USA BASEBALL NEWS

FS-cancelled

USA Baseball Cancels Futures Series in Irvine

The event was scheduled for May 14-16
April 14, 2021
CARY, N.C. – USA Baseball announced today that the Futures Series scheduled for May 14-16 in Irvine, California, has been cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. This event will not be rescheduled. For more information on the Futures Series and other USA Baseball events, visit USABaseball.com and follow

CARY, N.C. – USA Baseball announced today that the Futures Series scheduled for May 14-16 in Irvine, California, has been cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. This event will not be rescheduled.

For more information on the Futures Series and other USA Baseball events, visit USABaseball.com and follow @USABaseball and @USABEvents on social media.

View More
Sinacola

GSA Spotlight: Driven Nick Sinacola Blossoms Into Ace For Maine

May 7, 2021
It was a frigid January afternoon in Massachusetts, with temperature gauges hovering at about 10 degrees and snow drifts covering more than two feet on the ground. Mike Hart, who is the baseball coach and a teacher at North Attleboro High School, left his classroom at about 4 p.m., only

It was a frigid January afternoon in Massachusetts, with temperature gauges hovering at about 10 degrees and snow drifts covering more than two feet on the ground.

Mike Hart, who is the baseball coach and a teacher at North Attleboro High School, left his classroom at about 4 p.m., only to discover a surprise in the parking lot.

It was one of his former players, Nick Sinacola, playing long toss in the school parking lot.

“Everywhere else was covered with snow,” Sinacola explained with a shrug.

If nothing else, that commitment to getting his work done goes a long way toward explaining why Sinacola has made himself into a pro prospect.

A 6-2, 190-pound junior righthander for the Maine Black Bears, Sinacola struggled for much of his first two years of college, posting a 6.81 ERA as a freshman and a 5.57 ERA last season.

He entered this year winless collegiately – a combined 0-5 record.

This year, Sinacola has been stunningly dominant, posting a 7-1 record with a 1.25 ERA and a .174 opponents' batting average. In 50.1 innings, he has struck out 96 batters and walked 15. Maine is 7-1 when he pitches and 8-13 when he sits.

So … how has Sinacola managed this amazing turnaround?

Part of it is that work ethic that manifested itself this past January in the North Attleboro parking lot. But part of it, too, is his ability to learn his craft, picking up tips from coaches as well as teammates.

This past summer, when most leagues were shut down, Sinacola was invited to compete for the Brockton Rox. While there, Sinacola got to talking to Boston College pitcher Joey Walsh.

“He throws a hard, wipeout slider,” Sinacola said. “I saw that, and I wanted to adjust my slider. My old grip was two seam, and I threw it 77-80 (mph).

“I slid my grip down to the horseshoe. I started to work on it, and now it’s my favorite pitch.”

Sinacola throws his new slider 81-84 mph, and Maine coach Nick Derba said his ace throws strikes with that pitch 70 percent of the time.

“It’s a pro-level breaking ball,” Derba said. “His fastball mostly sits 90-92. He needs to continue to work on fastball command, and he also throws a splitter, which can be an out pitch in time.”

Sinacola credits Derba with teaching him the splitter.

“My freshman year, I was throwing a bullpen session with Coach Derba,” Sinacola said. “He told me my changeup was not where it needed to be, and he said, ‘Let’s try a splitter.’

“It clicked right away.”  

Sinacola’s big hands make that splitter easier for him to throw and to make deceptive, but it’s that coachability that really bodes well for his future.

Derba, judging from what scouts have told him, believes Sinacola will get drafted this June between the third and ninth rounds.

Getting drafted anywhere would be the culmination of a dream for Sinacola, 21.

Sinacola was about 3 years old when he started following his sister, Marissa, onto her softball fields.

“He would cry until they let him on the field to take a swing,” said their mother, Alicia Sinacola, who is a nurse. “I’ve never had a hobby that I’ve loved as much as he loves baseball.”

Mike Sinacola, Nick’s father and a department of public health administrator, took his son to his first Red Sox game when the boy was 5. In youth leagues, it was not unusual for Sinacola to play as many as four games in one day – a doubleheader with the “A” team and a double dip with the “B” squad.

“When he got put on the ‘B’ team, he said: ‘I’m going to show them they made a mistake’,” Mike Sinacola said.

At age 14, Sinacola watched the MLB Draft with his father and remarked: “I want to hear my name called one day.”

While he waits for that big day, one of Sinacola’s biggest thrills in baseball so far came at the close of his senior season at North Attleboro, leading the Big Red to the first state title in program history. Sinacola threw a complete game – 105 pitches – scattering five hits in a 4-3 win over Beverly.

All three Beverly runs were unearned against Sinacola, who also scored twice, banged two singles and stole a base.

Not bad for a kid who didn’t make varsity until his junior year.

“We knew he had a live arm, but earlier in his career, he would get too deep into counts,” said Hart, who got married two days after winning that state title. “By the time Nick got on the varsity, he started trusting his stuff more, going after hitters instead of nitpicking.”

Sinacola, who threw one no-hitter in each of his two varsity seasons, was named The Boston Globe’s Division II Player of the Year as a senior in 2018. He went 10-0 that season, including 3-0 in the playoffs.

“I don’t know that I’ve ever met a kid who loves baseball as much as Nick,” Hart said. “He always keeps a glove and a ball in his car – just in case he gets a chance to play catch.”

Despite Sinacola’s skill and his passion for the game, he went undrafted out of high school and didn’t have much in the way of scholarship offers, choosing Maine over options in Division II and Division III.

However, in his collegiate debut at national power Florida State, Sinacola showed a glimpse of his talent. Entering the game in relief, Sinacola pitched five scoreless and hitless innings, striking out five and allowing just two walks.

“That was a great way to have my first outing,” Sinacola said. “It made me feel like I belong.”

Sinacola, who has a 3.6 grade-point average while majoring in Finance and minoring in Economics, has had some rough times, too. Maine, for example, finished its COVID-shortened 2020 season with a 1-12 record, the program’s fewest wins since posting an identical ledger way back in 1907.

But things are looking up this season, as long – apparently – as Sinacola continues with his superstition of eating a pepperoni and cheese sandwich the night before he pitches.

Other than that, the other key is for Sinacola to continue to learn his craft.

“Over the past year, I’ve been studying my own pitch sequencing,” Sinacola said, “just becoming a student of the game and getting my work done.”

Even if that work has to happen in 10-degree snowstorm weather.

D1Baseball.com is your online home for college baseball scores, schedules, standings, statistics, analysis, features, podcasts and prospect coverage.
View More
PitchSmart

MLB, USA Baseball Supplement Pitch Smart Guidelines for 2021 Season

Additional guidelines emphasize systematic build up following reduced workloads in 2020
April 30, 2021
CARY, N.C. – Major League Baseball (MLB) and USA Baseball announced today supplemental guidelines to the Pitch Smart program for the 2021 season. Additions to the program for the upcoming season emphasize the need for pitchers of all ages to systematically build up their preparation for game competition following a

CARY, N.C. – Major League Baseball (MLB) and USA Baseball announced today supplemental guidelines to the Pitch Smart program for the 2021 season. Additions to the program for the upcoming season emphasize the need for pitchers of all ages to systematically build up their preparation for game competition following a reduced workload in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Launched in 2014, Pitch Smart is a joint initiative between MLB and USA Baseball that provides a series of practical, age-appropriate guidelines to help parents, players, and coaches avoid overuse injuries and foster long, healthy careers for amateur players. The Pitch Smart guidelines include age-specific pitching limits and required rest recommendations to limit the likelihood of injuries caused by pitching with fatigue.

Added to the Pitch Smart guidelines for 2021 are suggested daily maximum pitch counts with progression benchmarks for early season, mid-season, and late season, as well as an annual inning limit for players with reduced workloads in 2020. Additionally, tips on how young athletes can help reduce the spread of COVID-19 are in this update.

MLB and USA Baseball have also created a sample throwing program to assist athletes preparing for the upcoming season. The program progresses over four weeks and includes daily throwing routines and mandatory rest days. The sample is modeled for a 12-year-old youth league player but may easily be modified based on player age and field size. 

“The supplemental Pitch Smart guidelines are really important for the long-term arm health and development of young baseball players across the country as they continue through their spring and summer seasons,” said Tony Reagins, Chief Baseball Development Officer, Major League Baseball. “The pandemic robbed many of these young athletes of a normal season in 2020.  This steady, gradual plan includes a throwing program and progression benchmarks that will give players, coaches and parents the tools they need to have a fun and, most importantly, safe baseball season.” 

The standard Pitch Smart pitch counts and required rest recommendations continue to be the staple of the program for youth athletes across the globe. These guidelines remain unchanged since the latest update in 2017 and athletes aged seven to 22 who did not have a reduced workload in 2020 should continue to adhere to these standards to begin the season. The new supplemental recommendations for daily maximum pitch counts allow pitchers with reduced workloads last year to reach these standard guidelines by late season 2021.

“USA Baseball continues to champion Pitch Smart as a priority initiative for amateur baseball in the United States,” said USA Baseball Executive Director/CEO Paul Seiler. “All USA Baseball events and national teams continue to adhere to these standards and we cannot recommend highly enough that players, parents, and organizations adopt and implement these guidelines. The long-term health and safety of our athletes are paramount to continued growth and development of baseball worldwide.” 

Pitch Smart hosts a growing number of resources that can be found at PitchSmart.org, including a series of answers to frequently asked questions regarding Tommy John surgery and the complete pitching guidelines and recommended rest periods for all age groups. The program is further supported by a free online educational course hosted by Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz at USABDevelops.com.

Thirty-three international, national, and regional organizations are fully Pitch Smart compliant in 2021. Additionally, USA Baseball and Major League Baseball have recognized seven organizations as Select Compliant and three as Educational Supporters. One-hundred and twenty-four additional state and local organizations were also Full Compliant, Select Compliant, or Educational Supporter organizations for 2020. USA Baseball will continue to collaborate with all organizations on their Pitch Smart progress throughout the season.

Most recently, USA Baseball and MLB updated the Pitch Smart website to include special research sections, including one to “Maximize Performance,” such as the following:

  • Proper Pitching Mechanics
  • Relationship Between Pitch Velocity, Performance and Injury
  • Weighted Ball Throwing Programs
  • Long Toss and Interval Throwing Programs
  • Strength & Conditioning for Baseball Pitchers
  • Nutrition to Maximize Performance
  •  
View More
MikulskiGSA

GSA Spotlight: Matt Mikulski Turns Himself Into Dominant Street Fighter For Fordham

April 30, 2021
Look for the guy doing handstands just before his start. That is where you’ll find the pitcher who throws100 mph and leads D1 college baseball in ERA. He’s Fordham lefthander Matt Mikulski, who is 6-0, 0.92 in eight starts, and his ERA could be even lower had one of his fielders

Look for the guy doing handstands just before his start.

That is where you’ll find the pitcher who throws100 mph and leads D1 college baseball in ERA.

He’s Fordham lefthander Matt Mikulski, who is 6-0, 0.92 in eight starts, and his ERA could be even lower had one of his fielders not lost a ball in the sun against Delaware.

Mikulski’s pre-game routine includes cartwheels and handstands as well as vertical and lateral leaps, which are all designed to maintain his athleticism.

“I don’t know where he got all that from, but I just leave him alone,” Fordham coach Kevin Leighton said sheepishly. “I’ve never seen anything like it before, but hey, maybe it’ll start a new trend.”

Calisthenics aren’t the only things Mikulski does to prepare for a start. Mikulski, a big fan of mixed martial arts, borrows from MMA star Conor McGregor when it comes to mental and emotional approach.

Mikulski even wears a McGregor-esque hoodie at times while doing his pre-game stretches.

“Baseball is essentially my livelihood,” said Mikulski, who will turn 22 on May 18. “Anybody who steps into that batter’s box is trying to take away my livelihood. That’s the way I look at it.”

Fordham, one of the oldest college baseball programs in the nation with a history that dates to the 1850s, has had just one first-rounder so far – righthander Pete Harnisch, who was the 27th pick in the 1987 MLB Draft.

Harnisch, whose son Jack now plays second base for Fordham (18-12), was an MLB All-Star in 1991.

Mikulski dreams of reaching the MLB level. But for now, he’s dominating college baseball and has a shot at becoming Fordham’s second first-rounder when the draft begins on July 11.

In 48.2 innings this season, Mikulski has struck out 91 batters. He has allowed just 18 hits and 19 walks, and batters are hitting just .111 against him.

He ranks second in the nation in total strikeouts as well strikeouts per nine innings and fewest hits per game.

“Everything is there,” Leighton said when asked about Mikulski, the reigning Atlantic 10 Conference Pitcher of the Week after striking out 15 Saint Joseph’s batters on Saturday. “He has the frame (6-4, 205 pounds). He has the work ethic. He has a legit four-pitch mix. He is around the zone. He has an upper-90s fastball, and he is putting up serious numbers.

