Since 2012, the National Training Complex in Cary, North Carolina, has hosted many of nation’s the top high school teams and players through the National High School Invitational. The 2023 edition marks the 10th anniversary of the event as USA Baseball has prided itself in building a reputation of bringing the best prep baseball competition to Cary over the years.
Many of the teams that compete at the NHSI are rated as the top high school programs in the nation, as they not only have the reputation of winning championships at the regional and state levels year in and year out, but they also produce numerous top draft prospects. Thanks to the reputation that the NHSI has cultivated by bringing together the nation’s best talent, it has become a premier destination for Major League Baseball scouts in their search for baseball’s next stars.
A combined 171 MLB draft picks, including 37 first-round selections, have participated in the prestigious event. Notable alums like Cody Bellinger (2012), Joey Gallo (2012), Jack Flaherty (2012), and Austin Meadows (2013) all took part in the NHSI on their way to the big leagues. Even with those notable alums, though, are countless players who have put themselves on the national map and planted a seed for their future careers thanks to their performances at the NHSI.
For those past participants who were not drafted by a Major League team out of high school, they have still had very successful paths. Most NHSI alums have gone on to play collegiate baseball, and several have made their way onto the professional scene through the college route.
“I think what sets the NHSI apart is that scouts get to see some of the top draft prospects in the country against really good competition, but in a team setting,” explained MLB.com Draft and prospect expert Jonathan Mayo. “Showcases are great, but there is something a little more artificial about those in that there may not be as strong of opponents, or the stakes may not be as high.
“I think that this event affords scouts the ability to see how the players that they are interested in carry themselves when there is a big spotlight and when there's something at stake. It’s like a playoff atmosphere within their own team setting.”
Not only has the NHSI been a chance for players to catch the attention of scouts in hopes of getting their chance to play professionally, but it has also allowed top prospects to enhance their draft stock. Players like Harvard-Westlake’s (Los Angeles, Calif.) Max Fried and Lucas Giolito, as well as Green Hope’s (Cary, N.C.) Jordyn Adams were able to cement themselves at the top of the draft boards in their respective draft years thanks to their showings at the NHSI.
In addition to the success past participants have had in relation to the MLB Draft, the NHSI has also played host to many USA Baseball alums who have contributed to Team USA’s 66 gold medals in international competition. The National Training Complex is rich in its history of the long list of players who have come through its grounds on their way to stardom.
Like how the NHSI serves as an opportunity for MLB scouts to observe the nation’s top high school talent for future drafts, the event also gives players a springboard to get on USA Baseball’s radar in hopes of one day representing their country on the diamond.
“The NHSI has become a premier event that USA Baseball thoroughly enjoys being able to put on every year,” said NHSI and 18U National Team Program Director Brett Curll. “Not only does the NHSI allow our organization to bring in the nation’s top high school talent to Cary, but it also gives the organization an opportunity to establish a connection with some of those top players in effort towards forming future national teams that will represent our country in international competition.”
Along with the on-field success the NHSI had provided to the game of baseball, the event has also had a tremendous impact off the field in the greater Raleigh area. The NHSI has not only helped give Cary a national reputation for being a marquee destination to see the nation’s best sports talent, but it has also provided economic success for many local businesses.
“The GRSA is excited to celebrate the 10th year of the NHSI,” said Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance Director Tori Collins. “Each year, the NHSI not only gives a boost to our local economy through the tremendous economic impact, but it also provides our local community with the opportunity to witness our country’s best talent as we host our nation’s top athletes. We have always valued our relationship with USA Baseball and are proud of the NHSI and its success at the National Training Complex in Cary each year.”
One of the most significant aspects of the fields that are put together for the NHSI is that not only are local fans able to see what the talent from areas aside from the East Coast has to offer, but the players competing in the event have the chance to broaden their prep baseball experience by having the unique opportunity of facing teams from around the country.
Aside from two occasions, every NSHI champion has hailed from the West Coast. In 2014, The First Academy (Orlando, Fla.) took home the title after Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) won the first two editions in 2012 and 2013, and at last year’s event, Stoneman Douglas (Parkland, Fla.) came out on top as they took down three-time champion Orange Lutheran (Orange, Calif.) in the semifinals after it captured titles in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
By truly facing the nation’s best talent at the NHSI, the event gives these high school programs an extraordinary chance to evaluate how their rosters stack up against the competition as well as a taste of what they might face in postseason play.
“For these high school programs that compete in Cary, the NHSI can serve as an early measuring stick for coaches to see where their team is competitively,” explained Mayo. “Regardless of where they are from, teams are able to go back home with a huge boost of confidence or maybe a chip on their shoulder that helps carry them through their seasons as they look to make runs at those titles they are competing for back home.
“Nothing like the NHSI had really existed before its inception, and to have a bit of national bragging rights, if you play really well or if you're the last team standing, is extremely meaningful for high school programs.”