USA Baseball, member organizations announce new youth bat performance testing program
August 7, 2015
DURHAM, N.C. -- USA Baseball, the national governing body for the sport of baseball in the U.S., in conjunction with participating national member organizations announced today the decision to adopt a new method for measuring bat performance in the testing of youth bats. Informed by the research of leading scientists on the USA Baseball Bat Study Committee, and supported by its NMOs, -- including the American Amateur Baseball Congress (AABC), Babe Ruth Baseball/Cal Ripken Baseball, Dixie Youth Baseball, Little League Baseball and PONY Baseball -- USA Baseball has concluded that recent advancements in science, engineering, technology, and the materials available to fabricate non-wood bats, now allow the manufacturers to construct youth bats that can perform at a wood-like level through the entire range of lengths and weights of youth bats.
The new USA Baseball bat standard (USABat), which will apply to bats that are classified below the NCAA and NFHS level of play, will be implemented on January 1, 2018, allowing the bat manufacturers sufficient time to bring these bats to the marketplace.
"USA Baseball is pleased, with the support of our participating national member organizations, to announce the USABat standard," said USA Baseball's executive director/CEO, Paul Seiler. "Beginning with the launch in 2018, we will take another step forward in making our game more uniform at the youth level and ensuring the long-term integrity of the game."
Similar to the NCAA and NFHS BBCOR standard, which helped to eliminate discrepancies with different length bats and thus provide a more direct measure of bat performance, the new USA Baseball bat standard will allow youth baseball organizations in the United States to reach their goal of establishing a wood-like standard, a standard that will provide for the long-term integrity of the game.
There will be no immediate change to youth baseball organizations' bat rules. All bats, currently accepted for the respective leagues, remain permissible through December 31, 2017. Each participating national member organization will incorporate the new standard into their rules for the 2018 season and will begin, with this announcement, to inform their membership of the USABat standard.
Frequently Asked Questions about the USABat standard:
Which national member organizations are implementing this new standard?
To date, the following organizations are participating (in alphabetical order): American Amateur Baseball Congress (AABC), Babe Ruth Baseball/Cal Ripken Baseball, Dixie Youth Baseball & Dixie Boys Baseball, Little League Baseball and PONY Baseball.
Why the change to a wood-like standard?
USA Baseball's national member organizations believe that a wood-like performance standard will best provide for the long-term integrity of the game. The new standard will not have a drop-weight limit, so young players can use bats made with light-weight materials.
Why not just use wood bats?
Wood is a scarce resource. The new bats will be designed to perform much like wood, where its performance will be limited to the highest performing wood.
How is the USABat standard different from the BBCOR standard used by the NCAA and NFHS?
Both the USA Baseball and NCAA bat performance tests are based on the coefficient of restitution from a bat-ball impact. The scale of results is different, however, since they use different test balls and test speeds. The testing difference is necessary to address the various levels of play in the respective age groups.
Why is USA Baseball involved?
The national member organizations asked USA Baseball as the national governing body to take the lead in this process to establish a new standard. Many other national governing bodies set and enforce standards for the equipment in their respective sports. To that end, USA Baseball established a Bat Study Committee of leading scientists and conducted theoretical modeling, field testing and lab testing. The committee shared its findings with the national member organizations, who then endorsed the new USABat standard.
Who were the scientists on the USA Baseball Bat Study Committee?
Alan Nathan, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Illinois
Dan Russell, Ph.D. Professor of Acoustics at Penn State University
Glenn Fleisig, Ph.D. Research Director of American Sports Medicine Institute
Why wait until 2018?
The implementation date of 2018 will allow bat manufacturers sufficient time to conduct the appropriate research, design, testing, manufacturing and shipping needed to get new bats into retail outlets. This date also allows the participating national member organizations adequate time to educate their memberships of the USABat standard.
Is my current bat good for league play?
Yes. Current league-approved bats can be used through December 31, 2017.
Is safety the reason for the change?
No. Youth baseball continues to be one of the safest of all sports for youth participants.
How will I know which bat to buy?
All new bats that bear the USABat licensing mark will be permissible for play in the leagues and tournaments of the participating youth baseball organizations.
Does the standard impact Tee Ball?
Yes. Under the USABat standard, certified tee ball bats will feature the USA Baseball mark and text which reads, "ONLY FOR USE WITH APPROVED TEE BALLS."
Can I use a Tee Ball bat that does not feature the USA Baseball mark?
All Teel Ball bats must feature the USA Baseball mark and accompanying text. Tee Ball bats that were produced and/or purchased prior to the implementation of the new standard can be certified using an Approved Tee Ball Sticker via the USA Baseball Sticker Program.
What is the USA Baseball Tee Ball Sticker Program?
The USA Baseball Tee Ball Sticker Program is an initiative designed to allow for the continued use of tee ball bats that were manufactured prior to the implementation of the new USABat standard. This program will allow individuals and families to purchase approved stickers marked with the USA Baseball logo and langugage which reads, "ONLY FOR USE WITH APPROVED TEE BALLS." Stickers will be available for purchase online via USABaseballShop.com beginning September 1, 2017.
1. Your Important Role in Social Distancing
Baseball players and their families have never experienced anything like the COVID-19 global pandemic. While we are all anxious to return to baseball, we have a bigger issue to deal with first: social distancing. Your participation in social distancing may not only save your life, but also contributes to keeping our neighbors, family, and friends safe. Please follow the guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and your state and local governments. We are all in this together, as stated here.
2. When are we Returning?
Amateur baseball organizations are monitoring government mandates and guidelines, and will re-open when it is appropriate. As school baseball teams have been canceled for the spring 2020 season, each amateur player and family should determine a personal target for the next time they will be playing organized baseball. If they plan to return to a team in the next few weeks, the player should view the current time as preseason preparation; however, if the next season of competition is several months away, the player should view the current time as an offseason.
3. Baseball Strength and Conditioning
Staying at home because of coronavirus has created a situation with less outdoor physical activity. It is vital that amateur baseball players exercise during these times, whether indoors or outdoors. Physical activity should be fun and gratifying for physical and emotional health. The USA Baseball Athletic Preparation Plan includes videos of Arm Care, Lower Body Strength and Dynamic Flexibility exercises.
4. Baseball Skill Development
Skill training in the home and backyard requires some creativity. A few worthwhile activities for hitters are dry swings, one-handed and two-handed tee drills with a catch net or a hanging blanket, and whiffle ball. Pitchers must balance their volume of work to improve their skills but also take steps to avoid overuse. Throwing programs during the shutdown may include bullpen pitching, interval throwing, and weighted balls. USA Baseball offers a wide variety of free development-based assets online at USABDevelops.com and on its Mobile Coach App.
5. The Complete Athlete
While there may be some tempting poor lifestyle choices at home, especially during the time of a pandemic, the most successful athletes embrace proper nutrition and hydration to optimize their physical activity and recovery. Emotional well-being is also critical for thriving during these unusual and stressful times.
6. Baseball is Still a Team Sport
Although players may be apart for social distancing, the efforts of the team can still be a coordinated effort. Recommendations for coaches are located here.
USA Baseball to Continue Offering Online Community Clinics
The virtual clinics will occur throughout the month of June including a special Father's Day clinic on Saturday, June 20
May 21, 2020
CARY, N.C. - USA Baseball announced today it is expanding its offerings of online Community Clinics through the month of June in an effort to support coaches and parents currently enrolled in its Coaches Certification pathway. The free clinics will take place on the following dates:
Wednesday, June 3 from 12 - 3 p.m. ET
Wednesday, June 10 from 12 - 3 p.m. ET
Wednesday, June 17 from 9 p.m. - 12 a.m. ET
Saturday, June 20 from 12 - 3 p.m. ET (Special Father's Day clinic)
Wednesday, June 24 from 12 - 3 p.m. ET
Registration for each clinic is now open with limited spots available on CoachClinics.org.
