USA BASEBALL NEWS

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.

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How to Become a USA Baseball Coach - Part Three: Unfinished Business

August 14, 2020

You go to a USA Baseball national team identification event. You play your best. You get noticed. You get invited to the chance of a lifetime: An opportunity to represent your country as a player on the USA Baseball national team.

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.

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How to Become a USA Baseball Coach - Part Two: The Scorekeeper

August 7, 2020

You go to a USA Baseball national team identification event. You play your best. You get noticed. You get invited to the chance of a lifetime: An opportunity to represent your country as a player on the USA Baseball national team.

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 Scorekeeper: Assistant Coach Troy Gerlach

Troy Gerlach is the head baseball coach at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, Arizona. Before that, he held the same position at Arcadia High School in Phoenix. Being around the game his entire life, Troy was drawn to USA Baseball and what it represented as the leading youth baseball federation in the country and the world. He needed to be a part of it, and he'd be honored to help in any way possible. Literally.

In 2012, USA Baseball needed a scorekeeper at the National Team Championships in Arizona. For Troy, living and coaching close by, it seemed like an easy fit.

Troy was an astute scorekeeper, keeping track of players that impressed him and putting down hand written notes on a separate sheet of paper. He wanted to have information at the ready in case any scouts came by asking for his input. So he wrote down pop times and velocity numbers that stood out among all these players fighting for the opportunity to play for a national team.

And those scouts did come by, asking Troy if any players caught his eye throughout the day that started at 7:00 a.m. and featured 110-degree heat beating down from the Arizona sun.

"I had this stuff all written down. Guys would look at it and I think just having that info down and knowing that I was putting in that effort, when I told them 'Hey there is this guy over here, he looks pretty good,' I think they trusted that I did know what I was talking about and they would go check him out."

The scouting bug had caught Troy, and he wanted to help in an even more direct way. One day, atop the field tower, Senior Director of Baseball Operations Ashley Bratcher was talking to Troy about what he had seen that week. During the conversation, Troy told Ashley he was honored to do anything USA Baseball wanted him to do, but if there was ever an opportunity to do more, to scout one of the tournaments, he would love a shot.

"Troy expressed to me that he would like to help out with scouting or be on a task force if there was ever an opportunity. So, the last week of the tournament, something happened with one of the guys who was supposed to scout that week and so we had an opening. I asked Troy if he wanted to do it," Bratcher remembered.

For one tournament, Troy had graduated from scorekeeper to scout. A tournament of 14-year-old ball players working to be seen by the right scout, to get invited to that next step, to have a chance to put on a jersey that read U-S-A across the front. And as one of those scouts, Troy had a similar opportunity.

"I think I wrote every single thing down that week. I was in panic mode. I didn't want to screw this up," said Troy.

At these tournaments, each scout on the USA Baseball task force handles one field per day. Watching four games each day, scouting all eight teams at once. At the end of the day, the four members of the task force get together with national team coaches and USA Baseball personnel to discuss their day's worth of findings.

"The other guys said he did a great job and that he was fully committed, so the next year, instead of hiring him as a scorekeeper, we hired him back as a scout," said Bratcher.

A week of scouting turned into a year of scouting, which turned into years of scouting. From National Team Championships to National Team Identification Series (NTIS) to National Team Development Programs (NTDP) to National Team Trials, Troy kept up with the grind and never lost passion for the gig, the players, and the ultimate goal of winning a World Cup.

And then in 2017, Troy was asked to be on the staff for the 14U NTDP. Also working the NTDP that year, Jason Maxwell, who would go on to be named the manager of the 2018 15U National Team.

"The relationships we built in that 14U National Team Development Program year, those relationships played a huge role in winning the World Cup," Maxwell said of the two-year process. And those relationships went from coach to player, player to player, and coach to coach. "When Ashley had asked me to be the manager for the World Cup team, she asked who I wanted to be the coaches, and the three coaches we took came from that National Team Development Program."

Passion. Hard work. Selflessness. Relationships. These things are invaluable to a coach on a journey to becoming a representative of USA Baseball, and all are attainable for anyone that has that dream. Doesn't matter if you are a former big leaguer, or a former scorekeeper.

