Instructor’s Corner: “Tournament of Stars”

The Tournament of Stars is a part of the selection process for the 18U Team USA National Team. This tournament was comprised of 144 players whom were placed on 8 different teams (Team Pony, Stars, Babe Ruth, RBI, Dixie, American Legion, and NABF – Named for major organizations of youth baseball) this allowed the Tournament of Stars Staff and coaches the opportunity to see each player in competition, rather then a show case format. At tournaments end the field of 144 players was trimmed to just 40 where the next phase of selections in August out in L.A., California will determine the final 20 man roster of the 18U National Team. With each team being littered with major Divison 1 commitments from across the country, spectators and coaches alike were treated to elite competition. I was fortunate enough to be selected by the tournament committee to help coach one of these prospect-laden teams, Team PONY.

The PONY program started in 1951 as a way to give all players the ability to participate in baseball. Based in Washington, PA., the program strives to “Protect Our Nation’s Youth” as they grow into young men and women and leaders of tomorrow. Top alumni of this assembled team include Rays first baseman James Loney and Pirates second basement Neil Walker, while plenty of intriguing minor league prospects from past Pony teams are working their way up to the big leagues. These prospects include Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor, Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich, Pirates righthander Jameson Taillon, Reds righthander Robert Setphenson, Astros righthander Lance McCuller, Nationals right hander Lucas Giolito and Louisiana State shortstop Alex Bergman. The organizations alumni list also includes several key players from the 2013 draft, including prep lefthanders Ian Clarkin and Rob Kaminsky, as well as San Francisco righthander Alex Balog.

‘Despite our roster being composed of the top caliber amateur players in the country, all of our players were eager to ask questions and seek out instruction that would help develop their individual abilities and overall, their careers. As a coach, I was blessed to be able to work with great young men who possess a passion for the game and the astute ability to play it the right way. This week long tournament gave each of our players the opportunity to showcase their talents while being in a position to further their knowledge of the game. All of the aforementioned traits catapulted the PONY team into a Silver medal final at the Tournament of Stars. This will be an experience that these players will never forget.

Of the 16 players making up our roster, 7 were selected to compete in the next phase of selections. Players in bold selected.

Jack Gerstenmaier UTL/RHP 2014/Virginia
Brian Gonzalez 1B/LHP 2014/Miami
Dalton Guthrie IF 2014/Florida
Lucas Herbert C 2015/UCLA
Derek Hill OF Uncommitted
Jesse Lepore RHP/IF 2014/Miami
Luis Ortiz RHP 2014/Fresno St.
David Peterson LHP 2014/Oregon
Caleb Potter IF/OF Uncommitted
Matt Railey OF 2014/Florida State
Liam Sabino IF 2014/Vanderbilt
JJ Schwarz C 2014/Florida
Devin Smeltzer LHP 2014/Florida Gulf Coast
Andrew Summerville LHP 2014/Stanford
Jeremy Vasquez IF/OF 2014/Florida