The Coaches Certification pathway is a free three-tiered program consisting of ascending levels: "A" Certification, "B" Certification and "C" Certification. All of the levels contain a series of courses that cover topics such as health and safety, creating a positive team environment, recognizing and responding to misconduct, practice planning, game management and skill-specific development.
This program requires the participation in a Community or Regional Clinic in order to obtain a "C" Certification. The clinics are typically held year-round at facilities nationwide in partnership with the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association and GameChanger, but will be hosted online for the first time ever in 2020. The clinics are run by veteran coaches from all levels of baseball in order to proliferate a culture of continuing education, development and mentorship.
Committed to co-host the online clinics are coaches from Cal State Fullerton, Flower Mound Marcus High School (Texas), the Minnesota Twins, the University of South Carolina, USA Baseball and Wabash Valley Community College.
Upon completion of the certification, coaches simultaneously satisfy the training requirements set forth by Senate Bill 534 (SB 534) and also begin the process of becoming Pure Baseball compliant. In November 2018, USA Baseball announced Pure Baseball, a zero-tolerance policy regarding abuse constructed in cooperation with SB 534 and the policies created by the U.S. Center for SafeSport. To concurrently become Pure Baseball compliant, coaches need only submit to and pass an annual background check, which can be done at USABDevelops.com through USA Baseball's service provider, JD Palatine.
For more information on the Coaches Certification program and to begin the courses required to complete certification, visit CoachClinics.org. In addition to this new program, all courses and resources for players, coaches, parents and umpires on USABDevelops.com are available at no cost to users and aim to provide a positive baseball experience for all.
We are joined by Mikie Mahtook. Mikie was a member of the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team in 2010 following his Sophomore season at LSU. He is a Louisiana boy turned LSU Baseball legend who helped lead the Tigers to a College World Series championship his freshman season. A first-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Rays, Mikie has spent time at the big-league level with the Rays and Tigers. He is now a member of the Philadelphia Phillies organization after signing with the club this past offseason.
USA Baseball (USAB): Let's first talk about your decision to attend LSU In the first place. After your senior year of high school, you had committed to the LSU Tigers, the hometown team about an hour down the road, and you were drafted by the Florida Marlins, was there any possibility you weren't headed to Baton Rouge?
Mikie Mahtook (MM): A small possibility. My dad and my uncle both played football at LSU, my whole family went to school at LSU, so I was going to LSU football games and baseball games from a young age so that's where I wanted to go, that's the place I wanted to be. My situation was a little tricky as a football player first and then a baseball player second. Football recruiting got heated a little bit earlier than baseball did so for a little while there I thought I was going to play both in college but at the end of the day I made a decision in the middle of my senior football season I just wanted to play baseball in college and LSU came to me and asked me if I wanted to go to school there and play baseball there. I initially committed to LSU as a preferred walk on because they had changed the scholarship rules that year and I had taken so long to make a decision that LSU didn't have any scholarship money left.
So I committed as a preferred walk-on and then went through my senior baseball season and had a great high school senior season and started shooting up draft boards. I had never once in my life thought about getting drafted out of high school. My goal was to get to the major leagues, but I always thought I was going to go to college and then maybe get drafted and make it to the big leagues. But once I had that opportunity and scouts started talking to me, I had no idea what I was doing. My mom and I talked about it and thought we didn't really want to go so we gave them this really high number that they didn't even bat an eye on, so we thought maybe we should have gone higher. But we weren't really ready to sign so there were a few teams that were really high on me, but at the end of the day I called them and said I wanted to go to school and develop more as a player and I appreciated the interest and then I think the Marlins drafted me just as a courtesy selection that late in the draft. But it was a very cool experience that helped prepare me for when I would get drafted.
USAB: Had you had any conversations with big league scouts prior to that draft? Did you have a sense of where you might be drafted?
MM: Yeah, like I said I'd never really expected to get drafted and then all of a sudden you start getting at-home visits, and you start getting phone calls, and then you start having people come to games more often specifically to watch me. So we didn't really know what we were doing. We talked to some people in our hometown that had been drafted, going to ask them for some advice and what we need to do. And one day I had a conversation with my family where I said look I've never focused solely on baseball in my life it's kind of cool that I'm getting looked at to further my career as a professional, but I think for my development I need to go to LSU and focus strictly on baseball. Put football aside. Once I did that, I still kind of wanted to get drafted high, just to pump the ego just a little bit. But I knew after I told him I wanted to go to school that I probably wasn't going to get drafted as high as I thought.
USAB: You get to LSU your freshman year and you guys put together one of the best seasons in program history. You win SEC Tournament MVP. You get to Omaha, cruise through to the College World Series Final, and you come up with the game-winning hit in extra innings of Game 1 against Texas. What do you remember about that game?
MM: First thing I remember was it was extremely, extremely hot. I remember I had to get an IV in the middle of the game because I couldn't stop cramping. The game was actually on TV the other day and it was the first time I ever rewatched it and they said it was 107 degree heat index so it was steaming. After that I remember in my first three at-bats I struck out. Not good at-bats. My fourth at-bat I put the ball in play but I hit into a double play. So I'm 0-for-4 and I made 5 outs. And I'm thinking this is not how I wanted this to go. Then my fifth at-bat I ended up swinging at a pitch way in the other batters box but somehow found a hole for a base hit. And then I got the game-winning hit in the 11th and it was a surreal moment. Obviously you work all year to get to that point and you hope to have an opportunity to come up with a big hit like that and I was able to battle through a tough game and was able to come through so it was exciting. I think the coolest part about that was the way my teammates reacted after I got the hit.
USAB: Were there any moments that came back to you while you were watching the broadcast?
MM: I remember watching my swing and seeing that they are spinning me slider after slider after slider. I'm a freshman and I'm still trying to make adjustments. I know at that moment I told myself I have got to figure this out. I have got to put this ball in play. And then I finally put the ball in play and believe it or not after I hit into that double play I was able to exhale, even though it was a double play. Because I didn't hit it terrible, but I didn't hit it great because obviously it was a ground ball to the second baseman but I exhaled and thought alright, got a little of the barrel, I put the ball in the play, we have some action here. I'm okay. I can exhale a little bit. And then the next one I found the hole with a lucky hit. Then my last at-bat I tell myself just find a way to get this thing into the outfield and get the hit. And I was able to do that.
USAB: That was game one. What about the series clinching game? What are your memories of that clinching game and claiming the title?
MM: So we had to come back to win the first game. DJ LeMahieu hit a 2-RBI double in the ninth to tie it and then we won in extra innings. Then in game two we had to face Taylor Jungmann and he threw an absolute gem. I think they beat us 5-1 and we had no shot against him that day. He was just on. So the third game, we walked into the clubhouse and had this weird confidence like we knew we were going to win. So we were loose and having fun. No one was really tight. And then in the first inning Jared Mitchell hit a three-run homer and gave us all the momentum.
They actually came back to tie the game but then I hit a double in the sixth inning to give us a 5-4 lead and then I think we ended up scoring four more runs in that inning to clinch it. But we entered that game with this confidence that we knew we were going to win. Coach Mainieri talked to us before the game and said "If I had told you before the season you had one game to win the World Series would you take it?" And we said yes, obviously. We were in that situation and we knew we were going to win. We had our horses ready to go and we had that confidence and I think we ended up winning 11-4.
USAB: So what were the next two years at LSU like? You are a Louisiana kid, your parents went to LSU, your dad played football at LSU, you won a College World Series as a freshman. Are you Big Man on Campus at that point?