Troy Gerlach's story is the second of a four-part series on "How to Become a USA Baseball Coach." The remaining two stories of the series will be released on USABaseball.com and @USABaseball on Facebook, Instgram and Twitter.

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How to Become a USA Baseball Coach - Part One: The Handshake

July 31, 2020

You go to a USA Baseball national team identification event. You play your best. You get noticed. You get invited to the chance of a lifetime: An opportunity to represent your country as a player on the USA Baseball national team.

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 Handshake: Manager Jason Maxwell

Jason Maxwell played professional baseball for 12 years, started a high school program from scratch in Tennessee, and went on to lead Team USA to their first-ever U-15 Baseball World Cup title. But how did Maxwell get his start with USA Baseball? From the way he tells it: A handshake.

"You never know what a handshake will mean down the road." This is a philosophy Jason lives by and instills in his two sons. And it is a philosophy that set Jason on a path to what he calls his 'number one without a doubt' personal achievement in the game of baseball.

The handshake in this instance was with Jan Weisberg. Jan is the head coach of a college program that was recruiting one of Jason's high school players back in 2013. That college program was Birmingham-Southern, which was also the alma mater of Brooks Webb, former Senior Director of Baseball Operations at USA Baseball.

One day, Brooks called his former college manager asking if he knew of any coaches that showed the heart and ability to join the newest crop of USA Baseball coaches.

Jan sent him to Jason Maxwell.

Jason started his USA Baseball coaching career where most coaches do, working as a member of the task force at the National Team Championships and the National Team Identification Series. Hundreds of kids packed into ballparks across the country, all with the same goal as each other, all with the same goal as Jason Maxwell: A chance to represent the United States of America.

His passion for the game and his drive to help these young athletes reach their potential was obvious to everyone around him. Jason was suddenly at any event USA Baseball needed an extra hand.

After three short years, he was named to his first national team staff, and traveled to Japan as an assistant coach with the 2016 15U National Team. The team placed third in the tournament. But Jason left wanting more.

In 2017 Jason was named the field manager for the 14U National Team Development Program (NTDP). A group of young players stacked with talent. Enough to have a chance at history, to be the first team in U.S. history to bring home the U-15 World Cup championship the following year.

Over the next two summers, Jason led that group of young athletes, helped them develop and earned their trust. And in 2018, history was made.

"When you are standing in another country with a gold medal around your neck, and the national anthem starts to play," Jason remembered. "There is nothing like it."

From a handshake, to a phone call, to a gold medal.

Now if this sounds like fate, and something impossible for an everyday coach, that is not the case. Yes, Jason played big league baseball, but Jason was the head coach of a team coming off a 13-16 record when he received that phone call. A moment in which his first instinct was 'Just let it ring. We aren't going to be in the National High School Invitational' when he saw that his caller ID read "USA Baseball." 

But the call was for him. Because his passion, drive and ability were obvious to anyone around him. Obvious to Jan Weisberg, then obvious to Brooks Webb and eventually obvious to new Senior Director of Baseball Operations at USA Baseball, Ashley Bratcher, who served as the program director for the world championship 15U National Team in 2018.

"Jason epitomizes the character, leadership and personal qualities we look for to be a USA Baseball national team coach," said Bratcher. "In every facet of his life, both personal and professional, he does everything the right way and is a perfect representation of our game, our organization and our country.

"Without a doubt, he was truly an obvious and deserving choice to lead a USA Baseball national team and it was an honor to witness his direct impact on our athletes and his fellow coaches on the 2018 squad. It surprised nobody whom has ever had the privilege of working with him that he led our 15U National Team to unprecedented heights, winning its first-ever world championship title."

Every coach makes connections every day. And you never know what a handshake will mean down the road. And you'll never know when the right impression on the right person might lead to glory.

Jason Maxwell's story is the first of a four-part series on "How to Become a USA Baseball Coach." The remaining three stories of the series will be released on USABaseball.com and @USABaseball on Facebook, Instgram and Twitter.

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The Futures

USA Baseball Updates 2020 On-Field Schedule

The 10U Futures Invitational and 11U/13U Futures Series have been cancelled
July 20, 2020

CARY, N.C. - USA Baseball announced today that the 10U Futures Invitational scheduled for August 6-9 at Thomas Brooks Park in Cary, North Carolina, and the 11U and 13U Futures Series scheduled for August 28-30 in Irvine, California, have been cancelled. These events will not be rescheduled.