“It’s all there.”

How It Began

Mikulski is from Mohegan Lake, New York, about 50 miles from Fordham’s Bronx campus.

The youngest of two brothers, Mikulski played four sports growing up, including quarterback in football as well as lacrosse and basketball.

“I was throwing him a ball since he was in diapers,” said his father, Dennis Mikulski, who played outside linebacker and H-back at Division III SUNY Albany.

Sheila Sheridan, Mikulski’s mother, said her son was talented in all four sports.

“If there were conflicts, he would agonize,” she said. “He would say, ‘Mom, you don’t understand.’ He didn’t want to let anyone down.

“I don’t remember the kid missing a practice, even if he wasn’t feeling good.”

Even so, by the time he entered high school, Mikulski had dropped the other three sports to focus on baseball.

“It was against my DNA to pull Matthew out of football,” his father said, “but it was the right call.”

A pitcher since age 8, Mikulski was a late bloomer physically. He was 5-8 and 175 pounds as a high school freshman and about 5-11 and 190 upon entering Fordham.

Leighton, though, liked Mikulski’s arm action and breaking ball.

“We tried to move on him early,” Leighton said of Mikulski, who was drawing interest from Villanova, St. John’s and Stony Brook. “Most of the guys we get at Fordham are not ‘can’t miss’ prospects. They are guys who come here, work hard and develop.

“Matt was throwing 83-84 when we offered him some scholarship money. I would be lying if I said we knew at that time Matt would become a superstar.”

Mikulski grew while in college – physically and also in his knowledge of pitching.

As a freshman in 2018, Mikulski went 4-5 with a 5.18 ERA in 12 games, including seven relief appearances.

“I was the only lefty on the team, and I got put in some tough situations,” said Mikulski, who struck out 41 batters in 41.2 innings that year. “But I learned.”

As a sophomore, Mikulski improved, going 6-6 with a 4.06 ERA in 18 appearances, including 14 starts. He pitched 5.1 scoreless innings in the Atlantic 10 championship game that year. Fordham went on to win that game, 4-3, in a 12-inning walk-off victory. It was Fordham’s second-ever A-10 tournament championship and its first since 1998.

A Breakthrough

That summer, Mikulski pitched in the Cape Cod League, boosting his confidence.

For the 2020 season, Leighton brought in Elliot Glynn as Fordham’s new pitching coach. Glynn, a former lefthander for UConn and in the Milwaukee Brewers chain, made an immediate connection with Mikulski.

The two lefties “spoke the same language”, Glynn said,

From watching film, Glynn noticed that Mikulski “ran hot” at times with his emotions. When things started to go wrong, he would overthrow, leading to walks and big innings.

Glynn got Mikulski to slow the game down in those instances, focusing on his breathing, and the instruction worked. As a junior, Mikulski went 2-1 with a 1.29 ERA in four starts with 18 strikeouts in 21 innings before COVID canceled the rest of the season.

During the 2020 MLB Draft, Mikulski said he got calls during the fourth and fifth rounds, but the financial offers were not substantial enough. At one point, his father asked if it would be prudent to take an undervalued bonus and just start his minor league career.

But Mikulski held firm.

“I was listening to my intuition and my gut,” said Mikulski, who is on pace to graduate this summer with a degree in Communications & Culture. “I felt I was slighted. That happens in the draft.

“I told my dad, ‘I’m going to go back to school and prove people wrong.’”

Once that decision was made, the next key, Glynn thought, was to improve Mikulski’s ability to generate swings and misses. Glynn encouraged Mikulski to experiment in the offseason.

That’s exactly what Mikulski did during the long COVID hiatus. He met with two of his friends, Anthony Fava, now the hitting coach for Iona; and Jonathan de Marte, a former minor league pitcher.

Working at The Training Zone, a New York facility owned by former East Carolina pitcher Mike Anderson, the guys took a critical look at each of Mikulski’s pitches.

“That summer, I asked (Fava and de Marte) what I could do to separate from the pack,” Mikulski said. “They said, ‘Check out (major leaguers) Robbie Ray and Lucas Giolito. They have gone to a shorter arm action, and they are throwing way harder.’

“It was a good adjustment. It reminded me of the arm action from when I played quarterback.”

Pitching With Purpose

The new delivery took about six weeks to implement, starting right after the 2020 draft. Mikulski debuted the new version of himself at a tournament in August, and he hit 97 mph for the first time in his life.

The family’s running joke is that no one outside of the people who run Amazon benefitted more from COVID than Mikulski did last year.

But even after a great summer, there was more work to do once he arrived at Fordham for the fall. That’s when Glynn made a tweak, getting Mikulski to hide the ball better.

“When we filmed it from behind the catcher, you could see the ball coming out of my glove the whole time,” Mikulski said. “We just turned my shoulders a little bit and the rest is history.”

Glynn said Mikulski deserves massive credit for the improvements.

“You can’t see the ball now until it’s out of his hand,” Glynn said. “He made 99 percent of these adjustments on his own.

“Guys who are invested in their own careers – those are the ones you want in your organization.”

But there’s more to Mikulski than just the physical dominance. There’s a sentimental side, too.

Before each start, Mikulski writes the following letters in the dirt behind the mound:

“RIP NGSE”

The meaning behind it is to honor some of the people in his life that he has lost. RIP, of course, is for Rest in Peace. The N is for “Nanny”, his maternal grandmother Kate Dunn, who passed away this past year on the eve of Thanksgiving. The G is for Andrew Gurgitano, a lefty pitcher and summer-league teammate who died of a seizure. S is for Sandra Mikulski, his paternal grandmother. And E is for his mom’s sister, Eileen Sheridan.

“I like to think they watch over me,” Mikulski said. “Losing them has shown me that life is precious, and it can be taken away in an instant.”

Building An Arsenal

Mikulski has destroyed opponents this year with four pitches: four-seam fastball, slider, changeup, curve.

His fastball sits 94-97 and touched 100 for the first time against Delaware on March 27, and he holds his velocity.

“He’ll see the finish line,” Glynn said. “His velo will be the same or a tick higher in late innings.”

Mikulski’s slider is thrown 86-88. It looks like a fastball initially but then disappears off the plate.

His changeup is his most improved pitch. Hitters this year are 1-for-19 with 15 strikeouts against that changeup, and 14 of those punchouts are against righthanded batters.

“He throws it with the same spin as his fastball, and he gets a ton of bad swings,” Glynn said.

The curve is thrown 76-77.

“If he gets that over,” Glynn said, “it’s impossible for hitters to cover that and a 96-97 fastball.”

This year, Mikulski is throwing his fastball 63 percent of the time, while mixing in his changeup (15 percent), slider (14 percent) and curve (8 percent). The biggest difference from his first three years is an increased reliance on the changeup, which is up from eight percent; and fewer curveballs (down from 13 percent).

Righthanded hitters batted .272, .251 and .237 against him for his first three years, but they are flailing with a .124 batting average this season.

Lefty hitters batted .234 and .184 his first two years. Last year, lefty hitters were rarely used against him (1-for-3). This year, lefties are hitting .061 against him.

Glynn and Leighton both believe Mikulski will be a first-round pick.

Mikulski is not one to disagree.

“I feel there’s no other lefthander in the draft better than me,” Mikulski said.

The only apparent knock against Mikulski is that he’s dominating at a mid-major as opposed to the Power Five level.

Mikulski scoffs at that notion.

“It doesn’t matter the name on the chest,” he said. “My stuff plays anywhere.”

Mikulski believes he’s the perpetual underdog.

“My whole life,” he said, “I’ve been overlooked.”

That perception may soon change.

Mikulski points to his most recent start against St. Joe’s as a sign of growth. He gave up a solo homer in the sixth inning.

In the past, that negative result might have snowballed on him.

Not now.

“I struck out the side after that homer,” Mikulski said. “I have a way better response now.

“I’m like an MMA fighter. I just keep coming.”

 

D1Baseball.com is your online home for college baseball scores, schedules, standings, statistics, analysis, features, podcasts and prospect coverage.
View More
AS98HF

Team USA to Open Olympic Qualifying Against Nicaragua

April 29, 2021
Media Accreditation CARY, N.C. -- The World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) today announced the schedule for the 2021 Baseball Americas Qualification Event for the Games of the XXXII Olympiad Tokyo 2020. Team USA, currently ranked No. 2 in the world rankings, will open the tournament against Nicaragua (No. 15) in

Media Accreditation

CARY, N.C. -- The World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) today announced the schedule for the 2021 Baseball Americas Qualification Event for the Games of the XXXII Olympiad Tokyo 2020. Team USA, currently ranked No. 2 in the world rankings, will open the tournament against Nicaragua (No. 15) in Group A action on Monday, May 31, at Clover Park in Port St. Lucie, Florida.

The U.S. will then face the Dominican Republic (No. 10) on Tuesday, June 1, at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach, Florida, and Puerto Rico (No. 11) on Wednesday, June 2, back at Clover Park. All three opening-round games will begin at 7 p.m. E.T.

The top two teams from each group will advance to the Super Round, which will take place Friday, June 4, and Saturday, June 5. Game times and locations are to-be-determined. The participating countries in Group B are Canada (No. 13), Colombia (No. 14), Cuba (No. 7), and Venezuela (No. 8).

Records from the opening round will carry over to the Super Round. The team with the best record at the end of the event will be declared the winner, joining Israel, Japan, Korea, and Mexico in the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games baseball tournament.

The second and third-place finishers will qualify for the WBSC Baseball Final Qualifier. The final Olympic qualifying event will take place June 16-20 at Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium and Douliu Baseball Stadium in Taiwan.

For more information on Team USA and Olympic Qualifications, follow @USABaseball on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, as well as USABaseball.com.

View More
Avent

NC State's Elliott Avent Named 2021 Collegiate National Team Manager

2003 National Coach of the Year to make his USA Baseball managerial debut in 2021
April 28, 2021
CARY, N.C. – USA Baseball today named North Carolina State’s Elliott Avent the manager of the 2021 Collegiate National Team. Avent is currently in his 25th season at the helm of the Wolfpack, where he earned National Coach of the Year honors in 2003 and recorded his 900th win with

CARY, N.C. – USA Baseball today named North Carolina State’s Elliott Avent the manager of the 2021 Collegiate National Team. Avent is currently in his 25th season at the helm of the Wolfpack, where he earned National Coach of the Year honors in 2003 and recorded his 900th win with the program on April 6.

The 2021 season will mark Avent’s USA Baseball managerial debut and his third time overall working with the Collegiate National Team. He served as an assistant coach for the 2004 and 2015 teams, helping to lead Team USA to a FISU World University Championships gold medal and an 18-7 record in 2004.

“Elliott is an exceptional baseball coach with an outstanding legacy of success throughout his long tenure at NC State,” said USA Baseball Collegiate National Team General Manager Eric Campbell. “Since USA Baseball arrived in the Triangle in 2003, Elliott and the NC State program have been incredibly generous in supporting all of our programs and we are excited to have him once again working with the Collegiate National Team. We are confident that he will serve as a tremendous example and leader for this year’s team of talented young athletes both on and off the field.”

Avent has amassed a 906-544 overall record since taking over the NC State program in 1996. In his 25 seasons as the head coach, he has led the Wolfpack to a College World Series berth in 2013 and 18 appearances in the NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament, including 13 in the last 15 years that the event has been held. He was named the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and National Coach of the Year in 2003 after guiding his team to a 45-18 record (15-9 in the ACC) and a NCAA Super Regional appearance. In 2017, Avent became one of four active coaches in the ACC to reach the 1,000 career victories milestone. He is currently one of the top 10 winningest active head coaches in college baseball with an overall career record of 1,130-757.

“Being selected to coach some of the best collegiate players in our great game is a special honor,” said Avent. “I’ve had the privilege to work alongside Eric Campbell in previous years and USA Baseball, under the superb leadership of Paul Seiler, is a well-run organization. I look forward to announcing our staff in the coming weeks before turning our attention to selecting the team that will get the opportunity to compete and represent our country this summer.”

Under Avent’s guidance, the Wolfpack hosted its first NCAA Regional in 2008 and has since been tapped to host in 2012, 2013, 2016, and 2018, and the team has made nine NCAA postseason appearances in the last 10 seasons that have included a postseason tournament. Additionally, since 2003 he has led the program to a school-record six consecutive NCAA appearances from 2003-2008, four NCAA Regional championships, three Super Regional appearances, and one Super Regional championship. 

Over the course of his tenure at NC State, Avent has coached 34 All-Americans, seven of the program’s nine first-team All-Americans, 37 first-team All-ACC selections, and has seen 112 of his players taken in the MLB First-Year Player Draft – including 39 since 2014.

Ten of his former athletes have participated on the Collegiate National Team, including Joey Devine (2004), Carlos Rodon (2012, 2013), Trea Turner (2012, 2013), Will Wilson (2018) and Patrick Bailey (2018, 2019).

