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Freshman is a 14U finalist

Valencia’s Balta among 24 players to try out for USA Baseball team in Miami

Posted: October 4, 2009 9:35 p.m.
Updated: October 5, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Valencia freshman A.J. Balta is one of 24 players who will have a chance to make the United States' 14U team during tryouts Oct. 10-14 in Miami.

 
Valencia High has been home to some elite-level baseball players recently.

There’s another one on the way.

Freshman A.J. Balta will participate in the final tryouts for the United States’ 14U national team from Oct. 10-14 in Miami.

“It really gives me a lot of confidence coming into high school because I know I’ve been playing with the best,” he said.

The process began in mid-September, when the 14-year-old outfielder was selected by USA Baseball to take part in tryouts at El Dorado High School in Placentia and Cal State Fullerton.

After surviving the first cut, Balta traveled to Cary, N.C., from Sept. 18-20 for an evaluation at the National Training Complex.

He impressed the scouts enough to be one of the final 24 players in the pool for the 14U national team.

According to his father Henry, it’s the product of countless hours spent training.

“He’ll hit all day and night and he’ll take ground balls and fly balls until he can’t go anymore,” Henry said. “At 14, he’s kind of hitting his stride a little bit in terms of his game.”

A.J. practices his fielding at Valencia High School and his hitting at Line Drive Baseball Academy.

He occasionally trains with a pair of Vikings who are no strangers to the national scene.

Valencia junior Christian Lopes and sophomore Timmy Lopes also work out at Line Drive, and they join A.J. whenever they’re training on the same night.

Christian was a member of the 16U national team last year, and Timmy was invited to try out for the 16U national team this summer.

“I’ve watched them practice and play games,” said A.J., whose sister Tori is an outfielder with the Viking softball team. “I’ve watched their technique over time and that’s really helped me. I hope to have technique like them.”

A native of Valencia, A.J. has been refining his technique for years, first in the William S. Hart Pony League for eight years and then at Rio Norte Junior High School.

He was also coached by his father on amateur teams that played in the United States Specialty Sports Association World Series the last three years.

A.J. spent the past few months playing for Valencia’s summer and fall teams, and he said he’s looking forward to the spring because of the players and coaches in the program.

If A.J. makes the 14U national team, he’ll fly to Ecuador from Oct. 17-24 to play in the 2009 Pan Am “A” 14U Championships.

“It’s very humbling for him to get a chance to possibly represent the country abroad,” Henry said. “It’s not just about baseball at that point. It’s a big honor. We’ve talked a lot about it and he understands what it means.”

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