Additionally, the organization has postponed hosting the 15U and Women's National Team Trials until the fall. The Trials dates are still to be determined and will be announced at a later time. The World Baseball Softball Confederation's U-15 and Women's Baseball World Cups are currently scheduled to take place in Mexico from October 30-November 8 and November 11-21, respectively.

USA Baseball continues to closely monitor the ongoing situation regarding the coronavirus pandemic and is diligently evaluating the status of the remaining events on its 2020 calendar. All decisions on events will be made in as timely of a manner as possible in accordance with government-mandated guidelines and with respect to the safety and well-being of all the participating athletes, coaches and fans.

At this time, the 2020 National Team Championships North Carolina is still scheduled to begin on July 27 at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, North Carolina.

For further information on USA Baseball events, follow @USABaseball on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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WNT

A Lifetime on the Diamond: Veronica Alvarez's Baseball Journey

Part one of a two-part feature on the five-time Women's National Team player and two-time manager's path from discovering her love of baseball to her quest for a world championship
June 19, 2020

Veronica Alvarez's experience in baseball hasn't always been easy or straightforward. There has been adversity; there have been detours; there have been more than a few nay-sayers.

But none of that has ever mattered. She has never been deterred because as far as she's concerned baseball is where she belongs, no matter the obstacles.

"I'm a woman in this male-dominated world, but I honestly feel comfortable there," Alvarez said. "There's nowhere I'm more comfortable than on a baseball field."

That comfort comes naturally - Alvarez knew early on she was meant to be a baseball player - but it also comes from a lifetime on the diamond as a student of the game she loves.

 

BASEBALL BEGINNINGS

Even at just five years old, it was obvious to everyone - including, and maybe most, to Alvarez herself - that she belonged on a diamond of dirt surrounded by a sea of grass.

She said no to the ballet classes her parents suggested. Instead, she was a staple at her older brother's baseball games, taking it all in and being a part of the action however she could.

"I just wanted to play no matter what from the beginning. I don't know why I had this love for the game but it was there and it was real," Alvarez recalled. "I remember my brother started playing before me and I was all about being the bat girl. I just wanted to be there.

"Then I was the one that wanted to practice. As I got older, I was the one out there throwing balls against the garage door and hitting into our net for hours. I absolutely loved it from the beginning and the love just grew and grew and grew."

When she finally got her chance, her passion and immediate love for the game wasn't all she had going for her. She also had talent and the combination meant she could not easily be written off.

"I remember it being a big deal that I was going to try out," she said. "And they tried to kind of dismiss me but then I threw the ball from third base and they were like, 'oh, can't dismiss her!'"

Her arm strength at a young age was impressive and it not only earned her the spot on the team, but also the respect of her coaches and peers. She knew she belonged there and it didn't take long before everyone else knew it too.

During her early playing days, Alvarez spent time at third and on the mound but there was one position that called her name. So, when the team needed a catcher one fateful afternoon, she raised her hand and never looked back.

"One day, our coach said 'we need someone to catch' and my mom was shaking her head but she couldn't fight it," Alvarez laughed. "She couldn't fight it. I couldn't fight it. I was meant to be a catcher."

From then on, Alvarez could be found behind the plate - even when she eventually made the switch to softball like so many young girls do.

She never felt as though she was forced out of baseball and into softball though - in fact, she is quick to defend the other sport that gave her so many opportunities.

Because of softball, Alvarez received a full-ride scholarship to Villanova and a chance to continue playing during a summer in Spain after graduation. It was that summer abroad that truly hammered home to her that she could not - like so many athletes must do after college - just stop playing.

But the sport she really wanted to keep playing? Baseball, of course.

"When I came back (from Spain), I started working for the public school system at a desk job and I was sitting there and all I could think was 'I have to play baseball somehow,'" Alvarez said. "So, I started googling and it eventually linked me to USA Baseball."

She had just missed the 2006 Women's National Team which had recently returned from the World Cup with a gold medal, but a connection was made and when the next try-out was announced a couple years later, Alvarez quickly made her way to Kenosha, Wisconsin, without a second thought.