The remaining Collegiate National Team staff and the 2021 schedule will be announced at a later date. To stay up-to-date with the Collegiate National team, visit USABaseball.com or follow @USABaseballCNT on Twitter.

View More
Maxwell

Jason Maxwell Named 2021 18U National Team Manager

He will lead Team USA at the 2021 WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup in Bradenton and Sarasota, Florida
April 27, 2021
CARY, N.C. – USA Baseball today named Jason Maxwell the manager of the 2021 18U National Team. Maxwell will lead Team USA as it competes for the program’s fifth world championship since 2012 at the 2021 World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) U-18 Baseball World Cup in Bradenton and Sarasota, Florida,

CARY, N.C. – USA Baseball today named Jason Maxwell the manager of the 2021 18U National Team. Maxwell will lead Team USA as it competes for the program’s fifth world championship since 2012 at the 2021 World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) U-18 Baseball World Cup in Bradenton and Sarasota, Florida, in September.

“We are excited to have Jason Maxwell at the helm of the 18U National Team this year as we play for a world championship on our home soil,” 18U National Team General Manager Ashley Bratcher said. “Jason has been a part of our coaching system for years and we are confident he will guide the 18U National Team program to tremendous success. His passion, enthusiasm, and experience, combined with his deep knowledge of the game, will be invaluable assets to a group of incredible young athletes this year.”

“I am extremely grateful and honored to be named the manager of the USA Baseball 18U National Team,” said Maxwell. “There is a standard of excellence associated with USA Baseball, so having the opportunity to represent your country and wear the USA jersey is a privilege that I do not take for granted. I am excited about managing this team of great athletes and I am ready to embrace the challenge of leading Team USA to a gold medal at the 2021 U-18 Baseball World Cup!”

2021 marks Maxwell’s third time coaching for Team USA and his second stint as a manager for the red, white, and blue. After helping to guide the 2016 15U National Team to a WBSC U-15 Baseball World Cup bronze medal as an assistant coach, Maxwell made his managerial debut in 2018 and led the 15U National Team to the program’s first-ever world championship. The U.S. finished the tournament with an 8-1 record, a .323 batting average, 69 RBIs, 17 doubles, five triples, and three home runs while outscoring opponents 88-13. In addition, the pitching staff tallied a collective team ERA of 1.24 over 58 innings of work and four of Maxwell’s players were named to the WBSC U-15 Baseball World Cup All-World Team. The team was named the 2018 USA Baseball Team of the Year and Maxwell was honored as the 2018 USA Baseball Developmental Coach of the Year for his work with the squad.

Maxwell has also served as the field coordinator for the 2017 14U National Team Development Program (NTDP) and has worked at numerous National Team Trials, the USA Baseball National Team Championships, and the USA Baseball National Team Identification Series (NTIS) throughout his tenure with USA Baseball.

Maxwell is the head coach at Ensworth School (Nashville, Tenn.) and is currently in his 17th season at the helm. He has led the program to eight straight playoff appearances and two Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association quarterfinal appearances. Prior to his coaching career, he was an All-Conference player for Middle Tennessee State University in 1992 and 1993 before being selected by the Chicago Cubs in the 1993 Major League Baseball Draft and playing 12 years of professional baseball. After six seasons in the minor leagues, Maxwell made his Major League debut with the Cubs in 1998. He also saw playing time in the major leagues with the Minnesota Twins in 2000 and 2001 before beginning his coaching career in 2004 as the first coach in school history for Ensworth School. Maxwell finished his minor league career with 991 hits, 103 home runs, and 487 RBIs. 

In 2021, the Prospect Development Pipeline (PDP) League will serve as the primary identification event for the 18U National Team Trials. The PDP League is an invitation-based development and assessment opportunity for high school players eligible for the following year’s MLB Draft. It provides athletes with an unprecedented amateur experience, including competitive gameplay, player development sessions, educational seminars, and other programming to prepare players for a professional baseball career. The 2021 PDP League is scheduled to take place July 24-31 at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, North Carolina. 

18U National Team Trials will take place August 29-September 3 in Tampa, Florida. The final 20-man 18U National Team roster will be announced following Trials and the team will remain in Tampa for training from September 4-8 before taking part in the 2021 WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup. The U-18 Baseball World Cup will be hosted by the U.S. for the first time since 1995 in Bradenton and Sarasota, Florida, from September 10-19.

From 2011-2018, the 18U National Team program won eight consecutive international tournament titles, including winning four straight WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cups in 2012, 2013, 2015, and 2017. Currently the U.S. and Cuba are the only two countries to win four consecutive world championship titles at the U-18 level. In total, the 18U National Team has won eight world championships. Most recently, the 18U National Team earned the silver medal at the 2019 WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup in Gijang, South Korea.

The rest of the 2021 18U National Team staff, as well as more information about the 2021 18U National Team schedule, will be announced at a later date.

For the most up-to-date information on the 18U National Team, be sure to follow @USABaseball18U and @USABaseball on Twitter.

View More
Cowser

GSA Spotlight: Colton Cowser's Five-Tool Talent Shines For Sam Houston

April 23, 2021
First-round draft prospect Colton Cowser is good with wood. Last year, when COVID shut down just about everything, Cowser got into woodworking. His crown jewel was a gun cabinet that took him one week to build from scratch, working with a buddy from high school. In a sense, Cowser has

First-round draft prospect Colton Cowser is good with wood.

Last year, when COVID shut down just about everything, Cowser got into woodworking. His crown jewel was a gun cabinet that took him one week to build from scratch, working with a buddy from high school.

In a sense, Cowser has constructed his baseball career in a similar from-the-ground-up fashion. He went undrafted out of high school and had just one scholarship offer – from the Sam Houston Bearkats – which he accepted.

Cowser had the raw materials from which to become a prospect – good height at 6-3 and an ability to hit. But he was skinny and unpolished. Going from where he was when he graduated high school in 2018 to now at age 21 has taken a tremendous amount of sweat.

He has put in the work, chipping away at what were once weaknesses until he can now put some big numbers on display, including a .352/494/.696 slash line, 12 homers, 38 runs scored and 31 RBIs in 35 games. He is tied for fifth in the nation in homers, and he ranks first in the Southland Conference in long balls and runs scored.

“He has always had power potential, but this is happening sooner than most of us thought,” Bearkats hitting coach Shane Wedd said of Cowser, who now weighs 200 pounds with room to get to 225. “I thought this might happen later in his 20s, when he physically matured in pro ball.

“But he’s worked really hard in the weight room. He’s selective at the plate but aggressive when he needs to be.”

In the latest D1Baseball Top 100 college prospects list, Cowser ranks No. 6, making him a strong candidate for the top half of the first round. If that projection comes true, it would be a program record. As it stands, ex-major-league outfielder Glenn Wilson holds the Bearkats record for earliest draft selection, going 18th in 1977.

Cowser likely gets his athleticism from his mother, Anna, who played soccer at Texas A&M. She and Cowser’s dad, Dale, are both former high school soccer coaches.

Soccer wasn’t for Cowser, however. The only other sport he flirted with in high school was football, playing safety, outside linebacker and long-snapper through his sophomore year.

But baseball was his true love. Playing for Houston-area power Cypress Ranch, Cowser made All-State as a senior, batting .411 with 30 steals and 38 RBIs as he helped lead his school to the Class 6A state semifinals and a 32-8-2 record.

Bearkats coach Jay Sirianni was thrilled to sign Cowser, who bats left and throws right.

“He had come to one of our hitting camps, and we liked him,” Sirianni said. “He didn’t mishit balls. The barrel of his bat always found the ball, and we jumped all in on him.”

It helped that the Sam Houston campus is just 65 miles away from his home. It also helped that Cowser’s father went to school at Sam Houston.

Then again, Cowser didn’t have another viable option.

“Teams weren’t that high on me at the time, and I knew I had a lot of development I needed,” Cowser said. “I knew I could hit. But if I were going to take my game to the (pro) level, I had to go to college.

“Sam Houston is just one hour from home, and it was important to me that my family was able to come to my games. I also felt I had a good chance to play as a freshman and make an impact (at Sam Houston).”

Sure enough, Cowser became an immediate starter as a freshman in 2019, batting .361 with seven homers, 54 RBIs and nine steals in 56 games.

Following his freshman season, he made the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team, earning MVP honors after hitting .438 in the Cuba Friendship Series.

“He tasted success that year, and he came back to us that fall even hungrier,” Sirianni said. “Playing with Team USA, he faced good pitching every night. His confidence soared.”

Last year, in the COVID-shortened season, Cowser hit just .256 with one homer in 14 games.

This year, Cowser has made improvements across the board, including a .494 on-base percentage and a .696 slugging percentage. With his added power, he has turned some of the doubles he used to get as a freshman and sophomore into homers.

Hitting has always been Cowser’s forte, but he is a much better athlete than some casual observers may realize. Cowser has stolen 12 bases in 14 attempts this year, for example.

Defensively, he has moved from the corners — which is where he played in high school and through his freshman season at Sam Houston — to center field, where he has four assists and only two errors this season.

“He has a good feel for reading swings,” Wedd said. “He knows what pitch is coming, and he gets good jumps, takes good angles. After one time through the batting order (to learn the hitters), he takes charge.”

And while Cowser has yet to scale a fence to steal a would-be homer as a collegian, the potential is there due to his impressive 38.5-inch vertical leap.

“The kid can jump,” Bearkats catcher Gavin Johnson said.

Cowser has also strengthened his throwing ability.

“I’ve put myself in good position to be a five-tool player if I’m not already,” Cowser said when asked about his all-around athleticism. “We had such a long offseason — about eight months. I took advantage of that time. I got into a long-toss program, took care of my arm, and those things stacked up.”

Sirianni said Cowser has not let the pressure of the upcoming draft get to him.

“That kid never has a bad day,” Sirianni said of Cowser. “It’s refreshing to see a kid who has a lot on his shoulders still come be-bopping in here with a big smile on his face every day.”

As a hitter, Sirianni said Cowser likes the ball more elevated than most lefties, which is a nuance scouts are learning about him.

“I have a good relationship with area scouts and crosscheckers,” Sirianni said. “Some of them say Colton will go really high in the draft, and then there are some doubters. But Colton is comfortable that he will fall where he will fall.”

The son of two educators — including his father who is the assistant principal at Cy Ranch — Cowser has a 3.8 grade-point average and is on schedule to graduate in just three years.

Cowser is majoring in construction management and has an interest in one day building custom homes, which should come naturally to him.

After all, he has already carved out the start of an impressive baseball career.

D1Baseball.com is your online home for college baseball scores, schedules, standings, statistics, analysis, features, podcasts and prospect coverage.
View More
2021 Pro Team Staff

USA Baseball Finalizes 2021 Professional National Team Staff

Jerry Weinstein, Dave Wallace, Ernie Young, Darren Fenster, and Roly de Armas complete the Olympic qualifying staff
April 22, 2021
CARY, N.C. – USA Baseball Professional National Team Manager Mike Scioscia finalized the coaching staff for the 2021 World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Baseball Americas Qualification Event for the Games of the XXXII Olympiad Tokyo 2020, the organization announced today. Coaching alongside Scioscia will be Jerry Weinstein (Bench Coach), Dave Wallace

CARY, N.C. – USA Baseball Professional National Team Manager Mike Scioscia finalized the coaching staff for the 2021 World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Baseball Americas Qualification Event for the Games of the XXXII Olympiad Tokyo 2020, the organization announced today. Coaching alongside Scioscia will be Jerry Weinstein (Bench Coach), Dave Wallace (Pitching Coach), Ernie Young (Hitting Coach/First Base), Darren Fenster (Third Base), and Roly de Armas (Bullpen).

Combined, the 2021 staff brings 19 years of playing and coaching experience with Team USA to this year’s Professional National Team, having won five gold medals and five silver medals in their time representing the U.S. Additionally, Young was a member of the gold medal-winning team at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.

“I am pleased to welcome Roly de Armas, Darren Fenster, Dave Wallace, Jerry Weinstein, and Ernie Young to the Team USA coaching staff,” said Scioscia, USA Baseball Professional National Team Manager. “The value experience brings to a team cannot be overstated and we have assembled a coaching staff laden with it. Olympic qualifying is unique, so to have two coaches on staff who have been through this process before in Ernie, Jerry, and Roly is invaluable. With that said, the entire coaching staff collectively brings over 100 years of coaching practice to the table and I am thrilled to work with them as we set our sights on the Tokyo Olympic Games.”

