When I called Justin, he was in his parents car heading home from Joplin, Missouri. My initial conversation was to revolve around the colleges that called him today, the first day college coaches could call members of the class of 2006. While Justin was excited about the five schools that called him, he was even more excited about what happened in Joplin, Missouri, the location of the trials to determine which of the 144 invited players made the next to last cut for the USA Baseball Junior National Team.
"I was informed that I made the 26-man roster for USA Baseball Junior National Team," said a very excited Reed.
Reed explained the process that led up to his selection.
"The top 144 players in the country met in Joplin, Missouri and we played in a week-long tournament," said Reed, who batted .455 (10-of-22) with 7 runs scored, 6 RBI, 2 doubles and 3 triples in the tournament. "They divided the players into different teams and we played games against each other. The tournament went on for a week."
Once the tournament was complete, the list of 144 was cut down to 36 at the closing ceremony.
"At the closing ceremony - the stands were packed because it was right after the championship game - they gave a speech, then they called out the players that would continue into the next week," said the catcher-turned-outfielder. "We then spent an extra week in Joplin where we continued to train."
"They divided us into two teams, a red team and a blue team and we played against each other," said Reed, who batted .250 (3-for-12) with 4 runs scored, 2 RBI, 1 double and 1 triple in that four-game tournament. "The pitching was 91 to 93 consistently. We had pitchers who topped out at 95 to 98. Once we got through with that, they cut it down to 24 players. We found out who made that team last night."
The final cut will be done in late August.
"The final cut, which is four players, will be done at Atlanta, August 24th," said Reed, who is transferring to Hillcrest Christian after playing at Jackson-Callaway. "We'll meet at Georgia Tech on August 24th and play Team Canada, which is Canada's all-star team, and a Georgia all-star team. Then, they'll make the final decision and we'll fly to Mexico and play in the Olympic Games. Those games will include Team USA, Mexico, Cuba, Taiwan and a couple of more teams."
It appears that Reed's chances are pretty good based on what the selected players were told would be emphasized on this year's team.
"The coaches stressed that they want a lot of speed and aggression on the bases," said Reed, who ran a 6.48 sixty yard dash at the trials. "The main thing they want us to do is get on base and make things happen. They don't want to take a gameplan to Mexico where they have to depend on home runs, because the field is a very nice size field where not too many home runs will be hit. They said straight away centerfield is 445. We are also playing with wood bats."
All of the Major League Baseball clubs as well as many of the top college baseball program were represented at the event. And a few made it known today, July 1st, the first day that college coaches can call the upcoming senior class, that they liked what they have seen of Reed.
"Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Southern Miss, Alabama and Tennessee State called me," said Reed. "They mainly called me after lunch. I missed a lot of calls due to my being in the air, therefore, my phone was cut off most of the time. Actually, the first coach that I talked to was the coach from Mississippi State."
What did they primarily talk about while speaking to him on the phone?
"They, basically, said that they wanted to recruit me as one of their players," said the 5-11, 185-pounder. "They all said they knew I was busy this summer, so they said that they want to get me in for a visit during the fall and show me a good time and see how I like their schools."
Did he expect to receive so many calls on the first day?
"Not really, not that many that fast," said Reed. "The unique thing about it is how soon it happened. I knew today, July 1st, was the first official date that the colleges could call the recruits for the upcoming season, but I didn't expect it to happen so soon. That put a smile on my face."
When asked if he might commit early, Reed was adamant about that.
"No sir, I'm going to try to take all five official visits," said Reed.
He did mention the five colleges that he would like to officially visit.
"I would really like to visit LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Alabama and Southern Miss," said Reed.
Although he seems to know which schools he plans on visiting, he's not looking at one more than the other.
"My main thing is I don't have any specific school that I want to go to," said Reed. "I just want to go to a top school and be able to at least have a chance to play."
Based on what I have seen, I don't have any doubt whatsoever this is a young man who will get his wish to play wherever he wants to.
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More on the USA Baseball Junior National Team by way of the USA Baseball Website:
Comprised of the nation's top players aged 18 years and younger, the USA Baseball Junior National Team is a perennial power on the international baseball scene. In the 21-year history of the IBAF World Junior Championship, the United States has produced a record 20 medals. The USA winnings include five gold medals, nine silver medals, and six bronze medals. The team competes in two major events in bi-yearly cycles - the COPABE Pan Am Junior Championship and the IBAF World Junior Championship. Current major leaguers Alex Rodriguez, Mike Mussina, John Smoltz, Shawn Green, and Ryan Klesko, as well as 2000 Olympic Gold Medalists Brad Wilkerson and Brent Abernathy, have all worn the USA jersey as juniors.
Each year, USA Baseball and its competing National Member Organizations (AABC, American Legion, Babe Ruth, Dixie, NABF, PONY, and RBI) invite the top 144 high school-aged players in America to the Tournament of Stars, where players vie for one of 18-20 spots on the USA Baseball Junior National Team.
For the fifth straight year, USA Baseball will use the Tournament of Stars - June 20-27 in Joplin, Missouri - as the selection vehicle for the Junior National Team. With core members AABC, American Legion, Babe Ruth, Dixie, NABF, PONY and RBI, the field will once again be strong in 2005. USA Baseball will also select an at-large team to compete in the field of eight. The USA Baseball Tournament of Stars is a comprehensive event that serves as a national all-star competition, player showcase and Junior National Team Trials. The 144 players invited to the event go to Joplin cost-free through the sponsorship of Major League Baseball, the Joplin Sports Authority and USA Baseball sponsors.
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.