After spending much of the early parts of the day picking up the players from the airport, the team all came together for their first team meeting this evening and made their way to Klein Collins High School in Spring, Texas for their first full-team practice.
Matthew Purke, three-time USA player, most recently a member of the 2008 18U team that took silver at the IBAF "AAA" World Championships in Edmonton, Canada made an appearance and provided some words of encouragement to the team before most of them make their first trip out of the country representing the U.S.
"You've just joined a brotherhood of players, just like I did when I was a 16 year old. Just like you now, there are players involved in this brotherhood all the way up to the majors," says Purke. He continued with some advice his 16U coach gave him during his first international appearance, "Focus on the white ball. What that means is play the game. Focus on what you can do on the field and let everything outside the field fade away."
After the first of many high-energy and spirited pep talks by Head Coach Dave Webb the team hustled on to the field full of energy and excitement for practice obviously anxious to get started and pumped up by their coach.
"The 14U program is on the scene now," said Webb. "and we're just as important as those guys who just went to Beijing. We are the 14U Olympic Team. You are no less important than anyone else at any other level."
The team then spent time going through numerous defensive drills, base running exercises, learning the meaning of hustle and took an extended time on batting practice in order for the coaches to fully understand the team's makeup and talent.
The first day of the 2008 14U season came to a close with a catered Thanksgiving meal and a team meeting where the goals and expectations were clearly expressed by 14U Program Director, Rick Riccobono.
"First and foremost, we want to do our best to represent the United States of America and everything that our country stands for," says Riccobono. "Along with that, we are going down there to compete-to win a Gold medal. We're going to work hard and we're going to play hard."
Not only will the team travel in order to bring home a Gold medal, the development and growth of baseball in Central America is a staple in the goals and mission of the USA Baseball program.
"On behalf of USA Baseball, we will try to further baseball in Central America and the World." Riccobono continued, "With our great friends in the Guatemalan Federation we're going to whatever we can to build baseball in their country and the surrounding countries as well."
Team USA will travel to Guatemala Thursday morning and will arrive in Guatemala City in the early afternoon.
The U.S. will look to continue their undefeated record in international play as the 2008 COPABE Pan Am "A" Qualifier begins on Friday, November 28, 2008 as USA will take on host-country Guatemala at 8pm (ET). Be sure to check back on USABaseball.com for updates from all of the games and the 14U trip.