Weinstein will serve as the Professional National Team’s bench coach in 2021, marking his fifth time on a Team USA staff in a coaching career that has spanned more than five decades at every level of the game. The American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) Hall of Famer began his time in the red, white, and blue by helping to guide the 1987 Collegiate National Team to silver medals in the X Pan American Games and the VIII Intercontinental Cup before serving as an assistant coach for the 1992 Olympic Team, the 1995 Collegiate National Team, and the 1996 Olympic Team. As part of those staffs, Weinstein helped lead Team USA to an Olympic bronze medal at the Atlanta 1996 Games and a National Baseball Congress World Series gold medal in 1995. Weinstein also managed Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic (WBC) qualifier, leading the team to its first WBC appearance after finishing the qualifier with a perfect 3-0 record.

He began his coaching career in 1966 and took over as the Sacramento City College manager in 1974, where he led the program to a National Community College Championship in 1998, 16 league championships, two state titles (1988 & 1998), and compiled a 831-208 record in 23 years at the helm. Weinstein then moved to professional baseball where he managed teams in the Washington Expos and Chicago Cubs organizations before serving as the Director of Player Development for the Los Angeles Dodgers from 2000-2001 and working as an assistant coach at Cal Poly from 2001-2005. In 2007, he joined the Colorado Rockies organization where he served in many roles at various levels of the organization until 2018, including catching coach and offensive coordinator for the major league club from 2012-2014, as well as manager of the Modesto Nuts (2007-2011) and the Hartford Yard Goats (2017). He then served as the Rockies’ Player Development and Scouting Special Assistant in 2018 and earned the Baseball America Tony Gwynn Lifetime Achievement Award the same year.

Weinstein was inducted into the ABCA Hall of Fame in 2009 and received the ABCA/Wilson Lefty Gomez Award in 2020 for contributions to the game locally, nationally, and internationally. He is also a member of the Sacramento City College Athletics Hall of Fame, the California Community College Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, and the Sacramento Baseball Hall of Fame. 

Wallace will make his Team USA debut as the pitching coach for the Professional National Team this summer. Wallace has spent 47 years in professional baseball, spanning nine professional franchises in various positions among the minor and major league levels. After a Hall of Fame career at the University of New Haven, he spent nine years as a pitcher in the professional ranks, playing for both the Philadelphia Phillies and the Toronto Blue Jays until 1978. Wallace began his coaching career in 1981 with the Vero Beach Dodgers and spent the next 14 years coaching in the minor leagues before being named the pitching coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1995.

Wallace went on to be the pitching coach for the New York Mets (1999-2000), Boston Red Sox (2003-2006), Houston Astros (2007), and the Baltimore Orioles (2014-2016), working with pitchers such as Pedro Martinez and Hideo Nomo, among others. He also held numerous executive positions within professional baseball throughout his career with the Atlanta Braves, Dodgers, Mets, and Seattle Mariners. Wallace most recently spent four years with the Braves as a special assistant to pitching (2016) and the director of pitching for Atlanta’s farm system (2017-2020). 

Olympic gold medalist Young will serve as the hitting and first base coach for the 2021 Professional National Team following an accomplished playing and coaching career with Team USA spanning 22 years. A member of the gold medal-winning Sydney 2000 Olympic Games team, he also played on the Professional National Team again in 2003. Young spent eight years playing in the major leagues for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, and Oakland Athletics between 1994 and 2004. He remained involved with Team USA after the Sydney Olympic Games by joining its Board of Directors in 2003 and eventually serving as a hitting coach for three national teams and managing the 2010 and 2011 Professional National Teams. With Young on the staff, Team USA amassed an overall record of 47-15-2 and won a world championship in 2009.

Fenster will make his Team USA debut in 2021 as the third base coach for the Professional National Team. He is currently in his third season as the Minor League Outfield and Baserunning Coordinator for the Boston Red Sox and his tenth season overall with the organization, having started as the hitting coach for the Greenville Drive in 2012. He was named manager of Greenville in 2014 and guided the Drive to its first South Atlantic League championship in team history in 2017 before being named the Portland Sea Dogs manager in 2018. Prior to joining the Red Sox, Fenster spent six seasons at his alma mater, Rutgers University, as Director of Operations, Assistant Coach, and Recruiting Coordinator. Additionally, he helped lead the St. Cloud River Bats to the Northwoods League title in 2007 and helped guide the Cape Cod Baseball League’s Orleans Cardinals to a league-best 25-17-2 regular season record in 2008.

As a player at Rutgers, Fenster was a two-time All-American and was named Big East Player of the Year in 2000 before being selected by the Kansas City Royals in the 2000 MLB Draft. He spent five seasons in the Royals minor league system, where he hit .267 with 63 doubles, 179 RBIs, and 215 walks in 438 games, and was named a Carolina League All-Star in 2002 and 2004. In 2008, Fenster was elected to the Rutgers Olympic Sports Hall of Fame. Drawing upon his baseball experiences as both a player and a coach, Fenster provides unique and insightful educational content as a contributor for the USA Baseball Develops Blog. He was named the first-ever USA Baseball Coach Educator of the Year in 2019 for his contributions that assist coaches, parents, and leagues in developing young players and improving their experience within the game of baseball. 

Returning as an assistant coach for the 11th time, de Armas will once again serve as the bullpen coach for Team USA. His first experience with Team USA came in 2006 as an assistant coach for the Olympic Qualifying Team that finished its tournament with a 6-1 overall record and secured Team USA a spot in the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. de Armas would return as a coach with USA Baseball in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2015, and 2019, winning two World Cup gold medals (2007, 2009), two Pan-American Games silver medals (2011, 2015), one Premier12TM silver medal (2015), and an Olympic bronze medal (2008).

de Armas also spent time as a coach in the Major Leagues with the Chicago White Sox (1995-96) and the Toronto Blue Jays (2000). In total, he has spent 33 seasons as a coach for several Major League Baseball organizations, including the Philadelphia Phillies, where he is currently the manager of the Gulf Coast League Phillies.

Team USA heads into the 2021 WBSC Baseball Americas Qualifier as the top ranked country in the event. The group play-formatted tournament will take place from May 31-June 5 in The Palm Beaches and St. Lucie County, Florida. The U.S. will be joined in Group A by the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Nicaragua, while Group B will consist of Cuba, Venezuela, Canada, and Colombia.

Following group play, the top two finishers from each group will each play two games in the Super Round. Records from the opening round will carry over and the team with the best record will be declared the winner, earning the fifth berth to the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games and joining Japan, Korea, Mexico, and Israel in the event.

The second and third place finishers will qualify for the WBSC Baseball Final Qualifier which is set to take place in June.

The 2021 Olympic Games will mark the first time baseball has been featured in the Games since 2008 in Beijing. Team USA won the bronze medal in that event after defeating Japan, 8-4, and finishing the tournament with a 6-3 overall record.

For more information on USA Baseball and the 2021 Professional National Team, follow @USABaseball on social media or visit USABaseball.com.

View More
Bratcher

Ashley Bratcher Named General Manager of 18U National Team Program

She will manage all aspects of the national team program, including 16U and 17U NTDP and the PDP League
April 20, 2021
CARY, N.C. – USA Baseball today named Ashley Bratcher General Manager of the 18U National Team program. She will manage all aspects of the 18U National Team program, including the 16U and 17U National Team Development Programs and the Prospect Development Pipeline (PDP) League. Additionally, she will continue to oversee the

CARY, N.C. – USA Baseball today named Ashley Bratcher General Manager of the 18U National Team program. She will manage all aspects of the 18U National Team program, including the 16U and 17U National Team Development Programs and the Prospect Development Pipeline (PDP) League. Additionally, she will continue to oversee the Baseball Operations department.

The 18U National Team program is a stalwart on the international stage. Winners of eight world championships dating back to 1988, the 18U program has won 13 gold medals in its history, including eight consecutive from 2011-2018. Major League Baseball (MLB) MVPs Bryce Harper, Eric Hosmer, Clayton Kershaw, Freddie Freeman, Joe Mauer, Andrew McCutchen, Buster Posey, and Alex Rodriguez have all represented the U.S. in this program, and 71 alumni have been selected in the first round of the MLB Draft since 2010.

"It is an exciting time for USA Baseball and that stems from naming Ashley Bratcher as the General Manager for our 18U National Team,” said USA Baseball Executive Director and CEO Paul Seiler. “Ashley is eminently qualified for this position. She is highly knowledgeable and very well respected within the game of baseball, and we are incredibly excited for her to take responsibility and ownership of this program. We know she will do a great job representing our 18U National Team and our nation on the international stage."

“I am extremely honored to be named the General Manager for the 18U National Team,” said Bratcher. “I have had a host of tremendous opportunities throughout my career at USA Baseball that have prepared me for this new role. I look forward to calling upon those experiences and the relationships I have cultivated over the past twelve years to sustain and build upon the successful history of the 18U program.”

The 2021 18U National Team will compete on its home soil for its ninth world championship this September. For the first time since 1995, the United States will host the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) U-18 Baseball World Cup. The event will take place September 10-19 in Bradenton and Sarasota, Florida.

Bratcher joined USA Baseball in 2009 as an operations intern and was promoted to the Director of Operations later in the same year. In that role, she ran baseball camps, managed all operational needs at the USA Baseball National Training Complex, and oversaw the Women’s National Team program. Bratcher was elevated to Director of National Team Development Programs and Women’s National Team in 2012 and was named Senior Director of Baseball Operations in 2015. For the past six years she supervised the 12U, 15U, and Women’s National Team programs, the 14U National Team Development Program (NTDP), the National Team Identification Series (NTIS), the National Team Championships, and the 13U/14U Athlete Development Program.

As the program director for the 15U National Team, Bratcher led the team to three consecutive gold medals from 2017-2019, including its first world championship in program history at the 2018 WBSC U-15 Baseball World Cup and back-to-back gold medals at the WBSC U-15 Baseball World Cup Qualifier in 2017 and 2019. She also led the Women’s National Team to a gold medal in the inaugural women’s baseball tournament at the Pan American Games in 2015 and a gold medal at the 2019 COPABE Women's Pan-American Championships.

Additionally, she currently serves on the Steering Committee for the newly acquired Appalachian League as part of the PDP and has been integral in its daily operation as USA Baseball prepares for its inaugural season.

Bratcher graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in exercise and sports science. While at UNC, she worked with the 21-time NCAA National Champion women's soccer program as both a team manager and camp administrator. Bratcher also completed the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau’s scout development program in 2017.

View More
LeeGSA

GSA Spotlight: Rare Baseball Mind Makes Cal Poly’s Brooks Lee Special

April 16, 2021
Brooks Lee was sitting in a two-hour freshman sociology class on a Monday morning. He wore a different expression on his face than the big smile he had a day earlier when he stood at second base following the first hit of his collegiate career, a pinch-hit two-run double for

Brooks Lee was sitting in a two-hour freshman sociology class on a Monday morning. He wore a different expression on his face than the big smile he had a day earlier when he stood at second base following the first hit of his collegiate career, a pinch-hit two-run double for Cal Poly against Baylor.

He was bored and antsy, so he texted his father, Cal Poly head coach Larry Lee. Brooks wasn’t looking for advice or asking dad for some extra spending money to be deposited in his account. Brooks was looking for a login and asking his father for the password to Larry’s Synergy Sports account where college baseball coaches can access video of prior games.

Ninety minutes later, Brooks arrived at Baggett Stadium, a place that has brightened his mood since he was in diapers coming to watch his father’s teams play. He stopped by his dad’s office before going to get some individual work. Larry asked about Brooks’ mid-lecture request. Was he watching his lone highlight, basking in the excitement of returning to the field? He couldn’t be blamed if so, after four and a half months of rehab following knee reconstruction surgery.

But Brooks wasn’t looking back. He was actually looking forward to the upcoming weekend’s four-game series against Oklahoma, when he was slated to move into the starting lineup for the first time.

“After class he comes in and he broke down all four starters for Oklahoma,” Larry said. “I just started laughing and he was spot on. That’s just what he does.”

Brooks’ personal scouting report on Sooners’ aces Cade Cavalli and Dane Acker is quickly rattled off when the story is separately brought up to him. He comments about the velocity he was expecting to face from Cavalli in his first college start and mentions Acker had thrown a no-hitter just a couple weeks prior. “Or was it a perfect game?” he questions himself as he’s quick to tag the game was played in Minute Maid Park. (Acker no-hit LSU, allowing a walk and two hit batsmen.)

Brooks has a baseball brain. Combined with his physical attributes, including the 20-25 pounds of muscle he’s added since arriving on campus and the razor whip wrist action he creates with each swing, it’s why he was named to the Golden Spikes midseason watch list on Wednesday.

His brain is wired to assess velocity, movement and spin rather than the study of social issues; launch angle and trajectory over social theories. (Though, Brooks points out he also did well in the class and that Larry has always been on him about grades, including a 12:30 a.m. text telling him to stay on top of his school work when Cal Poly arrived back on campus Sunday after splitting a four-game series at Long Beach State.) While a freshman 101 lecture is a bore, watching hours of opposing pitchers’ video or breaking down still images of swings has always been fun for Brooks. The walls of his childhood bedroom at the Lee household are remain smothered with photos of Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, Carlos Beltran and other major league hitters.