And just like that, her baseball journey was back on track.

 

THE TEAM USA PATHWAY

When she booked her trip to the USA Baseball Women's National Team try-out in Wisconsin, Alvarez had only her favorite movie, A League Of Their Own, as a reference point for what to expect.

While this tournament wasn't quite the same, there were some aspects that reminded Alvarez of the film - not the least of which was actually getting to meet and interact with members of the original All-American Girls Professional Baseball League during the event.

But the biggest similarity was her reaction to finally seeing all the athletes. Like the film's protagonists, Alvarez was shocked to see just how many women who, like her, had a passion for playing baseball.

"(The tournament) was phenomenal. It was the first time that I saw that many women playing baseball in one place," she recalled. "It blew my mind. I had no idea - as so many girls and women still have no idea - that something like that existed."

Not only did it exist, but she was getting a chance to be part of it and she did not let the chance pass her by.

Alvarez excelled at the event and was chosen to represent the U.S. on the 2008 Women's National Team at the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) Women's World Cup in Matsuyama, Japan, where she helped Team USA win a bronze medal.

"Wearing the USA jersey and being able to represent the United States in international competition is indescribable," Alvarez said. "Standing for the national anthem with that jersey on, there's nothing that compares to it.

"I'm a first-generation American citizen and the United States provided so much for my family, so playing for the national team and representing the country in that way was the ultimate goal for me."

And 2008 was just the start.

She went on to play on four more national teams, earning another bronze medal and a silver medal at the IBAF Women's World Cups in 2010 and 2012, respectively. She was also a member of the 2015 Women's National Team that claimed gold at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games.

"Kenosha, Wisconsin, was the beginning of an epic career in baseball," Alvarez said. "I really appreciate that moment because that's what kickstarted all of this. I am so lucky to have extended my career after college into my thirties - a lot of people don't have that chance."

It was a career that gave her friendships, experiences and memories of a lifetime, but eventually, it was time for the next chapter.

Following the 2016 World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Women's Baseball World Cup, Alvarez made the difficult decision to retire from playing. But while she knew it was the right choice, she was not willing to say goodbye to baseball, or Team USA, entirely.

So, when another opportunity to extend her baseball career came in the form of coaching, Alvarez - once again - jumped at the chance.

"Making that decision (to retire) was heartbreaking and really hard for me. A lifetime of playing, a lifetime of doing something I love, had come to an end," Alvarez said. "But once I came to terms with it, it allowed me to turn the page and go all-in to coaching."

And go all in she did, coaching at every joint USA Baseball and MLB event she could from the Trailblazer Series to the Girls Breakthrough Series, and at the Women's National Team Identification Series, before finally being chosen for the 2018 Women's National Team coaching staff.

"Putting on that jersey as part of the staff meant so much because it was progress," Alvarez said. "We've had women on the Women's National Team coaching staff before but not that many so it was an honor to get to help lead our team."

In her role on the staff, Alvarez was able to hone her ability to see the bigger picture and truly make the transition from player to coach.

It was an invaluable experience that allowed her to learn the game in a different way and prepared her for her next challenges - like getting a chance to coach at MLB Spring Training with the Oakland Athletics. Or write the Women's National Team lineup instead of appearing in it.

"I think I'll look back on my time with (the 2018 Women's National Team) staff as a big part of my progress," she said. "Without that experience, I wouldn't have been mentally ready to, and confident in, approaching an opportunity like the one I got with the Oakland A's - or the one I got to lead Team USA."

This is part one of a two-part feature on five-time Women's National Team player and two-time manager, Veronica Alvarez.

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3 Up, 3 Down With Veronica Alvarez

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.

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WNT

3 Up, 3 Down with Alex Hugo

USA Baseball caught up with the 2019 Sportswoman of the Year on Instagram Live
April 20, 2020

Alex Hugo is a two-time USA Baseball Women's National Team alum, having played for Team USA in both 2018 and 2019. She helped lead the 2019 Women's National Team to a gold medal at the 2019 COPABE Women's Pan-American Championships. She earned MVP honors and was named the 2019 USA Baseball Sportswoman of the Year for her performance in the tournament. Additionally, Hugo currently holds the Women's National Team records for runs scored (20), RBIs (18) and home runs (4) in a single season.