MM: Coming back to campus was pretty cool. We don't have a Major League Baseball team in Louisiana so LSU is almost like the professional team here. People love baseball in south Louisiana, especially LSU baseball. So people recognize us, people want to talk to us, it was kind of cool because I had never experienced that. It was something we had to learn how to juggle to take these new responsibilities and be mature with them and we were good about it. We had our fun and enjoyed it but we knew there were bigger things we needed to do. And that next year we started out 32-6 and we were number one in the country before we had some injuries and lost some pitching depth and we struggled a little bit. We got it back together at the end of the year but ran into a buzz saw in the regional against UCLA with Trevor Bauer and Gerrit Cole.
Then my junior season was a bit of a lost season. It was personally my best year statistically, but we were 36-20 and didn't make the postseason. It was a tough pill to swallow but it is what it is. It was tough to go out that way, but definitely some good moments.
USAB: I know you still keep in touch with the LSU baseball program. Partly through the No. 8 you wore during your time there. Since you left it has become tradition that the number is given to a player that symbolizes leadership and dedication to LSU Baseball. Some guys who have worn No. 8 since your time at LSU include Alex Bregman, Jake Fraley, and most recently, two-time USA Baseball alum Daniel Cabrera. How did that tradition come about?
MM: LSU football has a similar tradition with No. 18. It started with Matt Mauk and it is an honor to get No. 18. The players vote on it and it is not necessarily the most talented player on the field but more about the character and how much they loved LSU. The person you want to play at LSU. I thought it was a really cool idea so I left after my junior season and Mason Katz was still on the team so I called him and said I wanted to do something like football and asked what he thought about it. I told him I knew No. 5 was his number but I asked him if he would want to wear No. 8 and he said absolutely. So he wore it for two years and I think he hit 17 homers his senior season and he passed it down and we wanted to give it to someone who could lead the team but also have passion and energy for LSU and to represent the number well. I think the few people who have worn it have represented it the way we wanted it represented.
USAB: So you passed it down first and chose who you passed it to. Has it remained that kind of fraternity between guys who have worn the No. 8 jersey?
MM: Antoine Duplantis passed it to Daniel Cabrera and Antoine just broke the LSU hits record a few years ago. Antoine is from my hometown and I actually used to hit in the cage with Antoine and his little brother who is now an olympian. So I have known those guys most of my life.
I stay connected with the guys, I live in Baton Rouge so I work out at the facility all the time so I talk to those guys about any questions they may have. But most of these guys are pretty set. They know what's going on and have an idea of what they want to do and where they want to be and what they want to become. That is part of wearing the number is taking that responsibility and leading the team. Cabrera, before the season got cancelled, was having a great year and doing just that.
At the end of a year if they can't figure out who should get the number next year, they will call some of the older guys that had the jersey for their input. It has turned out to be a pretty cool thing.
USAB: That is a really cool tradition. Obviously the number still means a lot to you, and it took four or five years into your pro career to get the number back. Did that mean a lot to you to finally get number 8 with the Detroit Tigers last year?
MM: I tried to get it even in the minor leagues. I tried to get it in High-A, but someone was there, an older player who already had it, so I couldn't get it there. Then I tried in Double-A, but couldn't get it again. Then I got to Triple-A and the number 8 was retired because of Crash Davis with the Durham Bulls. So I can't get the number anywhere and it is frustrating.
Then I get to the big leagues and I'm a rookie so I'm not going to ask for a specific number, because you can't do that as a rookie. So then I just decided to embrace wearing No. 27 which is the number they gave me. And then I got traded to Detroit and Justin Upton was wearing No. 8 at the time. And then Justin got traded so in the offseason I asked our clubbie what he thought of me wearing No. 8 now that Justin got traded and he said yes so I was fired up. I actually just got that jersey framed. I only have No. 8 jerseys framed in my house so that is pretty cool.
USAB: Let's get to your time with the Collegiate National Team in 2010. It was a loaded roster, with Gerrit Cole, Sonny Gray, George Springer, Jackie Bradley Jr., Brad Miller and plenty of others. Do you still have relationships with guys from that team?
MM: We keep in touch. Obviously life happens, guys get married and have kids so it's not as much as when we were 20, we don't have as much free time. But whenever we do see each other the conversations are easy, you always have that bond. I'm actually now doing these daily zoom calls with amateur athletes and bringing on other athletes and George Springer came on and did one the other week. And these are relationships you build when you are 20 so they last a long time and it is really a cool thing.
I think that is one of the coolest things about playing for Team USA is that I got to play with these guys that you don't necessarily get to play with ever again. I think the only person I played with again after Team USA was Brad Miller. Brad Miller and I are really really good friends. So you may not get to play with them all again so you have to embrace it when you're together and it was a really cool experience.
USAB: What were your favorite memories of that 2010 Collegiate National Team? Anything in particular stick out either on or off the field?
MM: We had a lot of fun together. We got to go to Tokyo and I had never been to that part of the world so flying together and getting to hang out with each other in Tokyo was really cool. One thing I remember is that we were at the tournament in Tokyo and we were playing Japan, the host team, and the place is packed. All with their fans because we are obviously nowhere near home. So the first inning Springer hits a grand slam. We were going nuts, it was crazy, and we ended up winning the game 4-1 and it was the only runs we scored. But that entire game was so intense and you got to see how much their fans really loved baseball and that was really cool.
We ended up playing Cuba in the finals and it was a hard fought game but they ended up walking us off in extra innings. And that Cuba team was stacked. They had Cespedes and Jose Abreu and those guys. But those two games are what I remember most about that year.
USAB: After playing on that team with so many other talented players, what did you learn and how did you grow as a player after that experience?
MM: I grew a lot. Like you said that was the first time I played on a team with that much competition outside of college and it was awesome. The outfield was Jackie Bradley Jr. in center, George Springer in left and I was in right. So you get to play in the outfield with guys that are going to be first rounders, guys that are going to be in the big leagues.
And then in the Trials you get to face pitchers who didn't even make the team who are now big leaguers. Pitchers that are aces in the big leagues that were on our team. We had to face those guys at Trials. And just to see how those guys approached the game and competed on the field was really great to be a part of.
USAB: So a lot of us are in this holding pattern waiting for baseball to resume. Tell me, what is life like right now?
MM: Being back here in Baton Rouge I actually have some nice facilities I can take advantage of. I have a batting cage I can use so I hit every day. The neighborhood I live in, there are still three or four guys that still play professionally so we kind of have our own little mini spring training in the neighborhood. Kevin Gausman lives right around the corner from me and we will go to an empty lot or the edge of a golf course and long toss. He actually bought a portable pitchers mound so he'll set it up in his backyard and throw bullpens.
Other than that it is like being a kid again. A lot of home workouts. Just trying to find out whatever you can do around the house to stay in shape. It has been tough but it has been kind of fun too. Fun trying to figure out how and where we are going to get these workouts done.
USAB: Anything outside of baseball?
MM: I mentioned earlier that I started this project with a mentor of mine it is called the Champions Rise Challenge. Professional athletes aren't the only athletes affected by this COVID-19 pandemic. More so than us it is these amateur athletes who lost their season and maybe lost their opportunity to get recruited. And not having the resources a professional athlete has can be kind of scary. So we decided to have these daily zoom calls, it is free to sign up, and we are trying to get as many athletes, nutritionists, coaches, all influencing these younger kids. Coming on to donate their time to these athletes.
We are also encouraging parents to come on because when you're young you look for someone to lean on you want someone to help direct you. So if these parents are doing the same things the kids are doing, they are able to help them grow and get through this tough time. It has been awesome. The feedback has been great. We have a week and a half left but we are so excited about it we are looking at ways to maybe continue it even further than that.
