USAB announces 18U Trials invitees
34 players will compete for spots on National Team
CARY, N.C. -- USA Baseball has announced a group of 34 players who will be considered for inclusion on its 2008 18U National Team for international competition. The 34 players, along with 13 alternates, were selected from those who participated this week in the 16th Annual Tournament of Stars, presented by Major League Baseball, at USAB's National Training Complex.
"We have selected a tremendous group of young men who have outstanding talent and who have great respect for the game of baseball," said Mark Elkins, Head Coach of the 2008 18U National Team. Elkins has been the head baseball coach the past 10 years at Harrison High School in Kennesaw, Ga.
"I think we have several strong candidates on the mound and have a lot of team speed that will prove very valuable both offensively and defensively," Elkins added. "Since we will be playing with wood bats [at this age level], we will have to be a team that manufactures runs, pitches well and plays quality defense. Most importantly, we must be a team with great chemistry. That is not always easy to accomplish when you are only together as a group for a short time."
Following the announcement of the 32 invitees and alternates, the athletes will return to their respective homes. The group will reassemble in Phoenix, Ariz., on July 10. Player evaluation then will continue via practices, intrasquad scrimmages and exhibition games. Following an evaluation period, a final 18-player 18U National Team roster will be selected the evening of July 16. On July 20, the team will depart for Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, where the squad will compete July 25-Aug. 3 in the International BAseball Federation (IBAF) "AAA" World Junior Championships. The 18U National Team competes in two major events in bi-yearly cycles - the IBAF World Junior Championships and the COPABE "AAA" Pan American Junior Championships. The Pan Am Championships serve as a qualifier for the ensuing year's World Championships.
The USA Baseball 18U National Team is a perennial power on the international baseball scene. Only once in the 23-year history of the IBAF World Junior Championships has the United States failed to capture a medal. During this time, the program has earned five gold medals, 10 silver medals and seven bronze medals.
Elkins was as an assistant coach on the 2007 USA Baseball 18U National Team that claimed a bronze medal at the Pan Am Championships in Ixtapa, Mexico. His other previous USA Baseball experience has included serving as a Task Force member as well as head coach of the USA Stars squad at the USA Baseball Tournament of Stars.
Joining Elkins on the 2008 18U National Team coaching staff will be assistants Mark McKenzie, Tommy Pharr and Mike Power. McKenzie just finished his ninth year as head coach at Concordia University, St. Paul in St. Paul, Minn. McKenzie was an assistant coach on the inaugural USA Baseball 16U National Team in 1997 that competed in the IBAF "AA" World Youth Championships in Taipei, Taiwan. A year later as head coach, he guided the 16U Team to the program's first gold medal by winning the World Championships played in Fairview Heights, Ill. Pharr has served as head coach at Farragut High School in Knoxville, Tenn., for 11 years. He will be involved in his initial USA Baseball national team coaching assignment after having had previous experience at other USA Baseball levels. Power, head coach at Roswell (Ga.) High School the last five years, was an assistant on the 2007 18U National Team after serving in the same capacity for the 2003 18U National Team that claimed a silver medal in the Pan Am Championships.
USA Baseball is the National Governing Body of amateur baseball in the United States and a member of the United States Olympic Committee. The organization selects and trains the United States Olympic Baseball Team (and all other USA Baseball professional teams), the USA Baseball National Team (collegiate); the USA Baseball 18U, 16U, and 14U National Teams; and the USA Baseball Women's National Team, all of which participate in various international competitions each year.