DURHAM, N.C. - USA Baseball announced the 18U National Team coaching staff on Monday, highlighted by the return of American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) Hall of Famer Jack Leggett as manager. The 2019 18U National Team will travel to South Korea looking for a record fifth consecutive world title at the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) U-18 Baseball World Cup.
Scott Bankhead (North Carolina Baseball Academy) and Gregg Ritchie (George Washington) will also return to the staff as the team's pitching coach and hitting coach, respectively, and Gerald Laird (St. Louis Cardinals) will round out the staff as an assistant coach.
"USA Baseball is thrilled to welcome Jack Leggett back as the manager of the 18U National Team this summer after leading the 2018 18U team to a record-setting performance in the COPABE U-18 Pan-American Championships," said USA Baseball Executive Director/CEO Paul Seiler. "His baseball knowledge and ability to motivate and mentor athletes are remarkable qualities that has led to a career of successes unmatched by many. As this year's team looks to make a run at a feat never before achieved at the youth level in international baseball history, we are confident that we have assembled a strong coaching staff that can lead a group of tremendous young athletes to new heights."
2019 will mark Leggett's second consecutive year as the 18U National Team manager after he led the 2018 18U National Team to a gold medal at the COPABE U-18 Pan-American Championships in Panama. This year also marks the third straight year for Leggett as a USA Baseball coach after working as a coach for the 17U National Team Development Program (NTDP) in 2017 and 2018.
Leggett was the head baseball coach at Clemson University from 1994-2015, where he led the Tigers to 955 victories, 21 NCAA Tournament appearances and six College World Series berths. Every single one of his teams compiled winning overall records in his 22 seasons at Clemson and 34 of his players were All-Americans, 31 were First-Team All-ACC players and 11 were selected in the first round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
Leggett guided the Tigers to their second and third No. 1 rankings in school history and Clemson was the seventh-winningest program in the nation during his time as head coach. He was a three-time ACC Coach of the Year recipient and was inducted into the ABCA Hall of Fame in 2014. Leggett also served as a head coach for 14 years at Vermont and Western Carolina before moving to Clemson. In total, he has 1,332 career wins and following the conclusion of the 2015 season, he was the fifth-winningest active Division 1 head coach in the country.
Scott Bankhead will once again join Leggett on staff in 2019 as the pitching coach after leading the 2018 18U team pitching staff to a team ERA of 3.13 and 91 strikeouts at the 2018 U-18 Pan-American Championships. Currently the owner of the North Carolina Baseball Academy, Bankhead has previously served as an 18U National Team Trials coach in 2016 and 2017, and was a member of the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Team. He was the 16th overall pick in the 1984 MLB Draft out of the University of North Carolina and he spent ten seasons in the Major Leagues, pitching for the Kansas City Royals, Seattle Mariners, Cincinnati Reds, Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. He finished his professional career with a 4.18 ERA over 901 innings.
Ritchie will enter his third consecutive year as the 18U National Team hitting coach in 2019 and his second under Leggett. Ritchie's offense shined at the U-18 Pan-American Championships in 2018 as the team recorded a .407 batting average with 31 doubles, 5 triples and 15 home runs, and set the USA Baseball record for most runs scored in an international tournament with 131. Additionally, he helped lead the 18U team to an undefeated record and a fourth consecutive WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup title in 2017. Under his direction, the 2017 squad hit .273 and had a .418 slugging percentage, with 16 doubles, five triples and six home runs over nine games. He has also served as a coach at the 2016 and 2018 17U NTDPs and 18U National Team Trials.
He is currently in his seventh season at the helm for George Washington University, where he was named Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year in 2013. That year, Ritchie led the Colonials to their first postseason berth since 2006 and then followed that with back-to-back postseason appearances in 2015 and 2016. He began his coaching career in the Chicago White Sox organization, where he worked at various levels for 10 years, before serving as the hitting coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2011 and 2012.
Laird will make his national team coaching debut in 2019 as an assistant coach for the 18U team; however, it is not his first experience with USA Baseball after he served as an assistant coach for Team Stars at the 2017 17U NTDP. An MLB veteran who played parts of 13 seasons for the Texas Rangers, Detroit Tigers, St. Louis Cardinals, Atlanta Braves and Arizona Diamondbacks, Laird brings a wealth of baseball experience to the 2019 18U National Team. Laird played collegiately at Cypress College and was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the second round of the 1998 MLB Draft. He also competed for Team USA on the 18U National Team in 1997 and was a part of the 2003 COPABE Olympic Qualifier team.
"Coach Leggett's resume speaks for itself and having the opportunity to work with a coach of his caliber is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said newly-appointed 18U National Team Director Frank Jagoda. "With their experience in international baseball-as well as professional baseball-we have assembled a truly outstanding coaching staff and it is a great opportunity for USA Baseball and the 18U National Team to continue moving this program forward and work towards a fifth-straight world title."
The inaugural Prospect Development Pipeline League, the 2018 17U National Team Identification Series and 2019 17U NTDP, will serve as the identification events for the 2019 18U National Team. The PDP League is an invitation-based development opportunity for approximately 80 of the top high school baseball players ahead of the 2020 MLB Draft and will run from mid-June through early-July at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, to begin the 18U National Team schedule for 2019.
More information about the 2019 18U National Team Trials, Training and the WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup will be announced at a later date.
Leading into 2019, the 18U team has won eight straight international tournament titles dating back to 2011, including winning the last four WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cups in 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2017. Currently, the U.S. and Cuba are the only two countries to win four-consecutive world championship titles at the U-18 level.
For the most up-to-date information on the 18U National Team, follow @USABaseball18U and @USABaseball on Twitter.