FEATURE: USA Baseball Alumni Shine at 2023 PDP League

Twelve members of 2022 18U National Team reunite at the USA Baseball National Training Complex for the 2023 PDP League

The Prospect Development Pipeline (PDP) League hosts 100 of the best and brightest high school prospects in the country. Twelve of those outstanding young athletes have already made names for themselves in international competition, winning gold with Team USA at the 2022 World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) U-18 Baseball World Cup Qualifier in Mexico last November.

One of those dozen players is P.J. Morlando. Morlando is an outfielder/first baseman from Summerville, South Carolina, who was selected as a member of Team USA after taking part in the 16U/17U National Talent Development Program (NTDP) last summer.

The moment Morlando received the news that he had been selected as a member of the 2022 18U National Team is an occasion that he will never forget.

“That was an unreal email,” Morlando said. “As soon as I saw that email, I started tearing up. My dad started tearing up, my mom started tearing up. Coming from a military family, that's a big deal. Competing for the red, white and blue, that’s something special.”

Now, Morlando and the other participants are working toward a chance to represent Team USA once again. The PDP League not only serves as a development and assessment opportunity for the athletes, but is also the primary identification event for the 2023 18U National Team.

While Morlando’s ultimate goal at the PDP League was to earn an invitation to the 2023 18U National Team Training Camp – where forty athletes will compete for the opportunity to represent the United States on the 2023 18U National Team – he also embraced competing against the leading members of the Class of 2024.

“It's been amazing to see everybody show off their best talents and see all these amazing arms,” Morlando said. “I try to compete every single at-bat, every single pitch for that spot on Team USA.”

Morlando certainly took that challenge head on. At the conclusion of the week, Morlando had a .286 batting average with four hits and three RBIs.

Although the bleachers at the National Training Complex in Cary, North Carolina – where the PDP League is hosted – are filled with members of the USA Baseball Task Force, scouts, and coaches, Morlando’s only focus when he’s on the field is the job at hand.

“There's a task that has to be done,” Morlando said. “When you're competing against the best talent, you have to focus on performing to your best so you can help the team win. You have to put all that stuff aside and try to do a job. Each day there's a different job and each day you will try to take a little piece from what each coach has to say and hope to compete in the next day's game.”

In November, Morlando and the 18U National Team traveled to Mexico to compete at the WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup Americas Qualifier. The stars and stripes rode an unbeaten record to a gold medal and clinched Team USA’s spot in the 2023 WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup this summer in Taiwan.

Noah Franco, another member of the 2022 18U National Team and an outfielder/first baseman/left hander from IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.), joined Morlando on Team Light Blue in the 2023 PDP League.

Franco had a standout performance at the World Cup Qualifier, playing in all eight games and batting .348 with two homers and nine RBIs, including a grand slam.

“It was great,” Franco said. “Going down there as a team, not knowing what we would face since the weather and the playing conditions were new to us. We were able to adapt as a team really quickly with all these players from different parts of the country. It was really fun with the players, the coaches, and our parents supporting us and coming all that way to be there for us.”

At the PDP League this past week, Franco played with and against many members of the 2022 18U National Team, facing them both at the plate and on the mound.

“It’s been fun,” Franco said. “We had a really good experience down in Mexico and in Arizona. We had a great group of guys, a good enough group of guys to win the qualifier. All the players who went down there have had a really good week in the PDP League. It's been fun to see them, spend time with them and also compete with them on the field.”

Franco, who was also selected as a member of the 2022 18U National Team after playing at the 2022 16U/17U NTDP, tossed two scoreless innings on the mound while collecting a pair of hits and runs scored at the dish at the PDP League.

Like Morlando, Franco hopes for the opportunity to once again be a member of Team USA and travel to Taiwan in September to defend the United States' gold medal at the 2023 WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup.

“It was a dream come true for me to be selected to Team USA,” Franco said. “I was very honored to get that call. It was a big moment for my family and I. To hopefully make the team again this year would be a really big accomplishment for me.”