Young age, national baseball stage

Hart, Esposito, Sola recognized for skills on the diamond
By: Brett Ransford, Special to The Press Tribune
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Local talent has been offered the chance to prove itself on the grand stage. Four Placer County baseball players were selected to compete for positions on the 2010 14-and-under USA Baseball National Team. Representing Placer County are Mitch Hart and Vinny Esposito of Granite Bay, Jacob Sola of Lincoln and Devin Lehman of Auburn. The local boys were individually selected among 18 players on the NTIS Northern California Stars team and will face 11 other similar teams. In September the four 13-year-olds will travel to the National Team USA training facility in Cary, North Carolina for the National Teams Identification Series. They will be among 216 players selected for the evaluation process in North Carolina. The NTIS ultimately serves as an individual player selection for the national team. USA Baseball will then select 26 players following the event and leave 6 slots to fill over the next 8 months. The last tryout is in June 2010 where 18 players will be selected for international play. At the NTIS players will take batting practice, go through defensive workouts and run the 60-yard dash in front of national team coaches, and also participate in four games against teams from other parts of the country. After a week USA Baseball then selects the players to return in June. All four boys are accustomed to successful travel ball teams and are well suited for the competition. Hart’s current No. 2 ranked Lamorinda Cougars were the 2008 11U national champions with the chance to repeat again this year. Hart’s prior team lost in the semifinals for the Elite World Series last year to Lamorinda and this year he accepted an offer to switch teams. The Lamorinda team is currently in Florida defending its title, but Hart is involved elsewhere, as the Lakeside Little League Major division all-star team on which he plays just won the District 54 title and is preparing for section level play. Hart’s pitching, hitting and play behind the dish are a big reason for the squad’s success. Lehman and Sola still play for the No. 3 ranked TABU team that Hart left after last season. The club won a California Super NIT and placed second at the Western Elite against California’s best last year. Being selected individually for Team USA ranks highly among a young baseball player’s accomplishments, according to Sola. “It’s a great honor, Sola said. “The process is going to help prepare me for high school and college and so on. It also helps me see what position I can focus on. I think I’ll do well because I’m well rounded and I keep a good attitude.” Director of Northern California NTIS Adam Farb is a sort of acting General Manager. He has seen the talent of each player first-hand and knows why they’ve been chosen to try out for the national team. “Jake Sola will be one of the two primary catchers at the NTIS event,” said Farb. “He’s kind of like if you put Mark McGwire behind the dish. Devin is a pure hitter. He is one of the best bats that will be out in North Carolina. Really, he’s just a natural born hitter.” “Mitch Hart is a very sophisticated player,” Farb continued. “He plays like he’s been doing it forever, and Vinny Esposito is just a smart player and a great hitter. He’s like a young Omar Vizquel.” Esposito plays for the El Dorado Hills Vipers and Farb says he came highly recommended. Vinny is the son of Granite Bay High varsity baseball coach Pat Esposito. Coach Esposito said the boys possess the skills and work ethic necessary to succeed at any level. “These are kids that have excelled at the game at a young age,” Esposito said. “They’re going to be looking at kids that look physically bigger, stronger but also some that aren’t as big or strong. It’s just going to be fun to see the wider range of talent at that level.” It took four open tryouts and two more specifically grueling ones evaluated by some of the top baseball coaches in Northern California to get the boys this opportunity. The other 14 players on the Northern California NTIS team were selected from the rest young athletes in the state. Placer County has the largest single county player representation on the roster.