Q&A: 12U National Team Star Jonah Saken Shines at 13U Champs NC

Team USA alumnus Jonah Saken talks Team USA experience, first day of the 13U National Team Championships in North Carolina

The second-annual 13U National Team Championships in North Carolina was filled with talent from the likes of Team USA alumni to skilled hopefuls looking to earn an invitation to the 13U/14U Athlete Development Program (ADP) in August.

One such accomplished young player that made the trip to the National Training Complex in Cary, North Carolina, is Jonah Saken, a utility player on AZ Runners Scout Team.

Saken was a member of the 12U National Team which won gold at the 2022 WBSC U-12 Baseball World Cup in Tainan, Taiwan last year.

As a member of Team USA, Saken started all eight games in the outfield and collected a .455 average, amassing 10 hits, 6 RBIs, and a home run and helping to lead the team to gold.

At the conclusion of the tournament, the Brentwood, Tennessee, native was named to the All-World Team as an outfielder and recognized as a vital part of Team USA’s success.

The trend of outstanding offense continued for the 13-year-old on the first day of the 13U National Team Championships in North Carolina, where he went 2-for-3 with a double and a stolen base as the leadoff hitter for AZ Runners Scout.

Although the team ultimately fell to Team Elite, 3-2, after a walkoff in the seventh inning, Saken has high hopes for the rest of the tournament.

Following the game, Saken spoke to USA Baseball about his experience traveling to Taiwan as a member of the 2022 12U National Team and day one of the 13U National Team Championships:

Q: You were 2-for-3 with a double today. What do you think of your performance today and what’s been working for you at the plate?

A: “I thought my performance was pretty good but the outcome wasn’t in our favor so we have to get back to work tomorrow. What’s been working for me at the plate is just sticking with my approach, sitting on the fastball and adjusting the offspeed.”

Q: You’re a very strong offensive player. What do you focus on when developing your swing and strategy at the plate?

A: “I focus on using my body and my legs more. My coach works with us on hinging our hips and getting our bodies ready for attack. When a new pitcher comes on the mound, I make sure I’m ready to hit and see his fastball. I don’t focus on his offspeed unless it's two strikes, then I’ll swing at it.”

Q: You were a member of the 2022 12U National Team which won gold at the WBSC U-12 Baseball World Cup in Taiwan. What was that experience like for you?

A: “It was awesome being in Taiwan and playing with my teammates, some of the best kids in the country. We had a blast there. We went to battle against other countries. It was really nice playing for Team USA and representing our country.”

Q: What did it mean to you to be selected as a member of Team USA?

A: “It meant the world to me. When I got selected I was balling. I was so happy. I was on top of the world. Representing our country means the world to me and playing baseball for our country means the world to me.”

Q: What did you think of the team’s performance today?

A: “I thought we played pretty well, I just feel like at the plate we were guessing what pitch it was going to be instead of preparing our bodies for attack and seeing the ball.”

Q: Although it’s still early in the tournament, what do you think of your chances moving forward?

A: “I think our chances are great. We just have to keep playing, hitting the ball, playing good defense, pitching, and our team is all for that.”

Q: What are your goals for the tournament?

A: “My goal for the tournament is to get better and play better competition, but my overall goal is to be selected for ADP and, hopefully when I’m 14 or 15, get selected to the 15U National Team. That’s my dream.”