|5/7/2013 12:37:00 PM|
Youths make elite baseball squad
|Ryan Funk, left, Joey Morgan, and Zach Morgan made an elite baseball squad. photo provided|
For the second year in a row three athletes from Sisters have been selected to represent the Pacific Northwest in a national tournament with Team Northwest Baseball, based out of Puyallup, Washington.
The USA Baseball Team Nationals (formally the Junior Olympics), are slated for late June and early July near Phoenix, Arizona at the MLB spring training facilities of the Mariners and Padres, the Dodgers and White Sox, and the Reds and Indians.
Joey Morgan, a junior at Sisters High School, has been selected to the 17U team, while his younger brother, Zach Morgan, and Ryan Funk, both from Sisters Middle School, have been selected to the 14U team.
Head Coach Mike Brooks, who enjoyed an eight-year professional career with the Cleveland Indians and the Minnesota Twins organization, is the founder of Team Northwest Baseball. He explains that over the past year more than 500 high school-aged baseball players from Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana vied for their spot to represent the Northwest - 500 that had to be narrowed down to fewer than 50 players for this event, only five of which are from the state of Oregon.
Along with personally evaluating players throughout the year, Brooks relies on referrals from MLB scouts, college coaches and other trusted advisors to narrow the list of top prospects who hope for eventual invitation to their event teams. He says, "Only 16 to 18 players are selected to a Team Northwest national event team in each age group. So, I find it very unique that three players from the same small community have qualified for Team Northwest's national events."
Brooks said that the majority of Team Northwest's players come from larger metropolitan areas like Seattle, Tacoma, and Portland, as the quality of players and competition increases the overall level of play.
"It takes a higher level of commitment from players and parents from a smaller community to maintain the skill level required to compete nationally," he noted.
Recognized in the league as an outstanding catcher and third-baseman, Joey Morgan emerged last year at The Perfect Game World Series in Marietta, Georgia as an all-tourney team pick for his game-winning save when he was asked to take the mound. His pitching and overall performance on Team Northwest secured him a spot on the Perfect Game USA Underclassman Preseason Honorable Mention list released in March. Undefeated as a pitcher so far this year with the Sisters Outlaws, Joey has an ERA of .43.
Zach Morgan is currently overcoming a knee injury, which has forced him to turn in his catcher's gear. However, it hasn't hindered the 13-year-old's 73 MPH fastball. While he is a utility player (mostly called to play first and third base), Zach is one to be reckoned with once he takes the mound. This is his first invite to a national team, sure to be one of many invitations to come.
Ryan Funk, an all-tourney team pick for the Junior Northwest Championships which took place last year in Washington state, is a catcher, pitcher, and third-baseman. Batting .625 on the season so far, Funk holds the second-highest batting average on the team, and is the current leader for stolen bases, with 12.
Brooks added that the opportunity to compete at these high-level national events dramatically improves the chances of participating players to advance to the next level. He said, "Team Northwest attends only those events that have a history of attracting the top baseball prospects in the country and are attended by the most college recruiters and MLB scouts. This greater exposure to high-level evaluators offers our players maximum opportunities for
This week during the Community Yard Sale in Tollgate outside of Sisters, the Morgans and Funks will be set up in the community room selling donated items in an effort to raise money to help cover the expenses for each of these boys to attend the USA Baseball Nationals. With entry fees for each topping $750, the players hope to raise money to help offset the costs of travel, a week of lodging and meals during their stay in Arizona.
They are also accepting cans for recycling as a donation. Cans may be dropped off at the Tollgate Community Center during the yard sale from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday or Saturday of this week, or call 541-771-1826 for pick up. Bank accounts are set up at the Bank of the Cascades in each boy's name for anyone wanting to make a cash
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