Roaring Fork star sees depth of U.S. baseball
Post Independent Sports Editor
There’s nothing like a tournament field of 72 all-star baseball teams to give a player some perspective on what it takes to be an elite ballplayer.
Roaring Fork High School player Jake Kinney got a little of that perspective last week as a member of the Rocky Mountain Blue team consisting of 15-year-old Colorado players.
Kinney, who will be a sophomore in the fall, was one of two Western Slope players on the squad that traveled to Arizona for the USA Junior Olympic West Baseball Championship. The opposing teams were also all-star squads, from baseball hotbeds such as Texas, California and Arizona.
He came away with “the knowledge of how hard you have to work to compete in the real world out there ” how much talent is out there,” Kinney said.
The tournament is essentially a tryout for the 16-and-younger U.S. National team. From the week-long tournament that included roughly 1,200 of the top players in the country, 18 will move on to the Youth National Team trials, along with 18 other players from a similar tournament in Florida. Half of those 36 players make the 2005 Youth National Team and travel to the Youth World Championships in Monterrey, Mexico, later this summer.
Kinney wasn’t one of the 18 players selected to move on, nor were any other Colorado players, but he didn’t go to the tournament to make the trials.
“It’s to get exposure, and it’s such a good experience,” he said.
“To play with that high caliber of guys, it’s fun.”
Kinney likens his team of all 15-year-olds to the best teams in the 3A Western Slope League, with possibly a little more depth.
“Every kid would hit,” said Kinney, who played outfield and also saw work as a relief pitcher. “They were all great.”
The Rocky Mountain Blue squad finished with a 2-5 record in the tournament, posting wins over Mid-America Baseball (Indiana), 9-4, and the San Diego Gamers Blue, 7-3.
Individually, Kinney had a decent showing, but would have like to do more. He hit .500 during the high school season, but said he was around .300 during the Junior Olympics tournament.
“I felt I could have done better, hittingwise,” he said. “My swing was a little off, and I hadn’t seen a ball in about three weeks. I think it mostly was just being rusty. The pitchers were a little better than (high school) varsity, but I know I could have hit if I had my swing.”
He may have the opportunity to get that swing going in next year’s tournament, his final year of eligibility for the team. He’s planning on attending the same camps that got him noticed this year, and he’s already on the map after playing this summer.
“I would definitely like to do it again,” he said.
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