Joseph Menefee has a lot on his plate right now as a member of the USA 18U National Team that is getting set to play in the World Cup baseball tournament in Canada in September.
The left-handed pitcher has been on the road for the past two weeks with 19 other elite players from around the country and the team’s coaches. The team has another 10-plus days together as well.
“It’s a grind; they get the best out of us every day,” Menefee said.
Menefee and the rest of the USA squad wrapped up a four-game exhibition schedule in Minnesota with an 8-2 victory over Madison Area Tech College at Mayo Field on Tuesday. Numerous pro scouts were on hand to check out the talent, including former Minnesota Twins general manager Terry Ryan.
Menefee also has something beside baseball on his mind. He is from Richmond, Texas, which is about 20 minutes from Houston, the site of historic flooding in the area.
“The water was about five feet from my house, but nothing got in,” Menefee said.
“I know a lot of friends that had to evacuate, water flooding the streets and another body (of water) about to overflow into a neighborhood, so it’s pretty scary,” he added. “(But) knowing that my friends and family are safe, it’s fine.”
Menefee didn’t play on Tuesday in Rochester. Nolan Gorman, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound left-handed hitter, went 2-for-4 with a three-run homer off the scoreboard in right-center and an RBI single to spark the USA squad.
“His hands are so quick and so strong,” USA manager Andy Stankiewicz said. “It’s just getting him to understand that he doesn’t have to take that big swing to drive the ball.”
Gorman, like all of the players on the roster, is a rising star. All 20 players, most age 17 or 18, have already accepted Division I offers, although some will be drafted next June and could go pro.
“It’s special,” Gorman said. “This is like no other event. This summer, last summer, it’s something different playing as a team. Trying to go beat the whole world, we’ve got a big X on our back.”
Gorman was on the USA team that won the Pan Am Games gold medal a year ago. The USA 18U team will now travel to Canada and play in the World Cup from Sept. 1-10.
Michael Siani, a left-handed hitting outfielder, was also a member of last year’s USA team that won gold at the Pan Am Games.
“I don’t think any of us feel too much pressure,” Siani said. “I just think if we do our thing, and do what we can do, then we’re going to be just fine.”
Siani has the experience of playing on the national stage, and he is trying to share that experience with his new teammates.
“There’s three other guys here who have been through the same thing I was,” Siani said. “We’re for sure sharing our experiences and giving guys certain tips on what to do and how to go about things.”
And the players are soaking up the experience of a lifetime, at least at this stage in their lives. It’s also special for fans of these young prospects. Youngsters from around the area lined up Tuesday to secure autographs from Team USA team members, many of whom will be professional players in the near future.
“It’s a huge honor and it’s just a blessing to hang out with these guys, the top 20 players in the country, it’s great,” Menefee said.
“It’s a special group we’ve got here and we’ve really bonded well,” Gorman said.
Stankiewicz believes his squad is ready to play at a high level in the World Cup.
“I feel good,” he said. “These last two days have been really good. I feel the guys are starting to pay attention to just the little things.”
The players are anxious and excited to try to win another gold medal for the U.S.
“I’ve known some of these guys for a while, in showcases,”Siani said. “But this is different. This is like a team aspect. You’ve got to do what you need to do to get the gold.”
“It’s a grind, but it’s also something you want to do,” Gorman said. “You want to be here, you want to be with these guys and compete and win.”