“Even when he was really young like 8 or 9 years old, he could break down video,” Larry said with a chuckle. “And there were some things that were said that just, I knew he was on the right track and had the ability to do that.”

Larry doesn’t take offense and the coaching staff doesn’t stop Brooks when he jumps in the pregame meeting with the Cal Poly hitters to give his thoughts and insights from what he’s seen on film from the opposing starting pitcher and relievers they may face. He’s only a (second-year) freshman, but his Mustangs’ teammates respect his opinion and value his perspective.

“He always joins in like he’s one of the coaches,” Larry said. “He says this is what he sees, this is probably how we should approach this pitcher. He really thinks the game and he wants to be prepared. He wants to have a very precise approach, but he also has the ability once the game starts to adjust that approach.”

Brooks was forced to make some big adjustments his first year on campus. A freak injury in the fall put his season in jeopardy. During the second week of practice, he slipped coming out of the box running to first base on a groundout. As he tried to get his feet underneath him, he hyperextended his knee. The lateral collateral ligament in his knee and his biceps femoris hamstring muscle both snapped. He also broke off a small piece of the fibular head where the fibula attaches to the knee. Doctors told Brooks there had only been 20 reported cases of a similar injury in the last 50 years. He had surgery on Halloween and was determined to work even harder to get back as soon as possible. 

“As bad as it sounds, I feel like I actually got better because of it,” Brooks said. “I completely changed my body and I’m thankful for it now for sure.”

He was able to use the first month of the season as a preview for when he was cleared. He felt ready for the speed of the game, the repertoire of the pitchers and everything else that was going to be thrown at him despite returning more than two months earlier than the doctors anticipated. He got a pair of pinch-hit opportunities against Baylor and was preparing for his first start at shortstop against the Sooners. 

The day the series was supposed to begin Brooks, like the rest of the college baseball world, was forced to adjust on the fly once more. The season was canceled due to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. It was disappointing for the entire sport, but the timing was devastating for Brooks after all the work he had put in to return in 2020. He called it a “heartbreaker,” but ever the optimist, he also saw it as an opportunity to have more time to get himself ready for the 2021 season.

Lee was able to go play summer ball in Minnesota for the Willmar Stingers, where he answered any questions about his talent and the big high school numbers he had produced in a weak league (.437/.487/.630 with 78 R, 78 RBI and only 22 K in 328 plate appearances over three seasons). He was one of the top hitters in the Northwoods League, batting .345 with seven doubles, four homers and 35 RBIs in 36 games. He had a 19-game hitting streak and finished top 10 in several offensive categories.

His confidence grew even more, especially after the switch-hitter batted around .400 from the right side — where he had grown so frustrated during the early stages of quarantine he told his dad he didn’t want to swing righthanded any more.

“My dad just told me to stay with it and that’s what I did,” Brooks said. “It’s not fun when you’re not doing good on one side, but in the end, I think it’s more important to stick with it because it allows you to have more success. 

“It’s way harder to hit right on right or left on left and I never want to do it ever. I just try and stick with it, and when someone wants me to stop hitting righthanded or lefthanded, I’m going to tell them no because my dad told me not to.”

One of the hardest parts of being a switch-hitter has been getting opportunities to swing righthanded. Lefthanded pitchers were rare in high school. That’s been the case with the starting pitchers Cal Poly has faced this season too. The Mustangs have faced only four southpaw starters in 26 games this season, including Long Beach State lefty Alfredo Ruiz on Saturday. Ruiz kept Lee in check, getting him to fly out three times, but Dirtbags head coach Eric Valenzuela never felt comfortable when Lee was sauntering to the plate.

“His numbers say he’s a better lefthand hitter than righthanded, but man, he was as dangerous righthanded as well. Tough AB. He really is,” said Valenzuela, who added they were able to get him to pull off the ball with an approach early in the series, but Lee soon made an adjustment. “Other than that, he hit everything.”

Lee went 6 for 15, reaching base two other times on a walk and a hit by pitch. He had a double in each game, pushing his doubles streak to six games while moving into double digits with his hit streak. He finished the weekend with a .400/.471/.667 slash line and drove in three runs.

For Valenzuela, the damage could have been worse: “There were a couple misses that he had that were like to the fence that we threw good pitches. He’s pretty damn special.”

The scarier part for opposing coaches and pitchers? Lee doesn’t even feel like he’s in the zone right now. The first four weeks of the season, he hit .440 with four home runs, including two off Pac-12 pitching as he notched multi-hit performances in five of six matchups with USC and UCLA.

“For whatever reason, I was just in a flow state from the start of the season till about the fourth week. The ball looks big. You can see spin and you feel like you’re never off balance. Sometimes you just feel like you know the pitch before it’s coming. I swear. It’s the weirdest feeling,” Lee said. “That’s kind of when I knew that I could do some more things in the game than what I’ve been able to do earlier in my career.”

Lee has flashed power in batting practice and in showcase events in high school, but that’s not something he ever focused on in games. Instead, he just sprayed rockets all over the yard from foul line to foul line from either side of the plate. He tried to hit low line drives and said occasionally he would get under one or out in front a little bit leading to a ball sailing over the fence. 

But Lee now has more strength after spending his time in the weight room when he was unable to play his freshman year. A slender 6-foot-3, 180 pounds when he first really opened eyes and turned heads at the Area Code Games by collecting knock after knock — including lining the only base hit against Jack Leiter, who proceeded to strike out the next five batters he faced — Lee is now a thick 205 pounds. More than the strength element, Lee feels he’s tapped into additional power because his swing has become even more fluid. He is standing taller in the box and wielding the bat with even better command.

“I just feel like it’s a pure swing now, lefthanded especially,” Lee said. “Everything flows very fluidly. That’s kind of what led me to hitting offspeed pitches for power and then going to the opposite field.”

He’s hitting fewer singles than ever while still producing a high batting average. He’s got more extra-base hits than single-base hits. He is second in the Big West with six home runs. He is second in the nation with 15 doubles and he’s chipped in a pair of triples as well. Lee leads the Big West in RBIs, slugging percentage and total bases. He’s tied for the lead in sacrifice flies and he’s third in the conference in runs scored.

And yet what stands out most to those around him is what he does for everyone else.

“I can’t speak more highly of this kid,” Cal Poly pitching coach Jake Silverman said. “He’s really good. Everyone knows that, but he works so hard, and he’s so smart, and he makes everyone around him now much better.”

Silverman has been around first rounders Christian Colon, Gary Brown and Jeff Gelalich along with major leaguers Khris Davis, Pat Valaika and Kevin Kramer among others while coaching at Cal State Fullerton and UCLA. Still, he says Lee is top three, if not the best player he’s been around. 

“Brooks just his presence and his communication and leadership ability, whether you’re a pitcher or a hitter, you’re better with him around you,” Silverman said. 

“I just want to try and get everybody as best as they can and if something needs to be said, I’ll say it,” Lee said. “I just try and put all the knowledge I can that I’ve learned mostly from [Larry] to our players. It’s a different feeling when you have like a peer say something to you rather than a coach because a coach just says the same thing over and over. I try and put it into better words, as a captain, but it’s a real cool feeling just to give my knowledge to some of the other players.”

Not only is Lee studying film of opposing pitchers and relaying the information he takes away to the Cal Poly batters. He also will pass along information about the Mustangs’ pitchers to Silverman between innings during a game. Lee will let him know what he sees from his shortstop position, like when a pitcher’s slider may not be as sharp or a fastball has more late life than usual. He’s not dissecting mechanics in the middle of his defensive approach step as a pitch is being delivered, but his feedback gives Silverman more data points to then craft subtle in-game adjustments or go in a different direction with his pitch calling.

What makes Lee’s observations so reliable?  The amount of college baseball he’s already witnessed at the age of 20 and all the countless hours of video he’s pored over dating back to when he was eight or nine years old. He’s been watching and facing college pitchers for years now. He started taking live batting practice and filling in defensively at his father’s practices when he was in seventh grade.

“I’ve just seen so much baseball from this level like as a young kid and over and over,” he said. “I just had a real long time to look at pitchers and then we used to use Dartfish, which is like an extremely old [motion-capture] computer program for pitching and stuff like that. We would go over that when we were in the old clubhouse when I was a kid. 

“Video has basically been the thing for me all along because I feel like if I look at video long enough, it just gets cemented into my brain and people with the same repeatable delivery as another pitcher that I’ve already seen, you can think of what the aspects of their pitching repertoire is going to be like.”

D1Baseball.com is your online home for college baseball scores, schedules, standings, statistics, analysis, features, podcasts and prospect coverage.
View More
21GSA-Midseason-WatchList-nophotoFBTwitter

USA Baseball Unveils 2021 Golden Spikes Award Midseason Watch List

The 43rd Golden Spikes Award will be presented in July
April 14, 2021
CARY, N.C. – USA Baseball unveiled today the 2021 Golden Spikes Award midseason watch list, moving closer to naming the top amateur baseball player in the country. The winner of the 43rd Golden Spikes Award will be announced in July. The midseason watch list features 45 of the nation's top

CARY, N.C. – USA Baseball unveiled today the 2021 Golden Spikes Award midseason watch list, moving closer to naming the top amateur baseball player in the country. The winner of the 43rd Golden Spikes Award will be announced in July.

The midseason watch list features 45 of the nation's top amateur players from the high school and college ranks and includes 34 athletes who have played their way onto the watch list since the preseason list was announced on February 18. The Golden Spikes Award Advisory Board will continue to maintain a rolling list of athletes, allowing players to play themselves into consideration for the award before announcing the semifinalists on June 8.

“We are happy to recognize forty-five amateur athletes on the Golden Spikes Award midseason watch list who put together stellar performances throughout the first half of the season,” said Paul Seiler, USA Baseball’s Executive Director and CEO. “Each of these athletes have proven themselves worthy of consideration for this prestigious award and we cannot wait to watch the rest of this exciting season unfold before announcing our semifinalists in June.” 

The watch list is headlined by Adrian Del Castillo (Miami) and Kumar Rocker (Vanderbilt), who both appeared on two consecutive preseason watch lists in 2020 and 2021. Additionally, Kenyon Yovan (Oregon) was named to the 2021 midseason watch list as a hitter after appearing on the preseason list in 2019 as a pitcher.

Vanderbilt University leads all 40 schools represented with three athletes on the 2021 midseason watch list while Arizona, Mississippi State, and Texas Tech each placed two athletes on the list.

In total, 17 different NCAA conferences have at least one athlete on the list. The Southeastern Conference leads all conferences represented on the midseason watch list with nine athletes, while seven players represent the Atlantic Coast Conference and five hail from the Big 12 Conference.

One National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and two high school athletes are on the midseason watch list in 2021 and will look to join Alex Fernandez (1990) and Bryce Harper (2010) as a Golden Spikes Award winner who claimed their respective trophies as a non-NCAA Division I athlete. Luis Vargas (Wayland Baptist) represents the NAIA on the list while Brady House (Winder-Barrow High School) and Jordan Lawlar (Dallas Jesuit High School) are the only high school baseball players recognized by the advisory board on the midseason watch list in 2021.

Oregon State’s Adley Rutschman took home the prestigious award most recently in 2019, joining a group of recent winners that include Andrew Vaughn (2018), Brendan McKay (2017), Kyle Lewis (2016), Andrew Benintendi (2015), A.J. Reed (2014), Kris Bryant (2013), Mike Zunino (2012), Trevor Bauer (2011), Bryce Harper (2010), Stephen Strasburg (2009), Buster Posey (2008), and David Price (2007).

On Tuesday, June 8, USA Baseball will announce the semifinalists for the 2021 Golden Spikes Award. The list of semifinalists will then be sent to a voting body consisting of baseball media members, select professional baseball personnel, current USA Baseball staff and the previous winners of the award, representing a group of more than 200 voters. As part of this selection process, all voters will be asked to choose three players from the list of semifinalists. On June 24, USA Baseball will announce the finalists, and voting for the winner will begin that same day.

Fan voting will once again be a part of the Golden Spikes Award in 2021. Beginning with the semifinalist announcement and continuing through the finalist round voting deadline, fans from across the country will be able to vote for their favorite player on GoldenSpikesAward.com. 

The winner of the 43rd Golden Spikes Award will be named in July. To stay up-to-date on the 2021 Golden Spikes Award visit GoldenSpikesAward.com and follow @USAGoldenSpikes on Twitter and Instagram. 