USAB: Lastly, let's talk about your foundation, The Mikie Mahtook Foundation. It can be found @MahtookCares on Twitter and @MahtookFoundation on Instagram. Tell us about the foundation.
MM: I started this foundation in 2014 to honor my dad. He was Mikie Mahtook Sr. He passed away unexpectedly when I was four years old due to cardiomyopathy. The foundation promotes and educates about the prevention of heart disease. We have recently moved into the testing sector. We are in the process of partnering with another organization that is able to test for free. We want to be able to detect heart disease so these kids and their parents can get diagnosed and get treatment.
I was four years old when my father passed away and I had twin sisters that were two. So all of a sudden my mother was a young single mother of three and that kind of thing can rock a family. So if I can help just one family prevent a loss like that, then we are doing something right. It has been great, we have a lot of plans for the future, and we have some ambitious goals for it. In the next two or three years, it is going to be a household name.
Give Mikie a "follow" on Instagram and Twitter at @MikieMahtook8!
USA Baseball Modifies On-Field Programming Schedule
All events continue to be subject to cancellation or postponement
May 18, 2020
CARY, N.C. - USA Baseball announced today a modified schedule of events for its 2020 summer season due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Created in adherence to the regulations set forth by the appropriate federal, state and local governments, the updated schedule is tentatively set to begin with the 14U Cup from July 24-26 at the National Training Complex in Cary, North Carolina.
All of these events continue to be subject to cancellation or postponement based on the future state of the evolving coronavirus situation. The organization will monitor the guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC), as well as consult its Medical/Safety Advisory Committee in order to evaluate the status of its upcoming tournaments.
All further decisions will be made in as timely a manner as possible with respect to the safety and well-being of all the participating athletes, coaches and fans. If these tournaments run as scheduled, teams and fans will be required to follow a series of return to play guidelines developed by USA Baseball. These guidelines will be shared with all participants within an appropriate timeframe leading up to the event.
"As the national governing body for baseball in the United States, we feel it is in the best interest of the thousands of baseball athletes in our country to postpone our return to the field due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic," said USA Baseball Executive Director/CEO Paul Seiler. "We share in the longing for baseball's return, but we believe it is prudent to continue assessing the situation and finalizing a course of action that prioritizes the overall health and safety of our participants and their families in light of the continued transmission of this disease.
"This schedule was structured in an effort to secure as many opportunities as possible for athletes who hope to one day play for Team USA. We will remain steadfast in our commitment to this charge; however, we will continue to evaluate the situation on a daily basis and monitor the guidelines set forth by the CDC and the USOPC in case additional modifications need to be made."
The following events have been tentatively rescheduled on the 2020 calendar:
• 17U National Team Championships North Carolina (July 27-30)
• 14U and 15U National Team Championships Arizona (July 27-30)
• 16U and 17U National Team Championships Arizona (July 31-August 3)
• 15U National Team Championships North Carolina (August 4-9)
• 10U Futures Invitational (August 6-9)
• 16U National Team Championships North Carolina (August 11-16)
• 11U, 12U, 13U and 14U NTIS Champions Cup (August 19-23)
• 15U and 16U NTIS Champions Cup (August 26-30)
The following events and national team programming have been cancelled:
• 11U Futures Invitational
• 13U/14U Athlete Development Program (ADP)
• 16U/17U National Team Development Program (NTDP)
• National Team Championships Florida
The 14U Cup (July 24-26) and 11U/13U Futures Series Irvine (August 28-30) are set to take place as originally scheduled.
Additionally, USA Baseball continues to work closely with the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) with respect to the international baseball calendar. To date, the WBSC has postponed the Americas Baseball Olympic Qualifier, U-15 Baseball World Cup and the Women's Baseball World Cup until further notice. The U-12 Baseball World Cup Americas Qualifier has also been postponed but will not take place this year.
"USA Baseball fully supports the WBSC and its decision to indefinitely postpone the events on the baseball calendar in an effort to protect our national team athletes at this time," continued Seiler. "When the time comes for Team USA to return to the field, we will be ready to continue our longstanding tradition of excellence on the international stage."
Corresponding to the status of the international baseball calendar, USA Baseball has cancelled all 12U National Team programming events for 2020, meanwhile any future events planned for the 15U National Team, 18U National Team, Collegiate National Team and Women's National Team this year will be announced as necessary.
The Medical/Safety Advisory Committee has published a free Athlete Preparation Plan that provides a series of at-home exercises aimed to prepare young athletes for their return to the diamond following a prolonged disruption from on-field activity. To access this plan and to read its recommendations for baseball players during the COVID-19 pandemic, click here.
Further information on USA Baseball updates relating to COVID-19 can be found here. For up-to-the-minute updates on the organization and its events, follow @USABaseball on social media.
Former Team USA General Manager led the stars and stripes to an Olympic gold medal and back-to-back world championship titles
May 15, 2020
CARY, N.C. - USA Baseball Executive Director/CEO Paul Seiler released the following statement mourning the loss of Bob Watson. Watson, also known as "The Bull," was a pioneer in every sense of the word within the game of baseball and was an integral part of a tremendous period of success for Team USA on the international stage from 1999-2009.
"'Bull' was one of those rare people in life who made everyone around him better, both on the field and off. His baseball résumé is legendary, but the impact he made on others in every walk of life is what truly sets his legacy apart. Personally, and professionally, I am honored to have called him a friend and humbled to have learned so much from him. On behalf of USA Baseball, our hearts are heavy today for his wife, Carol, his children, Keith and Kelley, and for all who were lucky enough to have known him."
Serving as the General Manager for four USA Baseball national teams, Watson helped lead the U.S. to unprecedented heights, winning the gold medal at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, qualifying the U.S. for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, and winning back-to-back International Baseball Federation (IBAF) World Cup titles in 2007 and 2009. Team USA held a 27-3 cumulative record during his tenure as General Manager with the red, white and blue. Additionally, he was vital to the introduction of professional athletes to the USA Baseball national team program for the first time in 1999 and served on the selection committee for the XIII Pan American Games roster, which ultimately won a silver medal and earned its spot in the Sydney 2000 Olympic baseball tournament.
Watson was a two-time All-Star for the Houston Astros in 1973 and 1975, and spent 19 years playing in the Majors. He finished his career also playing for the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves, holding a .295 career batting average with 184 homers, 989 RBIs and 802 runs scored.
After his playing career ended in 1984, he went on to be the hitting coach for the American League pennant-winning Oakland Athletics in 1988 before becoming the second African American General Manager in major league history when the Astros hired him in 1993. Watson then served as the GM for the New York Yankees from 1995-1997, where he helped the Yankees win the World Series in 1996-their first title since 1978.
Watson would later work for MLB beginning in 1997 as the vice president in charge of discipline and of rules and on-field discipline before retiring in 2010.
USA Baseball caught up with the 2017 Collegiate National team alum and 10th overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft on Instagram Live
May 8, 2020
We are joined by 2017 Collegiate National Team alum Travis Swaggerty. Travis ranked second on the team in hits (21) and on-base percentage (.449) and third in stolen bases (6) and batting average (.328) along the way to a 15-5 record. He also earned batting champion honors in the Chinese Taipei series in route to a four-game sweep, as well in the five-game series victory against Cuba.
Travis spent three years at the University of South Alabama where he racked up 27 home runs and numerous top player rankings throughout his career, including being named to the 2018 All-Sun Belt First Team. Afterwards, he was taken 10th overall, second-highest in South Al history, in the 2018 MLB Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates where he is currently a member of the Bradenton Marauders.