USA Baseball: What is your most fond baseball memory?
Alex Hugo: I'd have to say, just because I haven't played baseball my whole life, that it was when we won gold in Mexico. It was an amazing experience and it was really awesome to see the team come together and just play free baseball, with no stress. It was really fun!

USAB: What are you doing at home right now to stay in shape?
AH: Well we've been going on a lot of walks, so we don't get too bored in the house. Also, I've been running every day and we tried some boxing workouts, so that's been fun for us!

USAB: Can you describe the relationship that the Women's National Team alums have?
AH: We all have a good connection! You're able to text anyone at any time and catch up. If we live close to each other, we set up training sessions and then go to dinner and all that, it's nice to be able to do that. Even if you're going other places for work or vacation you can usually find another teammate to visit.

USAB: What have the last couple of years representing your country with the Women's National Team meant to you?
AH: It's been a really amazing experience being able to play for something that's bigger than yourself. I'm a very patriotic person, with my brother and other family members having been in the military. It's an honor to be able to represent my country.

USAB: You've played sports at every level (youth, collegiate, pro) but what makes playing for Team USA different from anything else?
AH: It's just humbling to play for something bigger than you. Playing at a university, you play for the name on the front and I'm really big on that. Playing for my country is like that but on a different level, and you almost feel like when you get to play and travel you're representing how proud we are of our country.

USAB: What is your favorite baseball movie that you think everyone should watch while they're staying home?
AH: I really like A League Of Their Own - you can't be on the Women's National Team and not be a fan! It's funny and teaches some good lessons. I also like The Sandlot - I grew up watching that with me brother - but I'd have to go with A League Of Their Own!

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WNT

USA Baseball Announces 2020 Women's National Team Staff

2019 Rod Dedeaux Coach of the Year Veronica Alvarez returns as manager in 2020
February 4, 2020

DURHAM, N.C. - USA Baseball announced the coaching staff for the 2020 Women's National Team on Tuesday, highlighted by the return of 2019 USA Baseball Rod Dedeaux Coach of the Year and five-time Team USA alum, Veronica Alvarez, as the manager. The remaining members of the coaching staff from 2019 will also return to lead the program in 2020 with Reynol Mendoza serving as the team's pitching coach and Manny Crespo, Sr. and Alex Oglesby as assistant coaches.

Following an undefeated run to a gold medal at the 2019 COBAPE Women's Pan-American Championships, the staff will look to guide this year's team to the program's first world championship title since 2006-and third overall-at the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Women's Baseball World Cup in Monterrey, Mexico, from September 11-20.

"Veronica and her staff did an outstanding job guiding, teaching and helping our athletes to grow both on and off the field last year," said USA Baseball Executive Director/CEO, Paul Seiler. "We could not be more excited to have this incredibly talented staff back in 2020 and we look forward to watching them develop a team that will look to compete for another world championship."

Alvarez became the first woman to be named the organization's 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 Am 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.

"Coaching together in 2019 allowed us the opportunity to build a foundation of trust, understanding and respect, and I am extremely excited to work with this group once again in 2020," Alvarez said. "That foundation, combined with the knowledge and passion that these coaches have, will bring the best out in each of our players and that will ultimately lead to a world championship."

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.

Crespo returns to the Women's National Team staff in 2020 as an assistant coach. Most recently, he spent 14 seasons as the Director of Latin American Player Development for the Detroit Tigers and has also worked in the San Diego Padres, New York Yankees and Miami Marlins organizations. Crespo was selected in the third round of the 1968 MLB Draft by the Boston Red Sox and spent nine years playing professionally before his retirement in 1978. In addition, Crespo served as a bench coach during the 2013 World Baseball Classic and was a manager during the 2017 event.

Also rejoining the Women's National Team coaching staff is Mendoza, who will once again serve as the team's pitching coach in 2020. Under his leadership, the 2019 pitching staff finished with a collective 3.16 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 37 innings of work. He is currently the head coach at Eagle Pass High School (Eagle Pass, Texas), where the Eagles have made playoff appearances in each of the last thirteen seasons and played in the regional finals in both 2013 and 2014. The Miami Marlins selected Mendoza in the seventh round of the 1992 MLB Draft and he spent seven years in the Marlins system, including three seasons at the Triple-A level.

