There’s a weekly radio show called “American Top 40,” that features the top musical hits of the week. While Ryan Seacrest now hosts the show, it gained its highest popularity when Casey Kasem was behind the microphone from 1970-1988.
Today, Center Hill High School baseball freshman-to-be Collin Reuter is one of the top 40 “hits” of USA Baseball’s 14-and-under National Team Development Program (NTDP) roster. Reuter hopes, however, he will soon move from top-40 status to being one of the top 20 members of the national team.
That would mean he’d be quickly packing to represent the USA in an international tournament in Panama shortly after the team is selected.
It would be the second experience with international tournament play for Reuter, a utility player who primarily handles third base.
He was previously named to the 12-and-under team that won a gold medal for Team USA at a World Cup tournament in Tainan, Taiwan two years ago. A total of 11 teammates from the gold medal team have joined Reuter on the NTDP 40-man roster.
The group includes two other Mississippi players who were named: infielder-outfielder Easton Hood of Tupelo and pitcher-outfielder Logan Forsythe of Biloxi.
Reuter’s spot on this current roster comes after spending a week earlier this month involved in trials and tryouts to reach the point where they could be playing in Panama.
Initial reactions about his play during tryouts have been good, Reuter said.
“I did really good, I thought,” Reuter said. “I batted .733 for the week. I played catcher, third and first base and some at shortstop. The coaches also told me I did a good job. They just wanted me to work on my hips, first step and being more flexible.”
Reuter’s connections with playing baseball for the nation this year started with his competitive baseball team, the Oxford-based Yalobusha Giants.
“It all started with my coach Russ Pratt of the Yalobusha Giants,” Reuter said. “He had the connections with Team USA and he helped me get to North Carolina. You really have to work hard to get there.”
Reuter’s selection to the program was likely aided by recommendations from pro scouts, USA Baseball task force members and college, high school and youth baseball coaches who played a role in the selection process.
French Hobbs, new Center Hill baseball coach, believes Reuter’s success will aid his Mustangs’ program in a number of ways.
“These players are some of the best in the country, if not the best in the country for his age, especially for his age,” Hobbs said. “He’ll be able to take that experience and be able to bring it back to our guys. It’s a way that our guys will be able to experience it through him.”
Reuter is not the only Center Hill player who has competed in international baseball. Graduated-senior catcher C.J. Dunn also played for the Stars and Stripes in 2014 as part of the national 15-and-under squad that won a silver medal in Mexico.
“Every time Collin is recognized for something, that’s another college coach that looks at our program,” Hobbs said. “We have a lot of guys, like him, who I think are going to get a lot of recognition here in the next 3-4 years. People are going to come see Collin Reuter because he was on the USA National team.”
If Reuter makes the team, playing before big crowds in Panama won’t surprise him, because his time in Taiwan exposed him to loud and vocal baseball fans, almost all rooting against him and his teammates.
“You’ve got about 11,000 fans screaming at you,” Reuter said. “It was different, it was crazy. I was a little scared, but I had to go through it. I had to find some way. We only had about 50 fans rooting for us.”
Final selection of the 20-man roster heading to Panama will come after the program is completed on July 29.
Bob Bakken is Sports Editor and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.