Wes Brooks, a 12U National Team Training Camp coach and member of the USA Baseball Task Force, has spent the last week in Cary, North Carolina, helping to assemble the 2023 12U National Team.
As a member of the USA Baseball Task Force, Brooks served as a scout at the 11U Futures Invitational, identifying players who would be strong candidates for an invitation to the 12U National Team Training Camp.
Brooks, along with his fellow task force members, selected 36 athletes to participate in five days of intrasquad games, Prospect Development Pipeline (PDP) performance assessments and on-field workouts from June 26-30 at Training Camp.
Serving as one of two Team Red coaches for the four-game “Stars vs. Stripes” instrasquad series, Brooks will also play a vital role in the selection process for the 18-man national team roster which will travel to Tainan, Taiwan, for the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) U-12 Baseball World Cup from July 28-August 6.
Brooks has extensive coaching experience, having worked with USA Baseball’s developmental programming for over a decade and serving as the head coach at Oxford High School (Oxford, Ala.).
Following the first day of 12U National Team Training Camp, Brooks spoke to USA Baseball about his experience as a USA Baseball Task Force member and coach and the process of compiling a national team:
Q: What has been your journey working with USA Baseball?
A: “In 2012, we brought our high school baseball team in Oxford, Alabama, to the first ever National High School Invitational. From 2013 to now, I've worked anywhere from 16/U17U National Team Identification Series (NTIS) all the way down to 11U/13U NTIS. This is my first time working at a national team Training Camp and the first time I've worked at the Futures Invitational. I’ve worked with USA Baseball in just about every aspect that they have.”
Q: What does your role as a member of the USA Baseball Task Force entail?
A: “Our job is to pick the right players, not necessarily the best players, but pick the right players for Team USA. What that means is the players who can control the controllables. Control their body language, effort, focus. Control their hustle. Control their tempo transitioning from drill to drill. Then the coaches pick the right players to give us the best opportunity to compete for the desired outcome, which is a gold medal.”
Q: What are you looking for in players when you are putting together this 12U National Team Training Camp roster?
A: “Different players have different skill sets. There’s some that have multiple skill sets, and there’s some that have individual skill sets. For example, there’s some guys that can run and are very athletic. Then your corner guys hit the ball a long way. Then there's some really good defenders and some really good arms. If you have multiple skill sets that are above average, then that gives you a good chance. If you have one skill set that's the top 10 percent of your age group, you also give yourself a good chance to compete for making the national team.”
Q: What does the process of selecting the 18-man 12U National Team roster from the 36-man 12U National Team Training Camp roster look like?
A: “We’re looking for the guy that can hold himself accountable to the standard of the guys who played and competed and won a gold medal before him, is willing to hold other players to that same standard and brings energy every single day. Day three is the separator. It’s important for us to identify the guys who still have that same energy as the eight-year-old putting on the jersey for the very first time because you compete several days in a row when the team goes to Taiwan. The mental and physical toughness that it takes is also important. Whether it's physical toughness, blocking a ball in the dirt or diving and keeping a ball in the infield and not letting a run score, or the mental toughness to be able to overcome adversity because baseball is a game of failure. You have to be committed to your teammates, be committed to the U-S-A letters on your chest, be committed to your coaches and be committed to the desired outcome, which is a gold medal.
“Then the final thing is the discipline that it takes to make sure you get the proper rest, you wake up on time, you're in meetings on time and you're doing the little things, whether you feel like doing it or not. It takes extra discipline because if you can get a bunt down in the sixth inning, or you can pick up trash off the field, or you can clean up your space, or you can get up and be on time, then we can count on you and trust you. Those are the guys we're looking for. The guys that can do all those little things right all the time.”
Q: What does it mean to you to be chosen to help determine a Team USA roster that will represent the United States?
A: “Being asked to help out with the 12U National Team Training Camp is special to me. Each time I get an email from USA Baseball asking me to help out, it almost brings tears to my eyes. I'm having chills on my arms right now just talking about it. The ultimate feeling is being able to stand on that stage and have the national anthem played in someone else's country and you're on the top of the leaderboard. That's just special. Whether you're an intern, the grounds crew, all the way to the coaches and the players. It’s everybody throughout that whole process’ job to help us win a gold medal. Being around those people makes me step up my game every day so that I'm bringing the energy day in and day out.”
Q: What are the most difficult and most rewarding parts of your work with USA Baseball?
A: “The most difficult thing is I want to be the best husband and father that I can possibly be. I have two girls at home, Sawyer who’s 18 and Skylar who’s 13, and my wife, so the most difficult thing is making sure they're taken care of back home. When I'm here, there's a void in my home so I have to set things up for success in my family as well as this team here. The most rewarding thing is my girls have been involved with my baseball teams back home in Oxford, their whole lives. When I get an opportunity to do this, they're the very first ones that say, ‘Go Dad. You do it. You deserve it.’ Being able to come back home a month or so from now and being able to watch the games on livestream in Taiwan at like 4:30 a.m., and my 13-year-old Skylar is waking up with me like, “Dad, let’s watch them.” The rewarding part of it is being able to go back home and them being just as excited for me as I am to be here.”