FEATURE: Troy Gerlach Relishes New Opportunity as 12U Manager

When Troy Gerlach makes his return to the dugout with USA Baseball at the WBSC 12-U Baseball World Cup in Taiwan this summer, he’ll be taking on a challenge previously unfamiliar to him throughout his lengthy coaching career.

The veteran coach is not a stranger to this exact setting, having been a member of last year’s staff with the 12U National Team that recorded a perfect 8-0 record on its way to a gold medal and won USA Baseball’s 2022 Team of the Year award. Instead of returning to his previous role as an assistant, however, Gerlach will be stepping up as the team’s newest manager.

“Anytime you get asked to do anything with USA Baseball, it's an honor, and getting to put the uniform on is probably the highlight of my baseball career, to be honest with you,” Gerlach said. “To be the manager now, it's something I've always thought about and kind of worked towards. I don't know what it'll be like to put it on knowing that I’m in charge of everything, and there's a lot of pressure that comes with it to defend the gold and all the other stuff, but it's truly an honor to wear the uniform and to be a part of USA Baseball in any role.”

To many, tasking someone with leading a group looking to bring home its second consecutive gold medal in their national team managerial debut might seem like a big ask. Thanks in large part to his experience during last year’s run, though, Gerlach feels like he is more than ready for the opportunity he has been given.

“It was very beneficial because I’ve always been with the older kids,” Gerlach said about his time working as an assistant with the team in 2022. “To be with the 12s last year and to be going back to Taiwan, I know exactly what to expect. There’s nothing that’s going to go on that will surprise me.”

Another reason that Gerlach feels confident heading into his new role is the support system that he has cultivated over the past year. He has maintained good relationships with the rest of the gold-medal-winning staff, including his predecessor R.J Farrell and fellow assistant Tanner Vesely, and he has not been afraid to lean on them while preparing for his newest venture.

“Last year, R.J. was awesome, and Tanner has been there before as a manager as well,” Gerlach said. “[I’ve been] able to learn from those two and bounce ideas off of them even now, like starting to put the team together and all that good stuff. It’s been a true blessing to be able to have those guys in my back pocket.”

Despite his inexperience in managing a national team of his own, Gerlach is no rookie when it comes to coaching as a whole. He has worked in a number of different roles with USA Baseball beyond last year’s stint with the 12U team, including as an assistant coach with the 2018 15U National Team that won the gold medal at the WBSC U-15 Baseball World Cup and as a member of the staffs at the 14U National Team Development Program (NTDP) in 2016, 2017, and 2019 and the Prospect Development Pipeline (PDP) League in 2021.

Outside of USA Baseball, Gerlach has enjoyed great success as a manager at the high school level in Arizona. He currently runs the show at Chaparral High School (Scottsdale, Ariz.), where he has posted an overall record of 56-34 in his four seasons with the team since joining on in May 2019. Prior to that, he coached at Arcadia High School (Phoenix, Ariz.) and led them to a record of 110-84 with four Arizona Interscholastic Association Baseball State Tournament appearances in seven seasons.

All of this is to say that Gerlach knows what it takes to be successful in a variety of different circumstances as a coach. As he has learned recently, though, leading the youngest national team in the USA Baseball ranks offers its own set of unique challenges, and overcoming these to get the best out of this new group of players is something that he has come to really enjoy.

“The 12U kids are wanting to learn, and they’re hanging on to every word you say because it’s really their first time being at the national level,” Gerlach said. “Depending on what kind of club organization they come from, it’s really the first time they’ve been really coached on things like bunt plays, hit and runs, first and third plays, cuts and relays. They just want to learn, and it’s pretty cool.

“On the field, I mean, I feel why they’re there. It’s off the charts. I tell people all the time, you’d be surprised what it’s like with a 12-year-old at the national level, with how athletic they are and how quickly they pick up on things. It’s pretty awesome.”

For Gerlach, the ultimate objective as manager is obviously to bring another gold medal back home to the states. Beyond just that, however, he wants to build relationships with his players and make sure that they are set up for success in their careers well past their time in Taiwan this summer.

“It’s just the kickstarter to their baseball careers, to be honest with you,” Gerlach said. “Seeing the kids we had last summer, you’re watching them continue to develop a year out. You see them grow and you see the development that they have, and you just want them to get better, because like I said, it’s kick starting their career.

“It’s pretty cool to see them when you get them at Futures and into Training Camp, and then those kids that go on to make the team and how much they grow in the short time that we’re with them. It’s a relationship that you build, and you’ll have that for a lifetime with those kids.”