USA Baseball (USAB): When did you realize that playing baseball professionally was more than just a dream and was an actual obtainable goal? Travis Swaggerty (TS):That's a good question, I would probably say after my freshman year college. You know in high school I was a good player but I was going to South Alabama, not a huge school but still some big names coming out of there. My Freshman fall I still had an "I hope I make it" kind of mindset versus "I'm going to make it". I actually had a really good freshman year and came off that. I got the whole summer off and once I came back to school my sophomore year I was in the best shape of my life. I was feeling good, balls starting to fly little bit and I was like "hey man, I can do this," so I kind of put my nose to the grindstone after that and here I am.
USAB: At any part in that process did you really believe, "I'm not just a draft pick but like a top 10 pick? TS:That actually never became realistic until it happened. Honestly, I guess the goal when I got to college like maybe top ten rounds would be awesome. You know what that was a pretty reachable goal I thought. I think once I got to Team USA, honestly. I went out there and I still didn't feel like I fit in because there was a bunch of big school guys. I was really one of the few smaller school guys so I was like man I really have to prove myself. Once I made the team and started playing I start playing pretty well and I was like man I can hang these guys. Right then I knew I had a good shot but I didn't really understand until it happened.
USAB:You are a product of the University of South Alabama believing in yourself is a big thing. Who comes to mind in terms of people helping you believe that along the way? TS:A lot of people. I think South Alabama was perfect for me because we kind of have that blue-collar aspect being a smaller school so a couple of my teammates and coaches really kept me level-headed where I needed to be. Some of the names that come to mind one is Brendan Donovan (Cardinals) and Dylan Hardy (Red Sox) and those two guys are actually going to be in my so we're really close. Those guys have a similar work ethic to me and we surrounded ourselves with each other but I think we kind of fed off each other and now we're all playing professionally so I think that that's no surprise.
USAB:Let's go back to draft day, were you expecting your name to be called and what was it like? TS:I was at the draft. I had no idea. I had my dad, my cousin, my best friend and mine now fiancé by me. You know must people who sit at home get a call but I was sitting in my chair in the corner. I had my phone in my pocket but I couldn't check it, there's cameras on you so I didn't have any calls or anything. So as soon as commissioner Manfred went up and called my name it was a huge shock.
USAB:What was the first thing on your mind and what were your emotions to hear the commissioner himself mention your name as the next draft pick? TS:I honestly had no thoughts all I could do was cry. It had finally happened for me, the dream you know. I had nothing going through my mind but like thank goodness, I'm so blessed I made it and now the real work has to begin.
USAB:What have you found is the biggest difference between how you expected entering minor league baseball to be and reality? TS:I feel like I expected what happened but it really its the everyday grind you know in college you get Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday sometimes Wednesday but you get a lot of practice days some off time but pro ball you don't get any. You get some leisure time spent in the morning before the game and most of the time people want to sleep because you're so tired because you play every day. That and the bus trips every week. I wasn't expecting to travel like that. I thought it would be a little bit easier; it is not. You play a night game on the road on Wednesday, you get on the bus and you drive back home 8 hours, you wake up the next morning and you've got to get up and eat and go back to the park. So it's just nonstop.
USAB:Do you think that playing at a school like South Alabama helped prime you better than other guys that are in the minors? TS:I don't necessarily think so. I mean we never got to really fly anywhere except one trip a year. I don't think that really prepared me any more than the work ethic piece. I think because it was a blue-collar school we thought we had to work a little harder to be able to compete with everybody else, so I think taking that attitude was a huge advantage for me.
USAB: You performed really well with the Collegiate National Team in the summer of 2017. What did you learn from that experience? TS:I think I learned how to handle the Scouts a little better. You know before that I really didn;t have a lot of eyes on me and every day you look in the stands and there are scouts from every single team. You have to be able to perform with eyes on you and I think that primed me to be able to just play and focus on the game and not worry about who's in the stands.
USAB: What do you remember about the build-up to it? Was it an unexpected call when you got the invite to training camp with the CNT? TS:Our head coach Mark Calvi knows someone with Team USA and he got my name out there and Eric Campbell came and watched when we played at Appalachian State in North Carolina. I didn't have a very good weekend but I was having a good year and he told me that because I was the first guy out of the dugout to congratulate the guys for doing something well and just being a good teammate, he said I was the type of guy that he wanted. I was very fortunate that even though I didn't play well I just kept my head down and tried to be a good teammate and at the end of the day that's all that matters.
USAB: What was the mentality heading in and getting to know a lot of bigger school guys? TS:I got to be around guys like Madrigal and Vaughn and Steele Walker and Shumake and a lot of those guys I got close with. They all approach the game a little bit different way so I got to see what their routine was in the cage and what they liked to do off the tee and I took some of that with me. We fed off each other a lot. You know I thought at the beginning I would try to do a little too much because I was small school guy but it actually turned out to be the opposite I tried to do less and because I tried to do less I got to slow the game down and a little bit and was actually able to have success.
USAB: When you're on a USA Baseball roster, you only get a few months to be around your teammates. How do you bond with those guys in such a short period time and what was your experience like? TS:It was very easy because we're all going through the same thing, you know. There's some growing pains like learning to get with a new team but everybody's there for the same reason so I think we gelled pretty quickly. Along with staying in the hotel together with was huge. We had as much comradery as possible. We'd go out to eat every day and just try to do something to get to know people. We'd play cards in the anything we could do to get acclimated and it happened pretty quickly. I thought we became friends within the first couple of days before games even started so it was probably the easiest acclamation I ever had.
USAB: Among the handful of guys that you mention is former Golden Spikes Award winner and two-times Collegiate National Team guy, Andrew Vaughn. What's your relationship like with him? TS:I have a funny story about Vaughny. The first night I was asleep because he flew in really late and apparently, he woke me up and I introduced myself. I woke up next morning and had no recollection so I had to reintroduce myself again. He made fun of me pretty good for that. And then on the second night I was FaceTiming my now fiancé and he starts laughing because he said that she had a really thick southern accent, which she does. And he says, "I need to get me a southern belle like that." So, I told my fiancé and now he's with her best friend who is her maid of honor actually. So, we got them together and sparks flew and now here we are. A California boy with a Mississippi girl, that's right.
USAB: You made the decision to leave South Alabama after your junior year when you were drafted. How did you know it was the right time? TS:It was relatively easy based on being picked 10th overall so I didn't really have any issue with that. It was really getting into pro ball and being the first-round pick. I feel like at the time I put a lot of pressure on myself trying to show why I was the first-round pick, even though people were telling me not to worry about that. That was tough for me. You were talking about on the water in Alabama and then I had to go up to West Virginia in the mountains and I had never been in the mountains so it was a bit of a culture shock but it wasn't too bad. I was really just playing my game that was all I had to do. I actually ended up having a pretty good summer so it worked out.
USAB: What was the best advice you received beforehand about the differences between college and pro ball? TS:You get more information. I think the best advice was to do more studying. I think you don't really get a lot of information in college. For us at least at [South Alabama] before games our hitting coach would come up to us round us up in a circle and say, "this is what the pitcher's got, go out there and play." It's not that simple anymore. Now we have video you can watch, there's scouting reports and so much information. Basically, I was told to learn how to study, learn how to break down the data and it'll work in your favor so I think that was the best.
USAB: Do you find yourself diving into analytics on a year-to-year basis and digging into your performance and evaluating yourself that way? TS:Not necessarily. I think for me I can feel how my body feels and what my body's telling me. So, hitting wise I can feel when something doesn't feel right versus watching. I video myself if something doesn't feel right. I'm sure every hitter is aware of where they hit the ball well and where they don't. I don't really need to see that. Mainly to look into the data I look at the pitcher I'm facing that way I can actually derive a plan. Before I get into the cage I have to have a plan against that guy. I would say I use the data more for pitchers than myself.
