The players will form part of a European All-Star Team that will compete against Academy teams from the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Spain, France and the Czech Republic. The European All-Star team will be coached by Tony Klarberg of Sweden as well as Great Britain Baseball Head Coach Liam Carroll and Pitching Coordinator Zach Graefser, who is currently also serving as a consultant coach to Major Leagues Baseball’s European Academy programmes.
The European All-Star team will be made up of the top players from smaller Academy programmes in countries such as Sweden, Belgium, Austria and Great Britain, as well as several players from Eastern Europe whose countries do not yet have established Academy programmes.
The week will consist of games as well as physical testing, and will give players, coaches and MLB scouts the chance to see how the work put in over the winter by these players has paid off.
British baseball has previously sent players from BSUK's High Performance Academy, with Jacob Dean and Johnny Fretheim attending in 2015, and Carlos Casal, Conner Brown and Rory Chandler attending last year.
Ollie Thompson recently joined the Essex Arrows, having previously played at Richmond – but he has only been playing baseball for two years. He joined the HPA programme following a successful try-out with Great Britain Baseball in 2016, having previously played in the Wimbledon Football Academies system, but he quickly took to baseball and has progressed rapidly over the winter.
HPA Director Will Lintern said: “Ollie has really impressed us over the winter. He has been extremely committed to his own development, putting in extra work outside of the HPA programme. Ollie has been a fantastic addition to the programme and the coaching staff are really excited to see how his skills and athleticism translate to the field this season.”
This is Conner Brown’s second trip to the MLB Spring Academies Tournament, having also played in 2016. It was a big year for Brown in 2016: he was also selected to the MLB Elite Camp, led the Great Britain Junior National Team to its best-ever finish at a European Championship and made his debut for the Senior National Team.
Brown said: "It's an incredible feeling and I am very honoured to be able to participate in this tournament. It proves to me that all the hard work we have put in has paid off, because opportunities like this are not given lightly.”
The MLB Spring Academies Tournament represents the start of a new season as well as the culmination of a journey that these young players have been on throughout the winter, starting with the HPA testing and engagement day in October 2016 through to a day of instruction in January with Coach Summit speakers Pat Doyle and Dave Turgeon.
Looking ahead to the rest of 2017, the year could be an eventful one for both players, with selections to the Great Britain U23 Team still to be made as well as club competitions, which kick off on 2 April with the start of the National Baseball League.
The High Performance Academy, which is the pinnacle of BSUK’s player development programme and is endorsed by both the British Baseball Federation and the British Softball Federation, will continue its winter programme until the end of April before switching to a period of maintenance as players continue to play for their clubs.
For more information on the High Performance Academy in baseball or fastpitch softball or how you can be evaluated for the next HPA cycle beginning in the autumn, contact BSUK National Development Manager Will Lintern on firstname.lastname@example.org or visit: www.academy.baseballsoftballuk.com/hpa.