CARY, N.C. – A couple years ago at the Trailblazer Series – a joint program presented by Major League Baseball and USA Baseball that gives girls and women in baseball a chance to showcase their talent – Veronica Alvarez met Naomi Ryan.
Alvarez was a coach, and Ryan was playing in the event, which was established in 2017 and includes competitive play, instruction, and community outreach. It’s an event that both Alvarez and Ryan are thankful for and are proud to be a part of.
Now, the two are reunited. Alvarez and Ryan are both in Cary, North Carolina this weekend for the National Team Identification Series Champions Cup at the USA Baseball National Training Complex.
Alvarez, who is serving on the USA Baseball Task Force, is at the event identifying players to participate in future USA Baseball programming. She is a member of a large group, with eyes locked on the competition at all times.
Ryan is a player at the event, competing with the 14U Northeast Stars. She’s thrilled to be at the same event as Alvarez, who she looks at as a mentor and role model for women in baseball. Ryan is motivated to represent her region, but also to show that she belongs.
"I'm just trying to prove that I play like the rest of them," Ryan said. "I work hard and I think I can do it."
Alvarez has enjoyed watching Ryan grow as a baseball player, is excited that she is competing at the NTIS.
“I absolutely love seeing girls staying involved in the game and showcasing that their talent is good enough,” Alvarez said. “It’s really cool to see Naomi develop not only physically, but also to develop with the opportunities she’s getting in the game of baseball.”
Alvarez serves as the manager for the USA Baseball Women’s National Team, a position she has held since 2019. A former catcher, Alvarez played for the Women's National Team four times before joining the coaching staff in several different capacities, making her way up to manager. She is not only focused on leading Team USA to international success, but also promoting the presence of girls and women in baseball.
“There’s a whole group of girls that grow up playing baseball that nobody recognizes or sees,” Alvarez said. “There’s a whole lot of them that play and love the game and aren’t trying to do something out of the ordinary – they just are, because they’re different.”
Ryan reached out to Alvarez on social media before making the trip to the NTIS, telling the coach that she’d be playing in the event. After the Trailblazer Series a couple years ago, Alvarez and Ryan were happy to be reunited in Cary.
"Learning from Veronica was really great experience," Ryan said. "I've heard a lot about her and how much improvement she's made for women in the game."
Ryan is playing for a chance to earn a spot in future USA Baseball programming. Twelve players will be selected from the 14U NTIS to compete at next year’s 15U National Team Trials, and Ryan is competing to be one of those selections.
Alvarez offered some words of advice for Ryan in her quest to continue to develop in a game where she is mostly surrounded by men.
“Don’t underestimate the people that you’re playing with,” Alvarez said. “Once you prove yourself, they’re going to fall in line and respect your ability.”
After meeting a couple of years ago, Alvarez and Ryan’s paths have crossed again this weekend in Cary. With Ryan an up-and-coming baseball player and Alvarez a well-respected coach, this will certainly not be the last time the two share a baseball field.