USAB: What's it been like as you are currently waiting things out and waiting for the season to begin? TS:It's strange. I will say that it's strange because we don't really have a timeline really yet. I'm sure we'll get one soon but it's hard to know what to prepare for. Do you go hit in the cage five or six times a week or how much do you throw like we don't know, so that's just uncharted waters for everybody so I don't feel like I'm at a disadvantage. The part that does stink a little bit is not having a gym to go to so you're just using equipment around the house and just make shifting anything just to get something in. I hit a lot, probably 5-6 times a week. We have a high school around here that still has its doors open for us. You know you're supposed to take advantage of any crisis that we go through and I think I've spent a lot more time with the family and it's a good thing. At least with no baseball I get to be around the family so it's good. It's been going well.
USAB: When you were drafted you said your two favorite hobbies were cooking and playing PlayStation golf, is that still true? TS: I still cook a little bit stay sharp, but I'm back on Call of Duty now, that takes up more of my time anyway. For the most part I try to spend as much time with the family and dogs as possible. I try to cook something every day to stay sharp and keep my weight up. I will say the last time I tried to cook deer sausage I burned it. So, I've been making sure I don't burn it anymore, I've been babying it so I'm getting better at it so I don't make any more mistakes. I'm eating good around here.
The five-time Team USA alum and 2019 Rod Dedeaux Coach of the Year checked in with USA Baseball on Instagram Live
May 7, 2020
Veronica Alvarez became the first woman to be named the USA Baseball Rod Dedeaux Coach of the Year for her work at the helm of the 2019 Women's National Team. Under her direction, Team USA finished its tournament with a perfect 7-0 record and the program's first gold medal since the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games. The U.S. outscored its opponents 124-20, held a cumulative .500 batting average and hit a record 11 home runs. The team was also named USA Baseball's Team of the Year after its dominating performance last summer.
In addition to making her managerial debut with the Women's National Team in 2019, Alvarez also served as an assistant coach on the 2018 staff and played for Team USA five times in her career as a catcher. Her time with the red, white and blue started in 2008 and every team she participated on medaled in international competition.
Since finishing her playing career in 2016, Alvarez has continued to help grow the next generation of female baseball players as a coach at the Trailblazer Series from 2017-2019 and the Girls Baseball Breakthrough Series Showcase & Development Camp in 2018 and 2019, joining the collaboration between Major League Baseball and USA Baseball to foster the next generation of female baseball players in the United States.
Additionally, Alvarez will serve as a coach with the Oakland Athletics at Major League Baseball Spring Training for the second consecutive year in 2020 and she has previously coached at the USA Baseball Women's National Team Identification Series and the 2019 12U National Open.
USA Baseball (USAB): How are you staying active and sane while we all stay home right now? Veronica Alvarez (VA): Well I live in Miami - Miami Beach, specifically - so we're definitely outdoors people, which makes it hard to stay inside. But we really love the outdoors so I have done a few paddle boarding trips. Not sure if that's illegal or not (laughs) but social-distancing paddle board trips for fun, and then walking the dog is always a fun adventure for me. I have a great dane and we go on really long walks with him. So that's non-baseball stuff and then I've just been staying busy with lessons and just contining to learn as much as possible.
USAB: Have you developed and new hobbies or tried and new activities?
VA: No, just our walks have gotten longer, that's for sure and just enjoying being outside. But my schedule for the most part feels normal because I'm still working. So, every third day, I'm a firefighter paramedic and in between is kind of setting myself up with the laundry, the housework and things like that. Then with any free time, just being outside if possible to get some fresh air.
USAB: Can you explain the Zoom meetings you and other Women's National Team alums and staff members have been having with MLB scouts and officials over the last couple of weeks?
VA: Yep, with the whole idea to try and make ourselves better, USA Baseball and MLB have hosted a few of them for us. So, it's been any alumni of the Women's National Team or current players or coaches or anything like that and we've been able to hear from scouts. One of the oldest scouts in the game where he had a more old-school mentality (doesn't even use a radar gun when he scouts players, which was fun to hear) - a man with a very strong mustache. I loved hearing his angle on things, it was just great to hear that kind of old-school mentality. And then a second meeting was more new-school, where we saw all the analytics in baseball and how they're able to evaluate players and scout them or just work on current players and improve their skills based on using their analytics and their systems, which was cool to hear.
Being with the A's last year in Spring Training and this year as well, I was able to work with that and see it. I love telling the woman about it because it blows our minds the capabilities of the system. It's such a fun tool to have but it was great to hear so much more that they could do with it. I just got the bare bones on it, I used it for a few hours on catching and analyzing our catchers in the system and how we could work with that, but hearing everything else - that they get to evaluate the speed at which a player accelerates, then based on that, see how many bases he's going to steal - it was fun to see.
USAB: So, you got to see the older and newer mentalities but were there any other favorite takeaways from the people you guys have interacted with via Zoom?
VA: Well it just opens your mind that there's so much out there and that's something fun that we've always known about baseball is you'll never learn everything. But now there's just this whole other world of it where technology is involved. It just opens our minds to learning more and being open to more but still being able to balance it. So, mixing the two is a great tool of having that old-school mentality where we're still using our eyes and our judgment but then using the numbers as well. It's fun to mix the two and see how they can be beneficial to us in the future.
USAB: Let's go back to the beginning, what got you started in baseball to begin with?
VA: I always say I was born to play this; I came out wanting to play. I'm Cuban-American and in our Cuban culture, girls and women aren't really supposed to play sports - or at least they weren't when I was growing up - but I was lucky to have parents that allowed me. One of the first moments was my mom took me to go do ballet or something and she tells the story of I ran away waving my arms and screaming 'no!' and screaming that I wanted to go play baseball so I always loved it (laughs). My brother played, he was a little bit older than me and I was in the stands with him kind of waiting to be put into the game.
USAB: So some of the Women's National Team players adopt baseball at a later point in their lives, so what percentage of women do you think truly play baseball from a young age and kept it with them throughout their lives to build a career out of it like you have?
VA: I actually think [the number is] higher than you think of the woman on the national team that played baseball. The norm - obviously because there's more opportunity in softball - is that you think most of them went to softball. I actually did go to softball, I played softball in college and was lucky enough to come back to baseball and find the game again. But we're a mix of players. We have some that never switched to softball; we have some that played baseball through senior year of high school and switched to softball just for college opportunities and then came back to the sport; and then we have the ones that have played baseball before and were just more baseball-style players and were able to make the adjustment - like Alex Hugo. She's one that never played baseball but if you saw her play softball, you would think she had. So, she's made some great adjustments and been able to [transition to baseball]. But I almost think we have more non-softball players and true baseball players than softball players.
USAB: Besides running away from ballet class, do you have a favorite early baseball memory?
VA: I would say my memory probably comes from the fact that I always wanted to play and I was eager to be involved and it was fun to blow the minds of people who didn't expect me to be good at it from a young age. If was fun to blow people's minds in the sense that I was just the little sister that wanted to play then all of a sudden, I had a heck of an arm and I did it better than the guys that were on my brother's team. So, I think those were my earliest memories, just being involved and then seeing people's appreciation for me based on my appreciation for the game.
USAB: You've been a part of the USA Baseball family for quite a while now. What has USA Baseball meant to you throughout your career, both playing and working your way into coaching?
VA: It's meant a lot. Most women in sport, their collegiate career is the end of their sports career, so I was lucky that I was able to continue playing and had an outlet for it. And then it wasn't just a place to play, it became so much more. My dream as a kid was to be an Olympian and, I'm technically not an Olympian, but I was in a Pan American Games and that's the highest that the sport has gone. I was able to represent the U.S. on that international stage and that was almost a dream come true in a sense. I didn't accomplish it all the way, but I accomplished it at the highest [level] possible for the sport I played. Now, the goal is maybe I'll be an Olympian as a coach one day and help somebody else achieve that dream.