  • The 2021 Golden Spikes Award timeline:
  • June 8: USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award semifinalists announced, voting begins
  • June 15: USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award semifinalists voting ends
  • June 24: USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award finalists announced, voting begins
  • July 2: USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award finalists voting ends
  • July: USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award trophy presentation
  • A complete list of the Golden Spikes Award midseason watch list is as follows:

    • Name, Position, School, Conference
    • Luke Albright; RHP; Kent State; MAC
    • Spencer Arrighetti; RHP; Louisiana; Sun Belt
    • Sam Bachman; RHP; Miami (OH); Mid-American
    • Dru Baker; UTL; Texas Tech; Big 12
    • Will Bednar; RHP; Mississippi State; Southeastern
    • Jacob Berry; INF; Arizona; Pac-12
    • Mason Black; RHP; Lehigh; Patriot
    • Branden Boissiere; INF; Arizona; Pac-12
    • Rodney Boone; RHP; UC Santa Barbara; Big West
    • Justin Campbell; RHP/1B; Oklahoma State; Big 12
    • Wes Clarke; 1B; South Carolina; Southeastern
    • Dylan Crews; OF; LSU; Southeastern
    • Henry Davis; C; Louisville; Atlantic Coast
    • Adrian Del Castillo; C; Miami; Atlantic Coast
    • Jaden Fein; OF; San Diego State; Mountain West
    • Sal Frelick; OF; Boston College; Atlantic Coast
    • Colton Gordon; LHP; UCF; American
    • Caden Grice; 1B; Clemson; Atlantic Coast
    • Geremy Guerrero; LHP; Indiana State; Missouri Valley
    • Steve Hajjar; LHP; Michigan; Big 10
    • Dominic Hamel; RHP; Dallas Baptist; Missouri Valley
    • Tyler Hardman; INF; Oklahoma; Big 12
    • Brady House; SS; Winder-Barrow
    • Jace Jung; INF; Texas Tech; Big 12
    • Niko Kavadas; INF; Notre Dame; Atlantic Coast
    • Dominic Keegan; UTL; Vanderbilt; Southeastern
    • Austin Knight; INF; Charlotte; C-USA
    • Jordan Lawlar; SS; Dallas Jesuit
    • Brooks Lee; SS; Cal Poly; Big West
    • Jack Leiter; RHP; Vanderbilt; Southeastern
    • Tommy Mace; RHP; Florida; Southeastern
    • Ty Madden; RHP; Texas; Big 12
    • Jordan Marks; RHP; USC Upstate; Big South
    • Parker Messick; LHP; Florida State; Atlantic Coast
    • Matt Mikulski; LHP; Fordham; Atlantic 10
    • Connor Norby; INF; ECU; American
    • Kevin Parada; C; Georgia Tech; Atlantic Coast
    • Zack Raabe; 2B; Minnesota; Big 10
    • Kumar Rocker; RHP; Vanderbilt; Southeastern
    • Landon Sims; RHP; Mississippi State; Southeastern
    • Nick Sinacola; RHP; Maine; America East
    • Liam Spence; INF; Tennessee; Southeastern
    • Andrew Taylor; RHP; Central Michigan; MAC
    • Luis Vargas; OF; Wayland Baptist; Sooner Athletic
    • Kenyon Yovan; INF; Oregon; Pac-12
View More
Koerner-FBTW

Jim Koerner Named USA Baseball Director of Player Development

He will develop on-field programming for national team and development programs after 20 years as a college coach
April 13, 2021
CARY, N.C. – USA Baseball announced today the hiring of Jim Koerner as its Director of Player Development. Following 20 years of coaching at the collegiate level, Koerner will now be responsible for developing on-field programming for USA Baseball’s six national teams and three national team development programs. He will

CARY, N.C. – USA Baseball announced today the hiring of Jim Koerner as its Director of Player Development. Following 20 years of coaching at the collegiate level, Koerner will now be responsible for developing on-field programming for USA Baseball’s six national teams and three national team development programs. He will also produce curriculums related to player development for USABDevelops.com, the organization’s free online educational resource center.

Koerner will also serve as the Field Coordinator at the Prospect Development Pipeline League, the premier development and showcase experience for high school draft prospects from Major League Baseball and USA Baseball, and the primary identification event for the 18U National Team. Additionally, he will assist with player and staff identification for all 10 clubs in the Appalachian League and serve as a roving instructor during the season. Koerner will start with USA Baseball following the 2021 college baseball season.

"We could not be more thrilled to have Jim joining USA Baseball as our Director of Player Development,” said Paul Seiler, USA Baseball Executive Director/CEO. “His passion for our game and for developing young athletes is inspiring, and the knowledge he has gained over two decades of coaching will be an invaluable asset to all of the players and coaches that come through our programs. From our national teams to the Prospect Development Pipeline League, the new MLB Draft Combine, and the Appalachian League, Jim will be integral in ensuring all of our athletes grow both on and off the field.”

“I am honored to accept this position with USA Baseball,” said Koerner. “This organization represents a standard of excellence that is unmatched in the amateur baseball world and one that I am excited to be a part of going forward. I want to thank everyone involved in the process that helped make this opportunity possible and I am excited to get started!”

Koerner has been the head coach at North Carolina Central University (NCCU) from 2011-2021. As just the second head coach in the program’s modern-day history, Koerner took NCCU baseball to new heights in his 10 years at the helm. Under his guidance, the Eagles set the school record for wins twice, in 2013 (27) and again in 2018 (28). He also coached two MLB Draft picks with NCCU, including Corey Joyce, who became the highest selection in program history when he was taken in the 12th round by the Detroit Tigers in 2019. Koerner helped lead NCCU’s transition to the NCAA Division I level in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference during the 2011-2012 season and has since coached 31 All-MEAC selections, including the 2017 and 2019 MEAC Rookies of the Year and the 2018 and 2019 MEAC Players of the Year.

Before his time at NCCU, Koerner was an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at the University of Buffalo from 2007-2011, helping the Bulls reach their best offensive performances in program history in 2009 and 2010. The team recorded an all-time high in wins since 1999 during the 2009 season and set the records for team batting average (.312), home runs (46), and stolen bases (71) in 2010. In those two seasons combined, the Bulls broke over 25 season, career, team, and individual records.

He began his coaching career in 2001 as the head coach at Medaille College, where he helped found the program and was named the 2003 North Eastern Athletic Conference Coach of the Year. In 2004, he moved to the Division I ranks as an assistant coach at Monmouth University before taking the assistant coach and recruiting coordinator role at Marshall University from 2005-2006. During that time, Marshall ranked highly among NCAA teams in most offensive categories and Koerner helped Adam Frederick break the program’s all-time hits record (250) while also recruiting and signing several of the Top 100 rated players in the Northeast.

Koerner received his bachelor’s degree in economics in 1997 from St. John Fisher College (N.Y.) and a master’s degree in athletic administration from Marshall University. 

For more information on USA Baseball, visit USABaseball.com and follow along on Twitter @USABaseball.

View More
AS98HF

WBSC Americas Qualifier Set from May 31-June 5 in Florida

Many of baseball's top-ranked nations will be competing in Florida for one spot in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic baseball tournament
April 13, 2021
The World Baseball Softball Confederation today announced the official cities and venues of the WBSC Baseball Americas Qualifier, with the event to be staged from 31 May to 5 June in The Palm Beaches & St. Lucie County, Florida. The WBSC Baseball Americas Qualifier, hosted by USA Baseball, will see eight

The World Baseball Softball Confederation today announced the official cities and venues of the WBSC Baseball Americas Qualifier, with the event to be staged from 31 May to 5 June in The Palm Beaches & St. Lucie County, Florida.

The WBSC Baseball Americas Qualifier, hosted by USA Baseball, will see eight participating National Teams battle for one spot in the six-team Tokyo 2020 Olympic baseball tournament at Clover Park in St. Lucie County and The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach.

"The teams and the entire baseball world are all looking forward to this exciting moment to arrive on the road to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020,” said WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari. “Now with the dates and venues locked in place, anticipation builds even higher for this important qualifier, which we hope will provide an excellent preview of the Tokyo 2020 Games and what they represent, as a symbol of hope and inspiration.”

The competing participants will be split into two groups to start the qualifier:

Group A: No. 2 USA, No. 10 Dominican Republic, No. 11 Puerto Rico and No. 15 Nicaragua.
Group B: No. 8 Cuba, No. 9 Venezuela, No. 13 Canada and No. 14 Colombia.

After group play concludes, the top two finishers from each group will advance to the Super Round, where they will each play two games. Head-to-head contests among these teams from the opening round will carry over into the Super Round standings.

The team with the best Super Round record will be declared the winner and become the fifth National Team to advance to the Tokyo Olympic baseball tournament, joining world No. 1 Japan, No. 3 Korea, No. 5 Mexico and No. 18 Israel.

The second-and the third-place teams will qualify for the WBSC Baseball Final Qualifier, scheduled from 16 to 20 June in Taiwan at Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium and Douliou Baseball Stadium in Douliu City.

The other participating teams are world No. 4 Chinese Taipei, No. 6 Australia, No. 9 Netherlands and No. 22 China.

The format, groups and schedule of the final qualifier will be announced in a future communication.

View More
FBTW-Crashcourse1

USA Baseball and TeachAids Unite to Provide Concussion Education

April 12, 2021
CARY, N.C. – USA Baseball, the national governing body for the sport in the United States, announces a new partnership with TeachAids, an award-winning nonprofit leader in global education innovation. Together, they will distribute CrashCourse concussion content to educate athletes, parents and coaches throughout the nation. CrashCourse is an education

CARY, N.C. – USA Baseball, the national governing body for the sport in the United States, announces a new partnership with TeachAids, an award-winning nonprofit leader in global education innovation. Together, they will distribute CrashCourse concussion content to educate athletes, parents and coaches throughout the nation.

CrashCourse is an education initiative to provide the latest medical knowledge about the prevention and treatment of concussions. It was developed alongside leading medical, education, engineering, and science researchers and with input from world-class coaches and athletes. CrashCourse offers a unique educational experience that helps correct common myths and misconceptions in order to better recognize and address symptoms of a concussion.

“CrashCourse is a fantastic tool to raise awareness and understanding of concussions in athletes,” said Dr. Josh Bloom, Chief Medical Officer of the USA Baseball Medical Oversight Commission and Medical Director for Carolina Sports Concussion Clinic. “Simply put, the more our athletes know about these injuries, the better. We are proud that USA Baseball continues to be a leader in concussion education and treatment. Providing CrashCourse education for all levels of our athletes is another important positive step.”

Concussions are one of the most widely discussed issues in sports. USA Baseball prides itself in promoting best practices for concussion education amongst its community. It is proud to join a growing cohort of national governing bodies of sport that are providing the CrashCourse concussion education materials to their members.

“USA Baseball is excited to partner with TeachAids and their team of world class medical and scientific experts,” said Paul Seiler, USA Baseball Executive Director and CEO. “This partnership provides a valuable resource for our coaches and officials and a sound foundation for safer sport participation from youth leagues on up, both in practice and in competition.”

“We are proud to work with USA Baseball and look forward to instituting our CrashCourse concussion education into their programming. They have been a leader in supporting athletes of all ages with pedagogically grounded and effective education to make their sport safer for all,” says Dr. Piya Sorcar, Founder and CEO of TeachAids

The CrashCourse curriculum will be used throughout USA Baseball’s programs nationwide via their website. To find out more about CrashCourse by TeachAids, visit http://crashcourse.teachaids.org.

View More
YBM-YouthManual-TW1

USA Baseball Announces Development of Youth Baseball Manual

The manual aims to assist coaches in providing a safe, positive, development-based experience for athletes
April 9, 2021
CARY, N.C. – USA Baseball announced today the development of its new Youth Baseball Manual presented by US Sports Club Insurance. The manual aims to support the thousands of youth baseball coaches around the country by providing a positive, development-based experience to their athletes. The manual provides coaches with a

CARY, N.C. – USA Baseball announced today the development of its new Youth Baseball Manual presented by US Sports Club Insurance. The manual aims to support the thousands of youth baseball coaches around the country by providing a positive, development-based experience to their athletes.

The manual provides coaches with a fundamental framework to build an athlete-focused culture within their leagues and is suited for both youth leagues with longstanding traditions of on-field excellence, as well as for leagues and coaches that are building a program from the ground up. Importantly, the manual highlights health and safety resources to help ensure athletes are provided with a safe and secure environment for play.

The Youth Baseball Manual presented by US Sports Club Insurance is available to the public at no charge at www.USABDevelops.com or can be accessed directly at YouthBaseballManual.com.

“We are proud to provide free support to youth baseball programs and to thousands of volunteer coaches across the country with our new Youth Baseball Manual,” said Paul Seiler, USA Baseball Executive Director/CEO. “The importance of community-based baseball programs in the development of our game cannot be overstated, and USA Baseball is excited to help create a consistent framework for those programs so that athletes can continue to learn and grow in a safe, positive, and healthy environment.”

This initiative continues USA Baseball's reach into the amateur baseball landscape and specifically reinforces its commitment to the proliferation of community-based baseball in the United States. The manual boosts the youth baseball experience and allows for the consistent development for any athlete, regardless of their skill level.

