part of the NTIS, the atmosphere at the complex itself is also something that the players are soaking in.
The complex features four fields, all maintained at Major League Baseball standards. The grounds are some of the finest in the country, and the players are not taking it for granted.
“This complex is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Finnian O’Loughlin, who is representing the Northeast in the 13U tournament. “I’m really excited to be here.”
O’Loughlin recently had a conversation with a friend who had played at the complex in the past. The insight he got has helped him focus on having fun and enjoying the atmosphere, while trying not to get too caught up in it all.
“He gave me some really good advice,” O’Loughlin said. “He just told me to have fun and to not worry about anything. He said to think of it as a normal tournament, and just push away everything else and focus on what you have to do.”
That’s the goal for all of the players at the NTIS this week. While the list of players to come before them might be exciting to think about, the players are focused on standing out in front of the USA Baseball Task Force here and now and earning a spot in future USA Baseball programming.
And if they do, maybe one day their names will be listed with Harper and Trout’s on the list of USA Baseball and MLB greats that have played at the home of Team USA.