The three stage USA Baseball national team identification series (NTIS) process culminates with a four day tournament at the National Training Complex in Cary, North Carolina. The first stage of qualification for participation occurred at the state level with metrics and skills testing. The second stage is at the NTIS regional level in one of six area across the country. The Champions Cup is the final stage, which brings two teams of sixteen players each from the six regions for a total of twelve team or approximately 192 boys.
The tournament starts out with a combine, which consists of about fifteen minutes of testing in three areas – vertical jump, 30-yard dash and Diamond Kinetics metrics focused on barrel speed among other numbers. After the metrics, players are graded on hitting and fielding by being given two sets of five swing each of batting practice and some outfield flyballs or infield ground balls based on their position preference.
From the metrics, player selected position preferences, and other assessments collected at the state and regional level, playing time in the tournament games is allocated to participants. Coaches indicate that they hope hitters get a minimum of five at bats and pitchers see nine batters, but the opportunity can different significantly given the roster size and limits of batting ten in a game. The actual at bats can span three to fourteen or so with innings in the field varying widely as well. The point being that there isn’t an equal opportunity because USA Baseball concentrates playing time on those who they want to see perform as they consider them for the national team.
The first three games are played on Friday and Saturday. Based on player performance, thirty-six or so are selected for a secondary combine. This extra two-hours gives the NTIS evaluators an additional opportunity to see players footwork on the infield and outfield as well at take more swings off a pitching machine and coach flips in the cages. The additional input is used to help the final selection of twelve players, who will make it to the last stage of the national team process, which takes place later in the year.
On Sunday morning, the Gold and Bronze games are played to finish off the tournament. Players who made the final cut of twelve are notified within two-weeks. Overall, NTIS is an individual testing process in the context of a team tournament to determine who will wear the USA jersey and represent the country.