Key concepts from the Youth Baseball Manual include:

  • The importance of emphasizing enjoyment of the game and the best interests of the athletes.
  • How to create appropriate practice and game plans based on the USA Baseball Long-Term Athlete Development Plan that enables maximum engagement, movement, and physical activity.
  • The benefits of supporting athletes’ participation in multiple sports.
  • How to manage relationships within a program, including conflict resolution techniques.
  • How to develop a positive team culture.
  • Best practices concerning health and safety.
  • How to keep the game fun.
  •  

For more information on the Youth Baseball Manual, and other similar educational resources produced by USA Baseball, such as the Mobile Coach App, Long-Term Athlete Development Plan and others, visit USABDevelops.com. All resources produced by USA Baseball are provided free of charge to the public.

View More
Leiter_GSASpot_Article

GSA Spotlight: Vandy’s Leiter Proving To Be One Of A Kind

April 9, 2021
Just a few starts into his second-year freshman campaign, Vanderbilt righthander Jack Leiter is already the premier starting pitcher in college baseball. Leiter, a 6-foot-1, 205-pounder, put together a fine freshman campaign before the 2020 season came to an end. He tallied a 1.92 ERA in 15.2 innings of work,

Just a few starts into his second-year freshman campaign, Vanderbilt righthander Jack Leiter is already the premier starting pitcher in college baseball.

Leiter, a 6-foot-1, 205-pounder, put together a fine freshman campaign before the 2020 season came to an end. He tallied a 1.92 ERA in 15.2 innings of work, along with 22 strikeouts and eight walks. Teams hit him at a .098 clip. He did not make an SEC start.

Coming into this season, we were sky high on Leiter’s overall stuff and his potential. But there were some naysayers out there. They said let’s tap the brakes until Leiter actually goes head-to-head with one of the premier lineups in the Southeastern Conference.

Well, Leiter rose to the occasion and showed unbridled potential in his first-ever SEC start against South Carolina. He made history. He struck out 16 batters in the complete game performance. And the only thing separating him from a no-hitter and a perfect game? A walk to the leadoff hitter in the first inning. It was that close.

Leiter did not slow down after the South Carolina start. If anything, his dominance continued at the same rate. A week later at Missouri, he struck out 10, walked two and once again didn’t allow a hit in seven innings of work. For anyone who watched the game, was there any doubt that he would’ve thrown a second straight no-hitter had Vandy head coach Tim Corbin not done the responsible thing and taken him out of the game after 101 pitches?


 The Leit Show hit the road last weekend to Baton Rouge to face an LSU team with its back against the wall. And perhaps no single inning could encapsulate Leiter’s maturity, demeanor and overall stuff better than his first inning against LSU.

Riding a 16-inning no-hit streak in SEC play entering the game against LSU, the Tigers appeared to have Leiter potentially on the ropes in the first inning. The righty struck out talented LSU freshman Tre Morgan on a 97 mph heater to start the game, but the second hitter reached base via an error and they loaded the bases after a pair of walks.

Leiter went to work. He struck out Cade Doughty on a filthy slider for the second out, and he escaped the jam by striking out Cade Beloso on a 95 mph heater. There was no celebration or fist pumping. Leiter casually walked off the field like a true professional. After all, he expected that result. His no-hit streak reached 20 innings in that game before LSU finally got a hit to leadoff the fifth inning.

He’s that good, and his overall numbers just reinforce that feeling. For the season, Leiter has a 0.43 ERA in 42 innings, along with 71 strikeouts and 16 walks. Teams are hitting him at a ridiculously low .074 clip. His marks in the strikeout and OBA categories rank No. 1 in Division I Baseball.

“I think that’s where he kind of separates himself among a lot of people — just the maturity he has in everything that he does,” Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said. “Whether it’s in the actual classroom, or our classroom, he’s always locked in. He’s not one of those guys you ever see yawning — he’s always upright and he’s always on every word that you’re saying.

“He’s a Dean’s List type of student. You go into his locker and everything is very, very detailed,” he added. “He’s got a mental organization and maturity. I think that has a lot to do with the fact he grew up with three sisters, is a good brother and has a very intelligent mom with a great disposition about her. And they’ve certainly lived the baseball life with his dad.

“He’s just very settled into what he’s doing out there,” he added. “He’s got a very good routine and he’s just very organized when he gets to the ballpark. Jack is a baseball player first, then a pitcher. And I think Al [Leiter] should take some credit for that. He taught his kid how to pitch before he taught his kid how to throw. There’s definitely an aptitude for pitching that supersedes arm strength.”

Corbin recalled when the Commodores were recruiting Leiter early in his high school career. Though Leiter will comfortably sit in the 93-96 and up to 97 mph range with his fastball these days, that wasn’t always the case. He vividly remembers Jack having such incredible poise and command, but also sitting in the upper-80s with his fastball at times in high school career. 

“When we committed him in high school, he definitely wasn’t some ultra-high velocity guy,” He threw really, really well, but he wasn’t then what he is today. I’m not saying we made him throw hard at all, but we committed him on his instincts, maturity and projection.”

His dad, Al Leiter, also reflected on some old high school memories where his son just seemed to have ‘it’ while on the mound.

He recalled a moment when Jack was taking part in USA Baseball’s Tournament of Stars. Leiter was going against guys like Riley Greene, Bobby Witt and some others. And he more than held his own and made the team. Later that summer, Jack got the ball against Panama in the Pan Am Games with a crowd — as you might expect — that was boisterous and certainly home-team heavy.

Leiter dealt. He held his own yet again. He showed maturity beyond his years, just as he has with the Commodores through seven starts this spring.

“I kind of saw that early on with Jack — just his overall temperament,” Al Leiter said. “He’s facing guys like Witt and Greene, and then when they go down to the Pan Am games, they determined he was the one who was going to pitch in the Gold Medal game against host Panama. The crowd was crazy as can be, and he absolutely nailed it. They played really well, and just watching him, he was calm and cool. He’s got that cool presence about him with some strong inner aggression.

“The temperament has always been there with Jack. He’s much calmer and cooler than I was. I was a hair on fire get mad type of pitcher, and I was a little crazy out there at times. That probably played against me at times. For Jack, the mental part was there, it was all about just staying sound mechanically. He was always pretty sound, but in this sport, you’re always tweaking and trying to clean some things up. It was always interesting to think about how much bigger and stronger he’d get, because that would equate to velocity.”

Jack Leiter might already be the total package, but staying humble is in his DNA. 


Al Leiter will never forget a moment he experienced early in his career during a stint with the New York Yankees.

He was a younger pitcher who was still enamored with the idea of playing with guys like Don Mattingly. But one day, Leiter was walking around the field before a game and noticed that Mattingly looked frustrated and bummed out. Sure, Mattingly wasn’t playing up to his personal standards at the time, but at the end of the day, Leiter said he just thought to himself ‘That’s Donny freakin’ Baseball, how could he possibly be bummed out?’. Leiter said he looked at Mattingly all confused as to how he could be so disappointed.

Mattingly’s response not only stayed with Al for the remainder of his successful big league career, but also has been carried down to Jack, his son.

“I learned something very early when I got into the big league,” Al Leiter said. “Don Mattingly had been struggling, and I was a young, goofy lefthanded pitcher at the time. I was kind of looking at him one day like why are you bummed, you’re Donny Baseball … he was just staring at his bat 45 minutes before a game.

“I couldn’t believe he was so bummed out, but at the end of the day, his level of play was not up to his standards. And he looked back at me — and I’ll never forget it — and said ‘Don’t ever forget that as good as the good is — the bad is never far behind’.

“That was the way the great players never got caught up in the ebbs and flows of the game of baseball. Never get too high or too low. Be consistent with your thoughts and behavior. While you’re experiencing success, you’re getting the job done and the results are great, you might have a day to enjoy it. You have to be ready for the next game. Even when I talk to guys in the big leagues right now, I let them know that pitching was not easy. I mean, I’ve stunk. I had a year in my career with an ERA over five. It’s not easy. It’s just how you keep plugging along that defines you. This game will constantly nip you if you go out each week and think you’re all that.”

Humble, but also meaning business, is the name of the game for Jack Leiter.

He’s anything but an ‘in your face’ kind of pitcher, but he sets the tone from the start. Leiter wastes little time getting out to the mound between innings, and once on the mound, he’s the enforcer. If a hitter steps out of the box, he doesn’t take strolls around the mound. He stays on the mound, glove over his mouth and nose and is dialed into Vanderbilt catcher CJ Rodriguez.


On the mound, Leiter attacks hitters with quite an impressive arsenal. His fastball sat anywhere from 93-96 mph and up to 97 mph with almost immaculate command against LSU last weekend, while he had a great deal of success throwing the 83-86 mph slider to his glove side. Leiter did a particularly impressive job of locating that offering on the outside part of the plate against righthanded hitters. His changeup will range anywhere from 85-88 mph, and the deep breaking curveball was 78-80 mph. Leiter’s primary secondary offering in high school was the curveball, while the slider has typically been his go-to secondary offering while pitching for the Commodores. Leiter also showed what appeared to be a cutter against LSU, but it apparently is a slider with a little more velocity to it. It’s unintentional. From a command standpoint, Leiter is much more advanced than a normal college pitcher. Most of his misses are barely misses, and are easily corrected a pitch or two later. His ability to make adjustments on the fly is what also sets him apart from other, even premier arms, in our sport.

“As his parent, I’m so thrilled and proud of what he’s doing right now. I’m proud as hell,” Al Leiter said. “I always watch games. But I’m always looking at his outings in a different way than most. I’m looking at it as an analyst. I do enjoy watching what he’s doing — it’s pretty amazing. But I always watch Jack am thinking, OK, what can he do to get better, and how can he execute various things a little better. With that said, the attention he is getting right now is very well deserved. He’s done a terrific job.

“With Jack, as with any pitcher, I’m really looking at a few things. Like, are you able to execute a quality pitch? Do you have two secondary pitches that you can expand appropriately? Do you know which hitters are hot, and who’s not? You know things like that. I always tell him and other pitchers to continue working on command, and to find the glove, and repeat it. In high school, his pitch was his curveball — almost a 12-6 curve — the consistency of that pitch needed to be tighter. The slider I really like, but it gets a little cutterish. I thought he threw some good changeups up at Oklahoma State, but it’s just kind of a pitch that I feel like he uses when it’s necessary.

“I thought his curveball was better than his slider in Baton Rouge last week. The quandary with breaking balls is always this — I always made sure that I had two distinct grips on my slider and curveball, respectively. My slider/cutter always crossed two seams, whereas I went with the horseshoe on the ball with the curveball. You don’t want either one to morph into the other.

“There are all stepping stones and learning experiences as you move forward in your baseball life,” he concluded. “When you play in meaningful baseball games, they all collect, and then you just have to go out there and do it. You have to experience it, and then do it without consequence. There are a lot of really good arms out there, but it’s all about how it transcends to the point when it counts the most.”


Jack Leiter is a unique starting pitcher who draws a myriad of comparisons when it comes to former, successful big league arms.

He’s much different than his cohort in crime at Vanderbilt — fellow righthanded pitcher Kumar Rocker. While Rocker has an imposing 6-foot-5, 245-pound frame, Leiter isn’t physically imposing. He’s 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, and the 6-foot-1 might be a little generous. But he does have an athletic build with strong legs.

So, who is the best comp for Jack Leiter?

The first pitcher that comes to mind is former standout righthanded pitcher David Cone. Cone, as with Leiter, didn’t have height as an advantage — he was just 6-foot tall. He also was lighter than Leiter is — he was 180 pounds, whereas Leiter is 205 pounds. But the two have similar deliveries and approaches. Both pitchers have a quick, low angle, release that allows their fastballs to explode on hitters.

“I love David — he’s a good friend of mine and we worked together at the YES Network. They’re very, very similar,” Al Leiter said. “Coney eventually used. his split finger more as he got older and he had a variety of arm angles. Jack is a little taller than Cone, but I like that comp. I think that’s a pretty fair comp.”

Other pitchers scouts have compared to Leiter include former Astros star righthanded pitcher Roy Oswalt, former star and current Auburn pitching coach Tim Hudson and former Vanderbilt star righthanded pitcher Sonny Gray.

“I do certainly see some similarities with Sonny Gray, especially in terms of stature,” Corbin said. “Jack is one of those pitchers where I’m not sure there are a lot of guys to compare him to. I see some Tom Seaver in him with his size and sturdiness, but the delivery isn’t Seaver. Jack just has such great extension and leverage. 

“You just think about those guys who had swing and miss fastballs, you’re talking about guys like Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling and so on,” he added. “Jack’s ball really explodes at the plate and that allows his fastball to really play up. It plays up because he has great extension to the plate.”

Leiter will have his chance to write his own story at the big league level, probably sooner rather than later. But for now, he continues on as arguably college baseball’s premier arm, and as a pitcher who hopes to lead Vanderbilt to its third national championship in a couple of months.

