FEATURE: RJ Farrell, USA Baseball Task Force Seek Out Talent at 13U Champs NC

USA Baseball Task Force compile 13U/14U ADP roster at 13U Champs NC

Not only are glory and gold medals on the line for players at the 13U National Team Championships in North Carolina, travel team members are also competing for a spot on the 13U/14U Athlete Development Program (ADP) roster.

The ADP is an event which invites 50 of the top 13-and-14-and-under athletes to the National Training Complex in Cary, North Carolina, for four days of on and off-field national team-level instruction and education.

The individuals entrusted with selecting who will receive an invitation to ADP are the USA Baseball Task Force.

The task force is composed of former Team USA coaching staff members and experienced collegiate and high school coaches. The group searches for the premiere talent at events such as the National Team Championships to invite to USA Baseball National Team Training Camps and development programs.

One member of the task force who is especially familiar with many players at the star-studded 13U National Team Championships North Carolina is 2022 12U National Team Manager RJ Farrell.

Farrell has been involved in USA Baseball for over a decade. He is a three-time 12U National Team manager, and also has experience with the National Team Identification Series (NTIS) and as a 12U National Team Training Camp coach.

Last summer, Farrell led Team USA to an undefeated record and gold medal at the 2022 World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) U-12 Baseball World Cup in Tainan, Taiwan, in his international managerial debut.

Farrell had previously served as the 12U National Team manager in 2020 and 2021 but only participated in international competition in 2022. All national team events were suspended due to COVID-19 in his first year, and in 2021, Farrell led Team USA to a 3-0 record in an exhibition series in Texas.

“Any time USA Baseball calls me to ask me to do anything, it's a super honor,” Farrell said. “Being asked to manage one of the teams was incredible. Having the opportunity to actually see it through–because in my head it was a three year process–to actually get to do it, to go and compete in an amazing baseball country and represent our country, it was truly an amazing experience.”

It is now one year later, and many members of the 2022 12U National Team are now competing at the 13U age-level. Eleven of those teammates are playing at the National Training Complex in Cary, North Carolina, for the 13U National Team Championships this week.

“That’s one of the coolest things about being a part of the 12U program for so long,” Farrell explained. “Every year I come back, no matter what event I'm working, and I'm seeing these young men grow through their baseball careers. That's always a highlight of my summer.”

The 2022 1

The 2022 12U National Team received its 2022 WBSC U-12 Baseball World Cup gold medal rings at the National Training Complex in Cary, North Carolina, on Monday, July 17, following the first day of the 13U National Team Championships in North Carolina.

Farrell is at the event serving as a member of the USA Baseball Task Force and looking for players to invite to ADP next month. The task force seeks players that not only have the skill to compete at the highest level but also the character to represent Team USA.

“Obviously, we're evaluating talent,” Farrell began. “Beyond that, we’re looking for intangibles. We want to see how the kids act. Not only when it's going well but when it's going bad. Being a part of the USA program is more than just being a good baseball player. It's being a well-rounded young man. That's really what we're looking for in terms of the character side, the mental toughness side. So we can evaluate and see if kids are ready for that next step.”

In some ways, selecting players for an event such as ADP differs from scouting for a national team. The ADP is a developmental program to prepare these young players to compete on Team USA in one to two years rather than a team competing in international competition within the next few months.

“When you're scouting for a national team, it's very much who's ready to go right now,” Farrell said. “Especially the closer you get to the team leaving. When we're looking for ADP, there can be a little bit more projection put into it, especially with the 13-year-olds. There's a lot of projection that goes into body type and movement patterns and what they're going to do.”

Each day of the tournament, the five members of the task force–led by Director of Player Development Jim Koerner–head to one of the four fields at the National Training Complex to evaluate each player and keep detailed notes on factors from barrel to baseball skill and speed to pitchability and presence on the mound.

The task force convenes each night following the last game of the day and goes through every player they watched, creating a board to keep track of their thoughts.

On the third day of the tournament, the task force sends out invitations to an invite-only player workout where they have an opportunity to more closely assess players they have identified as potential ADP attendees.

“There's a lot of late night conversations,” Farrell said. “Every player we see, we go through all their names. We end up putting a board together. That board then leads to our workout board. The workout then leads us to who the selections are going to be. But many times there are players that don't make the workout and we see something in them later and they actually have an opportunity or do get selected.”

At the end of the week, the task force makes its final selections and sends out invitations to the players they have decided to invite to ADP. 

Although selection day can be disappointing for those who are not selected to the roster, Farrell encourages all players to stay motivated and continue to work hard on and off the field to better themselves as baseball players and people.

“The most difficult part of my job is by far selection day,” Farrell said. “There's no way around it. Some really, really good baseball players aren't being selected. I tell kids, you can always prove me wrong because none of this is an exact science. As a former recruiting coordinator I’ve turned in names that I shouldn’t have and I’ve kept names off lists that I probably should have had on. We just want these young men, if they love the game of baseball, to stay playing the game of baseball because the game is going to do amazing things for them.”