by John Whittle
In less than two weeks, the Canes American team will take the field for the first of five tournaments across the country. The team is set to compete for championships from Florida all the way to Arizona as we prepare a new group of two dozen players for college and professional baseball.
There are 14 players on the roster who will see action on the mound this summer for the American team, with four of them also doubling as position players.
When each player takes the mound wearing the Canes name across their chest, they’ll be expected to go right after opposing hitters.
“I just want to see them go out and compete, pound the zone and give us a chance to win,” Canes American head coach Tom Willoughby said. “I know Dan Gitzen has put together a great group of pitchers, and there are high expectations. We always want guys who are strike throwers and will go after hitters. We want pitchers who will attack.”
The roster assembled has a great mix of power arms who can throw strikes and change speeds. The Canes organization has always been built on putting great pitchers on the mound, and this American team doesn’t deviate from our high standards.
Right-handed pitcher Michael Stewart is in his first year playing for the Canes out of Collegiate High School in Virginia. A James Madison commitment, Stewart sees the program as the best way to play with and against the top talent in the country.
“I am very excited to play with and against some super talented guys. I think it’s going to be very beneficial for me as a player,” Stewart said. “I joined the Canes because I felt as if the opportunity to play with and against the best talent in the country was too hard to pass up. I think it’s an awesome opportunity and I am really looking forward to it.”
Right-hander Parker Kruglewicz joined the program in the fall, so this will be his first summer with the Canes. A Riverside High School product in South Carolina, he is the only player from the Palmetto State on the American team this season. He’s committed to play baseball at Winthrop.
“My most memorable moment with the Canes is pitching at my future school. I had the chance to do what I love, on a field that I love and wearing a uniform that I love,” Kruglewicz said. “What I am looking forward to most about this summer is traveling with my teammates and playing baseball in places away from home. Traveling with the team is really fun and playing out of town with a big organization brings a lot of attention.”
Left-handed pitcher Jagger Haynes, out of West Columbus High School in North Carolina, enters his fourth year with the Canes, so he’s one of our veterans with the organization. A North Carolina commitment, the bonds he’s formed over the course of his time are what has made an impression on him.
“My most memorable moments with the Canes is spending time with teammates and playing competitive baseball,” Haynes said. “I’m looking forward to having a big summer playing against better competition and seeing some teammates I haven’t seen in a while. Playing for the Canes has helped me play to an elite level going against some of the best and being around great teammates.”
Another southpaw, Jalen Hollins, is back for his fourth year with the Canes. A product of Heritage High School in North Carolina, the 6-foot-2, 195-pounder is committed to UNC Greensboro. Playing on the 15U national team in the WWBA Championships in Atlanta and hitting a home run on the day he pitched was one of the highlights for him during his Canes career.
“Playing for the Canes has taught me more about life and the game of baseball. They’re teaching me what mentality to have, and also teaching me what pitches to throw in certain counts,” Hollins said. “What am I looking for in the summer is to compete against the best teams in the nation and get better as a player. But also have a good time and make new friends with my teammates.”
Right-handed pitcher Cade Kuehler from Cuthbertson High School in North Carolina is one of eight players on the team from the Tar Heel State. A Campbell commitment, Kuehler joined the organization last fall, and looks forward to being surrounded by so many talented players in his first summer with the Canes.
“I was able to play with the 2018 Canes National team and win the Ways to Play Championship in Atlanta, which was exciting because I’ve never been on a team who won a major tournament like that,” Kuehler said. “I wanted to join Canes Baseball because they probably have the most talented players and the best coaching staff in the nation, so surrounding myself with the best possible coaches and players will benefit me the most.”
Lefty Grant Umberger is in his first year with the Canes out of Downingtown East High School in Pennsylvania. The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder is one of three players committed to continue their baseball career at Virginia Tech after high school.
“I am looking forward to this summer and playing with all the talented players in the organization, including some future teammates after this summer,” Umberger said. “I joined the Canes because I wanted to compete and learn at a high level. The Canes tradition with a great coaching staff and a talented roster is exactly what I am looking for to take my game to a new level. It’s an awesome organization with a great history of winning in the most competitive tournaments. I want the challenge of playing in those types of games with a group of talented teammates.”
Standing tall over everyone on the roster is 6-foot-7 right-handed pitcher Tyler Strickland, from Grays Creek High School in North Carolina. The UNC Wilmington commitment is in his first year with the Canes.
“I am looking forward to participating in the big tournaments across the country with and against top level competition,” Strickland said. “I want to be a part of any elite organization that is known for developing top quality athletes.”
Right-handed pitcher Joey Craska is another one of our six pitchers in their first year with the Canes. The Mars Area High School (Pennsylvania) product is committed to play his college baseball at Virginia Tech. The tradition of winning tournaments is one of the big draws for Craska to the program.
“I am looking forward to competing with a talented group of guys. I am also excited to be working with a great coaching staff,” Craska said. “I wanted to play with the Canes because of the reputation they have for developing ball players. I know the Canes will do whatever they can to prepare me for the next level. I’ve heard about the Canes many times over the years and am thrilled to be a part of such a great organization.”
Right-handed pitcher Ethan Chenault, from Miller School in Virginia, is in his first year with the Canes. He’s one of two pitchers committed to play for UNC Wilmington on the American team roster.
“I’m excited to travel around the country and play baseball against good competition,” Chenault said. “I’ve had friends play for the Canes National before and I wanted to play with and against the best. I also wanted to play in the best tournaments around the country.”
Right-hander Myles McDermott is the only player from Massachusetts on the roster, joining us out of Archbishop Williams High School. McDermott, in his second year with the team, is the only uncommitted player on the roster, but that will change pretty quickly once the summer arrives and coaches get the chance to see him pitch.
“My most memorable moment playing for the Canes was winning the Wilson Premier Classic last fall.” McDermott said. “I’m looking forward to spending time with my teammates and playing against the best competition. Canes baseball has helped me develop into the best player that I can be. Everyday you wake up wanting to be better than the person next to you.”
One of four players who will see action both on the mound and in the field is right-hander Alonzo Treadwell from Mater Dei High School in California. A UCLA commitment, Treadwell will also play some first base and see time in the batting order for the American squad. This is his first year with the organization.
“I look forward to meeting all the guys and playing on the same team as some guys I usually play against,” Treadwell said. “I joined Canes because my trainer, Josh Reidt, also trains the Canes and he said it would be a great summer. I heard a lot of good things from my teammates who had played canes in past years and they all said it is the team to be on.”
We have three other position players who are likely to see some time on the mound as well, including right-hander Jake Gelof from Cape Henlopen High School in Delaware, right-hander Brandon Eike from Powhathan High School in Virginia and Lincoln Ransom from Whiteville High School in North Carolina.