We’re not surprised to see Leiter having a wealth of success. But to be this dominant so fast? He’s truly one of a kind.

But as always the case in the Leiter household, he must stay humble. The rest will take care of itself.

D1Baseball.com is your online home for college baseball scores, schedules, standings, statistics, analysis, features, podcasts and prospect coverage.
View More
AppySocial-mlbnspecial

2021 Appalachian League to be Featured in New MLB Network Special

Preview Program to Debut This Saturday, April 10, at 12 p.m. ET/11 a.m. CT
April 8, 2021
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- The Appalachian League today announced MLB Network will air an Appalachian League Special this Saturday, April 10, at 12 p.m. ET/11 a.m. CT. Co-hosted from Studio 21 by MLB Network’s Greg Amsinger and Harold Reynolds, the new 30-minute program will preview the 10-team collegiate summer league

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- The Appalachian League today announced MLB Network will air an Appalachian League Special this Saturday, April 10, at 12 p.m. ET/11 a.m. CT. Co-hosted from Studio 21 by MLB Network’s Greg Amsinger and Harold Reynolds, the new 30-minute program will preview the 10-team collegiate summer league with analysis and special guests, including Hall of Famer and Appalachian League alumnus Cal Ripken Jr.

Select coaches and players who will participate in this year’s league will be detailed throughout the program.

In addition to Ripken Jr., former Cy Young Award winner, three-time MLB All-Star, and current manager for the Burlington Sock Puppets Jack McDowell, and Georgetown Baseball Head Coach and Appalachian League Steering Committee member Edwin Thompson, will join the program.

To preview the special, Amsinger says, “All you have to do is take a look at the famous baseball players who have played in the Appalachian League to see why this league is so important. It’s rich in history and gives young talent their first taste of big league life. You’ll hear from a Hall of Famer and a Cy Young Award winner on this program and they will add even more credibility to this special league with their unforgettable stories.”

MLB and USA Baseball announced the new format for the Appalachian League in September 2020, transitioning from an advanced rookie league in Minor League Baseball to a summer collegiate league as part of the Prospect Development Pipeline (PDP). The PDP is a collaborative effort between MLB and USA Baseball to establish a player development pipeline leading to the MLB Draft for amateur baseball players in the United States.

Appalachian League participants will receive extensive visibility to MLB Club and USA Baseball national team scouts through both in-person observation and state-of-the-art scouting technology. In addition to preparing them for careers as professional athletes, the Appalachian League also serves as an identification and development process for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team and other future national teams.

View More
FBTW-SCIOSCIAannouncement

Mike Scioscia Named Team USA Manager

Three-time World Series champion to lead U.S. into final qualifying for the Tokyo Olympic Games, Conference call scheduled for Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET
April 6, 2021
CARY, N.C. – USA Baseball named Mike Scioscia its manager for the 2021 Professional National Team on Tuesday. A three-time World Series Champion as both a manager and a player, Scioscia will look to lead Team USA to a berth in the Tokyo Olympic Games this summer. Olympic qualifying will

CARY, N.C. – USA Baseball named Mike Scioscia its manager for the 2021 Professional National Team on Tuesday. A three-time World Series Champion as both a manager and a player, Scioscia will look to lead Team USA to a berth in the Tokyo Olympic Games this summer.

Olympic qualifying will continue for Team USA with the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Baseball Americas Qualifier in Florida in early June. Team USA will open the tournament in Group A and face the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Nicaragua in pool play. The top two teams from each pool will advance to the Super Round, where the team with the best overall record will earn a bid to the Tokyo Olympic baseball tournament. Canada, Colombia, Cuba, and Venezuela make up Group B.

The second and third-place teams from the Baseball Americas Qualifier will advance to the WBSC Baseball Final Qualifier, joining Australia, China, Chinese Taipei, and the Netherlands. This final opportunity to qualify for the Olympic Games will take place June 16-20 in Douliou City and Taichung, Taiwan.

Members of the media are encouraged to attend Scioscia’s introductory conference call, scheduled for 1 p.m. ET on Tuesday, April 6.  Media can log on to Zoom here (Meeting ID: 969 4645 2682 / Passcode: 892907).

“I am extremely honored and excited to lead Team USA this year,” said Scioscia. “I am looking forward to the privilege of wearing the USA jersey and I know every member of our team will feel the same way. It is a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience that will hopefully end with the USA winning an Olympic gold medal!”

“We are honored to welcome Mike Scioscia to Team USA,” said USA Baseball Executive Director/CEO Paul Seiler. “Mike’s tenure with the Angels’ franchise was nothing short of spectacular, creating and celebrating a culture of success with six division titles, an American League pennant, and its first-ever World Series title. More impactfully, his leadership, integrity, and character are unparalleled in our game, making him the perfect fit for the USA Baseball family. We are thrilled to have him lead our Professional National Team in 2021 as we look to earn a spot in the Tokyo Olympic Games.”

Scioscia will make his international coaching debut for the United States in 2021 after serving as the Angels’ manager for 19 seasons. He spent his entire MLB managerial career in Anaheim, where he led the Halos to a 1650-1428 (.536) overall record from 1999-2018, ranking him 18th all-time in career managerial wins. After breaking a 15-year playoff drought in 2002, Scioscia led the Angels to the only World Series title in its history that postseason to become the 17th person to win a World Series title as both player and manager.

He was the first manager in MLB history to make the playoffs in six of his first ten seasons, including winning five AL West division titles in six years. Scioscia was twice named the AL Manager of the Year by the Baseball Writers Association of America (2002 and 2009) and set the Angels’ franchise single-season wins record twice with 99 victories in 2002 and then 100 victories in 2008. He is the current all-time leader in wins, games managed, and division titles won in Angels’ history.

Drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers with the 19th overall pick of the 1976 June Amateur Draft, Scioscia spent all 13 of his years in the Major Leagues as a catcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers (1980-92) under USA Baseball Olympic gold medal-winning manager Tommy Lasorda.  He won two World Series titles (1981 and 1988), was twice named a National League All-Star (1989 and 1990), and caught two no-hitters (Fernando Valenzuela and Kevin Gross) in his playing career. To this day, Scioscia ranks fourth all-time among Major League catchers with 136 shutouts caught.

USA Baseball will announce the complete Professional National Team coaching staff next week.

The schedule for the WBSC Baseball Americas Qualifier will be announced at a later time at WBSC.org. Fans can follow @WBSC on social media for updates.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games baseball tournament will take place from July 28-August 7 in Fukushima City and Yokohama, Japan. Host-country Japan, Israel, Korea, and Mexico have already secured a berth in the six-team field.

For more information on USA Baseball and the 2021 Professional National Team for Olympic Qualifying, follow @USABaseball on social media or visit USABaseball.com.

View More
GSA_Article_0401

GSA Spotlight: Indiana State’s Guerrero A Grand Surprise

April 2, 2021
If you had given a note pad to Indiana State head coach Mitch Hannahs in the fall and asked him to list five breakout candidates, there’s a decent chance that redshirt senior Geremy Guerrero doesn’t make that list. That’s certainly no disrespect to Guerrero. But in the first four years

If you had given a note pad to Indiana State head coach Mitch Hannahs in the fall and asked him to list five breakout candidates, there’s a decent chance that redshirt senior Geremy Guerrero doesn’t make that list.

That’s certainly no disrespect to Guerrero. But in the first four years of his career, he had tallied unimpressive earned-run averages, and had failed to be a front-line arm for the Sycamores.

But that was then. And now, Guerrero, much to everyone’s surprise, has transformed not only from the bullpen to the starting rotation so far during this 2021 season, but he’s also become one of the nation’s best and most productive pitchers.

He’s a slam-dunk to be on the Midseason Golden Spikes Award watch list, and it’s all because of incredibly hard work and dedication to his craft.

“I might be the dumbest guy alive if we didn’t have him starting right now,” Indiana State coach Mitch Hannahs laughed about. “When we didn’t have Tristan Weaver the first weekend of the season, we were still trying to figure out who we were going to start, and Geremy was one of the guys on the list. He was the guy that our assistant, Pascal Paul, wanted to start the year with. He really thought he would throw strikes and show a lot of poise.

“I could’ve easily started the season with Geremy in the pen, but credit to him, we didn’t do that,” he added. “He’s really improved his game, and he’s had a willingness to make adjustments. to be honest, I don’t think any of us saw this kind of year coming from Geremy. He better in the fall and there was a noticeable improvement. But now, it’s like … boom.”

Credit to Hannahs and the Sycamores coaching staff, they have not shied away from competition during this difficult COVID season. They opened the season against upstart Pittsburgh. And though they lost two out of three to the Pirates, Guerrero, a 6-foot, 240-pounder, was outstanding against Mike Bell’s club, striking out six in 5.1 shutout innings.

Little did Hannahs and ISU know at the time that it would become a precursor to what has been a special season thus far for the redshirt senior.

“He’s always been a guy with great poise, and we kind of used him out of the bullpen in the past,” Hannahs said. “He’s always been a strike thrower, but he got with our pitching coach and decided to reshape his pitches back in the fall.”

Guerrero had recorded some starts in his ISU career, but his overall numbers weren’t conducive to success. He made just one appearance in 2017, tallied 16 appearances and five starts in 2018 and had a 4.45 ERA in 30.1 innings, along with 27 strikeouts and 10 walks. Then, in 2019, he tallied a 6.42 ERA in 33.2 innings, along with a low walk total, but a high .277 OBA, before tallying a 10.13 ERA in just three appearances during the cancelled COVID season.

With his eligibility essentially over after last season, Guerrero and plenty of other veterans were tossed a lifeline by the NCAA with its ruling that no one would lose their year of eligibility as a result of the shortened season.

Like many other older players, Guerrero decided to use that extra year, and he trained in the long summer months to come back stronger than ever. That work has paid off in a big way this spring.

“It’s not every often you see a guy decide to come back for his redshirt senior year. I don’t think you see that much anymore,” Hannahs said. “He’s very, very rare, he’s always eager to learn and try to improve, and I think it says a lot about him that he was willing to return and continue to work his tail off.

“From the minute he got back, he’s worked very, very hard, and I’m so happy for him,” he continued. “You don’t get to see this a lot in coaching — where kids kind of come from nowhere to this. He had no idea what he was coming back to this fall and the spring. He could’ve easily been stuck back in the bullpen yet again. But he got locked in, and here we are.

“You’re seeing a lot of pretty competitive older players this season after they were given another year,” he added. “I think there are several kids around college baseball like Geremy who felt they had something to prove this season.”

In five starts so far this spring, Guerrero has a 1.14 ERA in 31.2 innings of work, along with 44 strikeouts and six walks, while teams are hitting him at a ridiculously low .157 clip.

So, how has this unexpected transformation come about?

It’s been a combination of pitching coach Pascal Paul’s teaching and Guerrero’s willingness to change his game.

For starters, Guerrero has tweaked and improved his upper-70s changeup. The coaches worked with the talented lefthander to try to get him to put the changeup on the same arm slot and path as the fastball. They wanted to pitch to replicate his fastball from a slot standpoint.

Second, the Sycamores added an upper-70s cutter to his arsenal. It’s a pitch he hadn’t thrown before the past fall. In addition to the cutter, Guerrero also worked diligently at tightening up his upper-70s breaking ball, while also continuing to pound the zone with his fastball.

“Pascal really went to work with him, and credit them both. Sometimes when you’re a junior or senior like that, you’re not as willing to change things. But Geremy was,” he said. “The big thing with Geremy is that he goes out there each start, and teams know that he’s going to throw three or four solid pitches for strikes.”

Guerrero’s fastball isn’t overwhelming, but he has immaculate command of the offering. His fastball will sit in the 86-88 range, and Hannahs said it will get up to 89-90 mph on occasion. His ability to have feel of the zone and command his offerings is what sets him apart from some other arms around the country. And according to Hannahs, he’s certainly no spin-rate darling.

“The most underrated thing in our game is just having the ability to go out there and have feel for the zone — know the hot zones and have the ability to really pitch,” he said. “If he’s got a down zone, he’ll live with it. He’s fine stretching the plate, too, and he understands each time out what he’s going to get from the umpire. He’s certainly not at the top end of your spin rate charts. But he’s just really managed to keep hitters off balance this season. He can pitch backwards — he will hit you with some off speed pitches in fastball accounts, and vice versa. He just has hitters on their heels.”

We said coming into the season that this spring would be filled with surprises, both from a player and team standpoint. And Guerrero and Indiana State have met both qualifications. Guerrero is having an amazing season and the Sycamores are currently sixth in the latest RPI ratings.

Perhaps Hannahs didn’t expect all of this way back in the fall. But, boy, is he enjoying it now.

And the fun part? We’ve got a long way to go.

D1Baseball.com is your online home for college baseball scores, schedules, standings, statistics, analysis, features, podcasts and prospect coverage.
View More