That's the common path for a player.
But what about the coaches for the USA Baseball national teams? A coach cannot go 8-for-19 with three home runs over the course of a weekend tournament. So, what do they do? What is their path? How do you become a coach for USA Baseball?
It is a question we get asked a lot.
The answer: Honestly, there is no "path" for the best coaches in the country to carefully weave through, marking off accomplishments from a cultivated list in order to get closer to their coaching dreams. The answer is more complex than that. There are any number of ways someone with the right heart, attitude and abilities can end up wearing U-S-A across their chest and, hopefully, a gold medal around their neck.
For proof of this, look no further than the 2018 15U World Cup champion coaching staff. Four men with wildly different paths to our coaching ranks found themselves all sharing a medal stand in Panama.
The Alum With Unfinished Business: Assistant Coach Manny Crespo
In 1984, USA Baseball won silver at the Los Angeles Olympic Games and that team was led by a southern California native, Mark McGwire. In 1984, Manny Crespo was five years old. He still remembers the baseball card of a young Mark McGwire sporting a USA-branded hat and jersey that put USA Baseball into the consciousness of young Manny and many others.
Nine years later, a then 14-year-old Manny was invited to try out for Team USA, just like the athletes he watched on the field during the Olympics in L.A., but fate would not favor Manny during his first tryout.
"A couple days into Trials, I caught a line drive off my leg, and that pretty much eliminated me for that year," Manny remembered. "But I got another shot. And in 1997 I made the team."
He was drafted in the 12th round of the 1997 MLB Draft after his senior season at Westminster Christian, but elected to forego his immediate professional opportunity to instead attend the University of Miami.
In the Fall of 1997, Manny was selected to the 18U National Team. He played in five of the six games at the Junior World Championships, where he batted .365 and hit a pair of home runs. But, the team had to settle for a bronze medal.
The following school year, Manny headed to campus to play for the University of Miami where he enjoyed a decorated career where he was Freshman of the Year and a two-time All-American. And in 1999, he achieved another career milestone as the Hurricanes won the College World Series. Manny was named to the All-Tournament Team.
But the College World Series celebration was short-lived, because the next morning Manny was on a plane to join his new teammates on the 1999 Collegiate National Team.
Another year, a new team, similar results for Manny. He batted .320 with a pair of homers over 17 games with Team USA. But with no World Cup that season, a gold medal still eluded him.
1999 would be Manny's last season representing USA Baseball on the field as a player, but, according to Manny, "Once you're a USA guy, you're always a USA guy."
Over the next ten years, life happened to Manny Crespo. After a few minor league seasons, he left the game of baseball and became a teacher. Baseball was no longer a part of his professional life, until 2009 when another Hurricanes baseball alum asked Manny to help out coaching baseball at Gulliver Prep.
That Gulliver Prep head coach was Javy Rodriguez, and Manny joined his staff as an assistant. But Javy had a side gig as well. He had been working on the task force at the USA Baseball National Team Championships for a few years.
By 2014, Manny had been coaching alongside Javy for five years, all the while hearing stories of the talent he had seen while coaching at USA Baseball events. Already familiar with the organization, Manny decided he wanted an opportunity to return USA Baseball, and give back some of the lessons he learned, so he joined Javy to help out at the National Team Championships in 2014.
"I never won gold as a player, so in the back of my mind I think it was always there. I always wanted to come back. And I was happy to give back to an organization that provided so much for me," said Manny.
Back in the fold with USA Baseball, Manny was hooked again.
After helping out at the National Team Championships, Manny made it clear he wanted to help with any event or team that his help was needed. Over the next couple of years, he returned to the National Team Championships and also helped out at the National Team Identification Series (NTIS).
His next step up the ladder came in 2016 when USA Baseball Senior Director of Baseball Operations Ashley Bratcher needed an extra coach at the Women's National Team Trials, preferably one with catching experience.
Manny was the fit.
"Having been a player himself, Manny knew what it took to play for Team USA and the honor associated with getting to wear the uniform," recalled Bratcher "He is as passionate about the experience as anyone. He wanted to help players not just realize their dream of playing for Team USA, but to see them win for their country.
"He didn't care if they were women, 15-year-olds or professional athletes."
"That experience…" Manny said. "I would recommend it to anybody."
Getting on the field and coaching this group of women as they worked to get selected to the USA Baseball Women's National Team put Manny in an even smaller tier of coaches aiming to be a USA Baseball coach. He was on the short list of possible national team coaches and his willingness to coach any age group and any team only increased his odds to put that USA jersey on again and go for the gold medal he just missed out on as a player.
In preparation for the 2017 USA Baseball season, the baseball operations staff was putting together collections of coaches that made sense for each age group. The 14U National Team Development Program prospects looked to be immensely talented, good enough to challenge for a first World Cup title for the 15U National Team the following year.
So, who would be given the reigns to help groom these boys at age 14 towards a possible World Cup showing the following year? Manny Crespo was one of those coaches selected to coach at the 14U NTDP that season.
"Manny is a player's coach, it is as simple as that. He brings an successful baseball background to the field that athletes of any age can relate to. His selection to that coaching staff was a no-brainer," said Bratcher.
Throughout that 2017 14U NTDP, relationships were built with his fellow coaches, trust was established and players' talents flourished. And heading into the 2018 season and the U-15 Baseball World Cup, Manny was ultimately one of four coaches selected to lead the 15U National Team and go to Panama, once again putting him in the grasp of winning a gold medal.
"I was in Panama, the birthplace of my mother, playing against Panama for the World Championship," Manny remembered. "That's when it got surreal."
The 15U National Team in 2018 had a motto: Leave no doubt. And the team did just that. The team outscored their opponents 88-13 over nine games, bringing the WBSC U-15 Baseball World Cup championship to the United States for the first time in history.
It was the gold medal-dream finally realized for Manny Crespo. A gold medal-dream that he was able to share with his fellow coaches and with a group of kids still beginning their baseball careers.
Manny Crespo's story is the third of a four-part series on "How to Become a USA Baseball Coach." The final story of the series will be released on USABaseball.com and @USABaseball on Facebook, Instgram and Twitter.