Not even two weeks after racking up a slew of postseason awards from the Alabama Sports Writers Association, Cullman High's Keegan Thompson landed in North Carolina Tuesday hoping to earn a coveted spot on USA Baseball's 18-and-under National Team.
The Bearcat ace and slugger was among the country's top 144 age-eligible baseball players invited to showcase their talent at USA Baseball's 2012 Tournament of Stars this week in Cary, N.C. The extremely high-profile event, which is presented by Major League Baseball, will determine which players ultimately represent the country in international competition on USA Baseball's 18U National Team.
“I don't know if I'm biased, but I really don't know of a team he wouldn't make if he does what he normally does,” Cullman coach Brent Patterson said. “In the world, what team could he not make?”
Considering his hefty contributions to last year's 16U National Team, Thompson has to feel pretty good about his chances of making the 18U squad's elite roster. Last August, the recently named Class 5A Player and Pitcher of the Year tossed a complete-game, nine-inning shutout to lead the 16U National Team to its sixth straight Baseball World Championship with a 9-0 victory over Cuba. Thompson contributed both on the mound — he had 12 strikeouts, one walk, four hits and at one point retired 16 straight batters — and at the plate — the Auburn commit finished 4 for 5 with two RBIs and a run scored.
That breakthrough showing on the world's biggest stage made Thompson an obvious recipient of the International Performance of the Year when USA Baseball dished out its annual year-end awards this past January.
“What makes him so special is that's what you can expect to get from him each and every game,” Patterson said. “He expects so much of himself.”
According to USA Baseball's website, if Thompson makes the cut, he'd join an impressive list of former and current Major League superstars who have represented the 18U National Team, including John Smoltz, Mike Mussina, Paul Konerko, Joe Mauer and Bryce Harper, among others.
‰ Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 257 or at email@example.com.