Skullcandy Crushers send six to USA tryouts
August 19, 2016
After performing well in the 12U Triple Crown World Series in Park City and the 13U Triple Crown World Series in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, six members of the Skullcandy Crushers baseball team headed east to participate in the USA American Elite Baseball Championship in Cary, North Carolina.
The event, part of the National Team Identification Series, showcased the country's best 13U baseball talent.
The six Utah players, including three Park City natives, were named to the Mountain West region's team after going through a multi-step selection process.
"There are 16 regions with a maximum of 18 players," Brent Milner, director of Skullcandy Baseball, said. "In most cases, it's a two- or three-step process to get there. There were three tryouts in Utah. If you made it through that, you got an invitation to a team event in Denver. In Denver, it was basically game play and assessing their game speeds. From Denver, they selected 14 players to represent the Mountain West region — it's basically Montana and North Dakota down to Utah and Colorado."
Park City natives Ryan Kucherak, Beck Milner and Connor Heiden earned spots on the Mountain West squad. They were joined by Skullcandy teammates and Utah residents Jonathan Ly, Zach Foote and Cam Jackson.
Brent Milner said the experience of playing at the USA Baseball facilities was something the Crushers will never forget.
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"You walk into essentially a main baseball park that's absolutely immaculate, well-groomed, grass infields with 60-90 [foot] dimensions, 408 [feet] to center field and 330 down the lines," he said. "It was really a visually stunning place to play baseball."
The Crushers had to quickly adjust to the pitching mound that was 60 feet, 6 inches from home plate and the 90-foot base paths after playing with 50-foot pitching mounds and 70-foot base paths previously.
Milner said that, along with the muggy North Carolina weather, provided some challenges for the Utah players.
"The biggest challenge for every kid was that it was about 95 degrees with 100 percent humidity," he laughed. "You were sweating like you were playing even if you were in the shade. The other differences were that speed shines. If you're below average with your foot speed, it gets exploited on 90-foot bases.
"I was really proud of all the guys for making the adjustments quickly. Most of those boys were coming off pitching from 50 feet. They've got to have more pinpoint accuracy to keep the ball down and hit their locations in order to get outs."
Though base running and pitching were challenges, Milner said the Crushers picked up where they left off in other aspects of the game.
"I didn't see any of the boys struggling in the field and they all have big bats," he said. "They were able to hit to the gaps."
Overall, the Mountain West squad struggled, going 0-4 at the event. In game one, the team lost 12-0 to Southern California.
"We had to play Southern California in the first game we got there," Milner said. "They hit the ball hard and I think our boys were a little nervous."
From there, the Mountain West team was more competitive. After losing 19-6 to South Texas, the squad lost 8-3 to North Atlantic and 10-7 to the Midwest team.
"We got our act together a little bit against South Texas," Milner said. "We played the Midwest on the final day, which was the biggest team we played physically. We were ahead in that game, but got into a little bit of pitching trouble. We were in the game most of the time, but ended up losing."
After the tournament ended, Milner said the six Utah players will greatly benefit from the USA Baseball experience. He said it's important to expose them to the nation's best at their age group.
"You come away from this, more than anything else, inspired," he said. "Not enough kids in the state of Utah are getting outside the state to see what baseball looks like in these major markets. These boys were rubbing elbows with kids from Florida, Texas, Arizona and California who play baseball a lot. If [the Crushers] keep up their work ethics, they're going to have experiences like this in the future and they're not going to be nervous about it."
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