USAB: What would you say is your favorite thing about coaching?
VA: Well I really love helping somebody accomplish a dream. I was that person as a player in just the way I was a supporter of my teammates and I'm there as a coach. I like to help somebody achieve what they're trying to achieve and see the adjustments that they've made and how much better they've gotten through time. I love that, that drives me to do what I do. I love coaching young players because it helps me communicate better the skills that maybe an older person would understand but you have to really simplify it for a young player - you have to use different words, you have to use a different explanation because you're going to have to help them understand it. So, I love coaching young players and that just makes me better for when it's time to coach more developed, more mature players.
USAB: Do you have a favorite Team USA memory? One that sticks out above the rest?
VA: There are a lot. My first year playing, we played in Japan - which is a country that loves baseball, so that was an amazing experience. It was the first time I played for USA, so it was spectacular. And then the second year, I played in 2010 we played in Venezuela, which was another country that absolutely loves baseball but a different country, so it was a different experience. In our game against Venezuela, we had close to 16,000 fans and just to play in front of that crows was incredible. We ended up losing that game because of the crowd and it's still one of my favorite memories - and I hate losing. But it was just a cool place to be and especially experience that with the teammates and the team we had was an incredible one so that was fun.
USAB: What about a coaching memory? Does anything beat winning the gold in 2019?
VA: Well, no and obviously, we want to win and that's the goal, but the team dynamic that we had last year was the dream. It was a family. Everyone was in it for the end goal and everyone made adjustments - really, really good adjustments - and trusted the coaching staff and trusted each other and really performed well on the field. So, I would say my favorite part about last year was the team dynamic.
USAB: What kind of advice would you give to a young athlete that wants to stay active and stay sharp in these less certain times for when baseball does come back?
VA: I'm big on goal setting and writing down your goal and then steps that need to be take to get there. These times are perfect examples that we can kind of get lulled into this zone where we're not working on things or we're not really addressing our goals. So, I'm big on putting it down on paper. What is your goal? And then how am I going to get there? Because we're not going to accomplish this goal in a day or a week or a month, it's going to take some time. But seeing it, I think, is helpful when you don't see the end. Especially right now we don't see the end to this so it would be nice to put something down on paper and how you can accomplish things.
USA Baseball caught up with the four-time alum on Instagram Live to talk about how he got started in baseball, his new hobbies and more.
May 5, 2020
Pete Crow-Armstrong is a four-time USA Baseball alum and one of a select few athletes who have participated on all of the organization's youth national teams, including 2018 18U National Team teammate Anthony Volpe and Chicago Cubs outfielder Albert Almora.
Crow-Armstrong has won two gold medals with Team USA as a member of the 2017 15U National Team that won gold at the COPABE "AA" Pan American Championships and the 2018 18U National Team that claimed the title at the COPABE "AAA" Pan American Championships. As a member of the 2019 18U National Team, he was named the All-World Center Fielder at the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) U-18 Baseball World Cup, where the U.S. earned a silver medal. He has a .365 lifetime batting average with Team USA.
Additionally, he participated in the 2019 USA Baseball National High School Invitational with Harvard-Westlake, which advanced to the championship game for the third time in the school's history.
USA Baseball (USAB): What got you into baseball? Pete Crow-Armstrong (PCA): It was just running around the backyard, probably playing every sport I possibly could and then years after that, I just happened to stick with baseball. We had a good-sized backyard that I was lucky enough to get to tear up and just a bunch of wiffle ball with my buddies and my dad and playing until we couldn't see the ball anymore. So, I think that that probably kind of sparked my love for the game and ultimately when I was probably we, I just stuck with baseball.
USAB: What do you love most about the game of baseball? PCA: [I love that] it doesn't matter how old you are, what level you play, you can kind of just run around and be free. I play the outfield so I love being able to roam that area of the field and control that and be myself. It's another place I can be a little different than who I am off the field and it's a really great outlet. It's a great escape sometimes and I think it's this really strategic game, but it's competitive and crazy at moments too. So, I think there's a ton to just absolutely love about the sport.
USAB: You mentioned starting out playing baseball at a very young age but at what age do you think you started to come around confidence-wise and figured out, not only do I love this game, but I might be pretty good at it? PCA: I would say probably 11 or 12 [years old]. I play Little League all my life, I never really played much club ball or anything like that, so hearing about all these club teams was kind of crazy at that age and [hearing about] all these really good players at that age. But once I hit 11 or 12, I started playing with guys a little bit older than me - some of whom are my best friends now - and then I was lucky enough to make the 12U National Team. I think that was probably the moment where I was like, 'okay, I can hang with the rest of the people in the country.'
USAB: You are one of a very small number of athletes to play on all of the USA Baseball youth national teams - along with players like Albert Almora and Anthony Volpe. What has USA Baseball meant to you throughout your playing career so far? PCA: I think I can speak on behalf of pretty much everybody that's played for a program like this: you get to experience things that you probably never imagine that you'd be able to experience at 12, 15, 18 [years old] and even some in college. I think that being introduced to new ways of life in different countries and new styles of play and a bunch of new guys from around the country that - like I said earlier, some of whom are my best friends now - I think that there's a lot to be thankful for. Just being able to play with them a handful of times, I've met so many great players, so many great people, and I've gotten to experience so many crazy things that I never imagined I would when I was younger just only being a high schooler.
And obviously, being able to say that I played for each level and being able to say that Albert Almora and [Anthony Volpe] did it too is an honor. Those are two great players. I was lucky enough to play with Anthony a couple summers ago and he's one of the best people to be around; he's a great guy. So yeah, USA Baseball means a lot and, heck, if I get to find myself playing with them again someday, that's be the best.
USAB: If I asked you to pick a favorite memory from each Team USA experience, do you think you could do that? You were on the 12U National Team in 2014, the 15U National Team in 2017 and the 18U National Team each of the past two years. Do you have a favorite memory from each? PCA: I think 12U would probably have to be trials; it was a whole new kind of format, and I'd never experienced anything like that before. I ended up rooming with Carson Tucker, who's one of my best friends now, so I think actually 12U as a whole, I'd say. Just the people I met, I still keep in touch with probably more than half that team and that was six years ago at this point, so I'd say the whole thing and meeting new people [was my favorite part] from 12U.
From 15U, I think it was honestly the gold medal game. We didn't come out on top necessarily - we got named co-champions - and that was humbling because you kind of go in there expecting to win every time. You're surrounded by absolutely amazing baseball players on your team and you kind of expect to go in there and kick butt so I think that was humbling. That was good for me to experience something like that - it wasn't defeat because we still played our tails off but it wasn't success either.
Then 18U, [in 2018] we won gold in Panama so that's my favorite experience of them all. That was a great team and I was super lucky to play with guys older than me and I got to learn from them. And then, similar to 15U, I think that this past year's 18U team we battled from the start, before we even got to playing, flying in Rawley Hector and Drew Bowser a little late. Those guys came and they brought it and we couldn't have asked for better teammates and performances from them too. But I think the adversity that we faced this past fall - again, similar to 15U - it was humbling and it really kind of makes you well-versed in how to handle obstacles like that. So I would say that as a whole too.
