USA Baseball Nearly Set for 18-and-Under World Cup in Taiwan

USA Baseball Nearly Set for 18-and-Under World Cup in Taiwan

Baseball player Matthew Champion from JSerra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano, Calif. (Courtesy of USA Baseball)

Dan Wood
Dan Wood


Updated: 8/24/2023


Two important pieces of business remain for USA Baseball’s 18-and-under national team before its Aug. 27 departure for Taiwan to compete in the World Baseball/Softball Confederation World Cup.
First, former major-leaguer Michael Cuddyer, who is managing the club—made up of high school players from across the country selected following a prospects development league that concluded in early July—and USA Baseball’s staff must slash a 44-player training-camp roster down to the final 20. Then that group will play an exhibition game at 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 26 at Concordia College in Irvine, California.
Team USA’s opponent will be the OC Lightning, an offseason club team consisting of players from Orange Lutheran High School, a CIF semifinalist last season.
“It’s a pretty cool feather in the cap that they called and asked to play us,” Lightning Coach Eric Borba told The Epoch Times. “You have the best players in the country, so it’s great for our kids to play against that kind of competition and see how they stack up. They also get to see a lot of the players they’ve read about and will see their names called in the major-league draft next summer.”
Team USA, which will attempt to duplicate the World Cup championship won by last year’s 18-and-under squad, trained this week in San Juan Capistrano. Most players arrived Monday, and once the remains of Tropical Storm Hilary cleared out of the area, the group has been practicing and playing intrasquad games every day since at JSerra High.
While USA Baseball headquarters are in Cary, North Carolina, the West Coast pit stop will facilitate easier travel to Taiwan. Twelve nations are sending teams to the World Cup, which begins Aug. 31 and runs through Sept. 10 in Taipei and Taichung.
The national team’s training-camp roster includes eight Southern California players, including three from Orange County, pitcher Matthew Champion of JSerra, catcher-infielder Nicholas Montgomery of Cypress, and Orange Lutheran outfielder Derek Curiel.
Baseball player Derek Curiel from Lutheran High School of Orange County in Orange, Calif. (Courtesy of USA Baseball)

Baseball player Derek Curiel from Lutheran High School of Orange County in Orange, Calif. (Courtesy of USA Baseball)

“One of our players is probably going to be playing against us, we hope,” said Mr. Borba, who also coaches Orange Lutheran. “We’re hoping he makes that team, but one way or another he’ll be on the field. Probably the only time we want to play against him is when he’s representing our country.”
Curiel, Montgomery, and Champion are among 40 seniors on the national team’s training-camp roster, with the other four being juniors.
“A large majority of the players are committed to Power 5 [college] baseball programs,” USA Baseball media-relations representative Josh Spitz told The Epoch Times.
Pitcher-outfielder Noah Franco of Downey, who plays at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, is also among the Southern California players vying for spots on the national team. Other contenders include pitcher Ethan Schiefelbein of Corona, and pitcher-infielders Levi Sterling of Notre Dame-Sherman Oaks, Maximo Martinez of Mira Costa-Manhattan Beach, and Bryce Rainer of Harvard-Westlake in Los Angeles.
The exhibition against the OC Lightning is not scheduled for a set number of innings or duration. The objective is merely to offer a tune-up for Team USA before the next day’s flight out of Los Angeles International Airport.
“Whatever Coach Cuddyer wants, we’ll try to make it happen for them,” Mr. Borba said.
Mr. Cuddyer, who played 15 seasons for the Minnesota Twins, Colorado Rockies, and New York Mets before retiring in 2015, is joined on the Team USA staff by two other former big-leaguers, pitching coach LaTroy Hawkins and coach Jason Maxwell.
Mr. Hawkins pitched for 11 teams, including the Angels, over a 21-year major-league career, while Mr. Maxwell was an infielder for the Twins and Chicago Cubs.
Two other former major-league players, former Pittsburgh Pirates, Seattle Mariners and Atlanta Braves shortstop Jack Wilson along with Luke Gregerson, served as training-camp coaches, but will not travel to Taiwan. Mr. Gregerson pitched for the San Diego Padres, Oakland A’s, Houston Astros, and St. Louis Cardinals.
Dan Wood
Dan Wood

Dan Wood is a community sports reporter based in Orange County, California. He has covered sports professionally for some 43 years, spending nearly three decades in the newspaper industry and 14 years in radio. He is an avid music fan, with a strong lean toward country and classic rock.

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