Rounding out the staff is Women's National Team alum Alex Oglesby, who also returns to her role as assistant coach after serving in the same capacity in 2019. Oglesby was a member of the inaugural Women's National Team that won a gold medal at the IBAF Women's Baseball World Cup in 2004 and was named to the All-Tournament Team. Prior to representing the U.S., she played in the Ladies Professional Baseball League and was the youngest player when the league began in 1997. At just 17 years old, Oglesby led the San Jose Spitfires to the league's first World Series Championship and was named both Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year for her efforts. She also helped form the California Women's Baseball League in 2002, where she earned MVP honors twice.

Most recently, Oglesby has served as a coach at the Trailblazer Series from 2017-2019, as well as at the first-ever Major League Baseball and USA Baseball GRIT in 2019. In addition, she was a member of the coaching staff at the 2018 Women's National Open and the 2018 Women's National Team Trials.

The 2020 Women's National Team identification process will begin with the Women's National Open from July 3-5 at The First Academy in Orlando, Florida. Forty athletes will then be selected from the event and remain in Orlando to compete at Women's National Team Trials from July 6-9 for a spot on the 2020 Women's National Team roster. The final 20-player roster will be announced following the conclusion of Trials.

The 2020 Women's National Team will train from September 4-8 before traveling to Monterrey, Mexico, for the 2020 WBSC Women's Baseball World Cup, taking place from September 11-20.

For the most up-to-date information on the Women's National Team, follow @USABaseballWNT on Twitter.

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USA Baseball Elects Alvarez, Hopkins to Board of Directors

Elliot Hopkins to also serve as an officer on the Board of Directors
December 20, 2019

DURHAM, N.C. - USA Baseball announced on Friday the election of four-time Women's National Team alumna Veronica Alvarez and National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Director of Sports, Sanctioning and Student Services Elliot Hopkins to its Board of Directors. Their selections were finalized at the annual Board of Directors meeting at the MLB Winter Meetings in San Diego.

Alvarez and Hopkins replace long-time board members Jenny Dalton-Hill and Davis Whitfield, who collectively served 14 years on the USA Baseball Board of Directors.

"Veronica and Elliot are long-time associates of the United States Baseball Federation and devoted supporters of our events, initiatives and national team programs," said USA Baseball President Mike Gaski. "We are honored to welcome them to our Board of Directors and look forward to witnessing their influence on our organization as USA Baseball continues to develop and impact the amateur sports landscape in the United States."

Alvarez is a four-time alumnus of the Women's National Team (2008, 2010, 2012, 2015) and has most-recently served as the team's manager in 2019. She managed the red, white and blue to an undefeated record and a gold medal at the COPABE Women's Pan-American Championships in Mexico and was recently honored by USA Baseball by becoming the first woman to be named its Rod Dedeaux Coach of the Year. Alvarez has also 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 both of the last two years. Additionally, she served as a coach with the Oakland Athletics at Major League Baseball Spring Training in 2019 and has previously coached at the USA Baseball Women's National Team Identification Series.

"I take a lot of pride in what it means to be a USA Baseball player," said Alvarez. "I aim to represent the athletes to the best of my ability so that their experience with USA Baseball continues to be nothing but the best."

Hopkins is currently the Director of Sports, Sanctioning and Student Services for the NFHS and this marks his second tenure on the organization's Board of Directors. At the NFHS, his responsibilities include being the staff liaison to the NFHS Student Services Committee, serving as the NFHS Baseball and Wrestling Rules Editor, supervising the NFHS Resource Center and directing the NFHS Student Leadership Summit. Hopkins also serves on the USA Baseball Medical/Safety Advisory Committee and is a former executive of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Inc. and sales representative for multiple Fortune 500 countries.

"I am thrilled to serve the baseball community on USA Baseball's Board of Directors. I feel that the voice of interscholastic baseball players is important in crafting the future of our national teams and representing our country," said Hopkins.

Additionally, Mike Gaski and Jason Dobis were also reelected as officers on the USA Baseball Board of Directors during the annual meeting, serving as president and treasurer, respectively.

For more information on USA Baseball, visit USABaseball.com or follow @USABaseball on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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