USAB: With Team USA, having gone through it so many times, you've gotten to do a lot of traveling - there was Panama, Taiwan, Korea, Colombia. What have those different experiences been like for you? PCA: Country to country, each one was different. I went to each place not really knowing what to expect. One thing you kind of know is that you have to be prepared to have everybody rooting against you. So, there's going to be that and there are going to be different obstacles you have to jump over, whether that's different kind of weather than you're used to, different playing conditions, whatever it may be, so you have to go in there prepared that you're not going to be really rooted for. But each place that I went to was beautiful. We have some downtime so we get to see different parts of the country and Colombia was especially cool. We got to go see some old towns they had there that were kind of transformed into touristy attractions. In Korea, again it was beautiful, the backdrops behind the fields were great and I think the fans were especially cool to play in front of there and also in Panama. Being able to play against the host country, everybody comes out and it's a crazy atmosphere. So, I think that each country I went to was different but a lot of the challenges you face and the things you experience are kind of the same from place to place.
USAB: Was there one place that stood out as far as just a travel destination? Baseball aside, can you pick a favorite? PCA: If we're talking travel destination, I would say Korea or Colombia. In Korea, there's a lot I'd love to explore there if I wasn't going for a baseball trip and Colombia, we only got to see a little glimpse of what else the country was about besides baseball. So, I'd like to go deeper there and explore the country there too. Either of those, I'd be perfectly happy traveling to.
USAB: What are you doing right now to stay sharp and stay in shape as best you can while we're all holed in right now? PCA: My routine hasn't really changed, I think I just have a little more time on my hands. I'm working out every day, hitting every day; I'm lucky enough to be able to go to a family friend's backyard and sneak in there and use their cage, they've been nice enough to let [me and my dad] do that. It's nice because I haven't done anything baseball-related with [my dad] since I was probably nine or ten so it's cool to get that little chance. And then, I have Zoom classes for school, we're kind of winding down and we've got finals coming up, but yeah, I think the only difference is I just have a little more time on my hands when school gets out and when I finish working out and doing my baseball stuff.
USAB: So, nothing new to the regimen that's been added because of the circumstances that you like and might keep doing going forward? PCA: No, I think right now it just kind of prepares you for a time when, years down the road, if you're in the big leagues where you may have a ton of downtime before a game. It's cool to see how you can kind of conserve energy and be prepared for the nine innings that night or that afternoon or whatever. Also, this is a good time for everybody to pick up a new hobby or something that they can take with them, so I started trying to play the guitar. I read a lot, so I've been reading a little more than usual and then [watching] a bunch of movies. But I just think as tough as it is right now, it could come out as a blessing in disguise for a lot of us.
USAB: How is learning the guitar going? PCA: It's good, I'm starting to get some calluses on these parts of my fingers. There are still a couple of chords I can't get down but if you kind of have the C, B, G chords, you can kind of just fiddle around.
USAB: Who are your top five favorite baseball players of all time? PCA: So, when I looked at this question, I had a hard time trying to rank them, but my number one if kind of a runaway. Griffey is my number one. The fun that he had on the field and just the sheer athleticism that he played with when was in his prime and even younger is special and once in a lifetime - so him for sure. I'm also a huge Javy Baez fan. We're a Cubs household so when he got brought up I thought he was awesome. He just plays with so much energy, so that's one thing that I really liked about him. I like a lot of young guys right now but I was always a Ricky Henderson fan, the way he ran and also, just absolutely powerful. I like Juan Soto a lot right now - a new face for MLB who can bring that flare that we see a lot of young guys having right now. And then, he's probably going to make fun of me but Cole Tucker and Jack Flaherty. I think there are just a lot of young guys who are going to make this game even better than it already is and [Tucker and Flaherty] are just great people on and off the field and I look up to them a lot. So, I'd say those are my top five right now. It changes a lot with new guys coming around or I learn about an older player that I like but I think for me it's a more than just baseball, so those five right now would be guys I like to talk about.
USAB: I get the younger guys, the current players, but how did you learn about guys like Ken Griffey Jr. and Ricky Henderson? What first exposed you to those guys? PCA: My dad and then YouTube and me just liking baseball and wanting to dive deeper when I was younger and coming up. I mean, I don't think you have to be a baseball player to know who Griffey is, he's kind of the iconic swing man, or whatever you want to call him. So, I immediately gravitated towards his aura and how he played. I think it's pretty infectious and I think I try to take some stuff from his game for sure. But Ricky Henderson, I think just watching TV, being on YouTube, you kind of stumble upon these people and I've liked those two for a while now.
USAB: How much are you looking forward to the MLB draft in June? What would it mean to you to hear your named called relatively early on in that? PCA: It would be great. It would definitely be a dream come true but I think once anybody gets drafted, it's kind of just a checkpoint. So, I'm really looking forward to that if the opportunity presents itself and I'm taking it day by day. I also am committed to Vanderbilt, so I have a great home in them. Coach Corbin, Coach Baxter, Coach Brown and Coach Macias, they're all absolutely amazing people and great families and I love Vanderbilt for more than just baseball. So, I'm super fortunate to be in the position I am and I think that there is really no stream going into this, it's just a 'whatever happens, happens' mentality for me and I'm going to be happy either way.
An Update Regarding the 2020 National Team Championships
May 4, 2020
National Team Championships Registered Teams,
Members of the USA Baseball staff held a conference call on Friday to discuss the status of our upcoming events and the continued effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. Stemming from this conversation, we would like to share with you an update regarding the National Team Championships.
Due to this unprecedented situation and its ever-evolving effect on regulations set forth by federal, state and local governments, USA Baseball will continue to monitor the impact of COVID-19 daily and provide a definitive update to our Summer 2020 schedule on-or-around Monday, May 18.
We apologize for any inconvenience this additional delay may cause; however, we felt it prudent to follow this course of action in an effort to maintain the planned on-field programming offered by USA Baseball this summer.
With this change to our initial timeline, an updated timeline is as follows:
A final decision on the National Team Championships will be announced on-or-around Monday, May 18.
If the National Team Championships do occur on schedule, final payments will be due on Friday, May 29.
If teams drop from the tournament before May 29, they will receive a full refund of deposits and registration fees that have been made up to that date.
If the National Team Championships do not occur, all teams will receive a full refund of deposits and registration fees for the event.
If necessary, USA Baseball will begin to process and send all refund checks the week of June 1.
If your team is utilizing USA Baseball's Travel Services department to book hotels for the National Team Championships, please note that the hotel reservation deadline has been extended to Friday, May 29. Please email email@example.com if you need further assistance.
We appreciate your continued support of USA Baseball and we will continue to champion the best possible course of action moving forward with consideration to the best interest of all parties involved.
Thank you for your understanding and please stay safe!
Members of the USA Baseball staff held a conference call on Friday to discuss the status of our upcoming events and the continued effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. Stemming from this conversation, we would like to share with you an update regarding the Futures Invitational.
Due to this unprecedented situation and its ever-evolving effect on regulations set forth by federal, state and local governments, USA Baseball will continue to monitor the impact of COVID-19 daily and provide a definitive update relating to our Summer 2020 schedule on-or-around Monday, May 18.
We apologize for any inconvenience this additional delay may cause; however, we felt it prudent to follow this course of action in an effort to maintain the planned on-field programming offered by USA Baseball this summer.
With this change to our initial timeline, an updated timeline is as follows:
A final decision on the Futures Invitational will be announced on-or-around Monday, May 18.
If the Futures Invitational does occur on schedule, final payments will be due on Monday, June 8.
If teams drop from the tournament before May 25, they will receive a full refund of deposits and registration fees that have been made up to that date.
If the Futures Invitational does not occur, all teams will receive a full refund of deposits and registration fees for the event.
If necessary, USA Baseball will begin to process and send all refund checks the week of June 8.
Additionally, please note that the USA Baseball Travel Services department has extended the hotel reservation deadline to Monday, June 8. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you need further assistance.
We appreciate your continued support of USA Baseball and we will continue to champion the best possible course of action moving forward with consideration to the best interest of all parties involved.
Thank you for your understanding and please stay safe!