Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Road to Baseball Gold - Trials Week

(In the latest installment of 'The Road to Baseball Gold', Team USA's Megan Baltzell takes us day-by-day through the process of National Team selection camp.)

The Trials are finally here. The months and months of training and waiting are about to pay off.

Monday- Travel Day
Those flights to travel across the country felt like an eternity. All I wanted was to get on the field and get the games going. After all those hours on the plane, I finally arrived at Cal State Fullerton. The university where the trials are going to be held. It's an amazing complex. The dirt is pristine, the grass is perfectly cut, and the weather was sunny and 75 degrees.
Before we all walked over to the field, we went to the hotel to get our team jerseys; either Stars or Stripes. We also were given game pants, practice shirt and shorts, gloves, arm sleeve, wristbands, socks, US towel, and a game baseball hat.
The first session of trials was just getting familiar with the field and getting the jet lag out of our bodies. A little throwing and some BP in the hitting cages.

Tuesday- 1st Full Day of Trials
Morning Session, 3 hours
After a delicious breakfast, I was ready to get after it and play some ball. We did a nice long warm up and then warmed up our arms. We immediately went into infield/outfield work. I went to outfield first, caught 3 balls threw to the cut off and was pretty accurate with all 3 throws. Then I went into 1st base for infield work. I picked some one-hoppers and fielded cleanly except for a couple balls. We then split up into primary position and then secondary positions. My primary right now is left-handed pitching and secondary is either outfield or 1st base. The last part of the morning session was Batting Practice on the field (my favorite). I got to take it easy and do my thing; what I was meant to do. I took a couple rounds and felt good about my swings. I hit some solid hard line drives and some sky rockets close to the fence. Then we cleaned up, went to lunch, and walked back to the hotel to prepare and get dressed for the game at 5pm.

Game #1!
Our team was home, I'm batting 3rd in the lineup for the first 4 innings and I'm pitching the 2nd and 3rd innings. My first at bat, I swung at the first pitch and lined out to the 2nd basemen. The second time I got up, I doubled to right center. Then I started pitching and felt pretty good. Only gave up one run; my command was a little off, but I got the job done and kept our team tied. My third and final at bat of the game was in the bottom of the 7th and we were down by one. I lead off with a long shot to left center and got a double to start the inning. Then the batter behind me hit a laser over the right fielder and I scored to tie it up. Then we ended up winning walk-off style. The best, most exciting way to win!

Wednesday Day 2
Day 2 was very similar to day 1. The workout in the morning consisted of infield/outfield work. Getting rhythm with your team and another session of batting practice. Working on situational hitting. This shows your baseball knowledge and if you're able to get the job done and control your swing to either move the runner or score a runner from 3rd.
Game 2
This game was another tight game between the 2 squads. I played outfield; half the game in right field and the other half in left. I had a few balls hit at me and I read them well and caught all of them. I got a couple at-bats. I got walked and then popped up to the infield. I just missed the pitch; if I would have squared the ball up, it would have went over the fence. The game ended in a tie. This game was dominated by pitching. 2-2
DAY 3 and LAST day of Trials
The time has flown by; I can't believe this is the final day and the last time each of the 40 players have to impress the coaches. The last opportunity to prove you are talented and worthy to represent the USA in the World Cup.
Game 3
I woke up and felt so good and excited to play in this game. I knew I was gonna pitch today and I was gonna do better than my last outing. The pitching staff told me I needed to work on a couple things to improve my accuracy. I worked on the drills they gave me so I knew my performance was gonna be better. So we get to the field, do our regular warm up, then we get into our dugout to look at the defensive and offensive lineups. I'm starting in right field the first two innings, then pitching the next 2 innings, and then playing right field the rest of the game.
I walked to the bullpen after the second inning to warm-up pitching and focused on really finishing down to get my fastball down in the zone. Then I walked onto the mound for my 2 innings. Other than hitting a girl with a changeup, I did really well! Two innings of no hits and one strikeout. Completely satisfied with that outing. Other than pitching, my favorite part about the game was my diving catch in right field to end the game!! I'm talking full layout!!!! I timed it perfectly and did a pretty head first dive.
After the last game, it was time to wait, time to wait and worry about if you're going to picked to be part of the team.

I wish I could say it was this big long waiting and dragged-out decision, but the coaches were precise when we all entered the meeting room. They said a couple words to congratulate everyone who made it this far and thanked everyone for giving their 100%. They said that everyone who made or didn't make it to be proud, as they left everything they had on the field. Then they called last names…… After about 12 names…………… MY NAME WAS CALLED!!
I made the Women's National Baseball Team 2016!
I couldn't believe it. I was in shock for hours. I didn't know what to do because I was so happy I made it, but I was sad that a couple of my friends didn't make it. So I was torn, but after a few hours I just thought “wow I finally did it. I proved to myself that I could do it, and the coaching staff thought I was good enough. I am good enough.”

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