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 this summer who will have the opportunity to see time at the plate and in the field. Four will also see some time on the mound over the course of the summer for the American team as they can help the squad in a variety of ways.
But when they’re at the plate, they’re going to be used to their strengths as a hitter. Whether it’s a line drive to the gap, a bunt for a single, or a big fly over the outfield wall, there are a variety of hitters on the roster who can impact the game in different ways.
“We will be aggressive when we play,” Canes American head coach Tom Willoughby said. “Guys who can run are going to run. Guys who can handle the bat, we’re going to force the issue on the bases. We’re going to do whatever it takes to score runs. We’re also going to have some bangers in this lineup who can really, really swing it.”
One of the players who will often patrol center field for the Canes American team this summer is Bryson Dansberry, who is from Nansemond River High School in Virginia. A Radford University commitment, Dansberry is in his second summer with the Canes organization.
“My first season with the Canes was fall of 2017, we played in Ft. Myers, Florida and we came in third place. Each member of the team really pulled together to go deep in the tournament,” Dansberry said. “I’m most looking forward to winning the WWBA Championship in Georgia because it’s a highly competitive atmosphere and great competition from all over the country.”
Every great team has a player or two who can play multiple positions, and that’s one of the primary reasons Cooper Porter from Orange High School in North Carolina is on the roster. Porter, an N.C. State commitment and four-year veteran with the Canes, will see time behind the plate and multiple other positions this summer.
“My most memorable moment with the Canes would have to be when we were in Georgia playing against the Banditos top team and we have about every ACC and SEC college scout there watching the game. It was probably the best game of my life and the most nerve racking game of my life to,” Porter said. “The Canes have helped me develop me to become a better player by having such a good coaching staff. They have also helped me by putting me in front of top college coaches at every game and helped me play to my abilities and not play timid.”
Infielder Christian Chambers is back for his second year with the Canes organization out of Midlothian High School in Virginia. A James Madison commitment, Chambers has grown into a more well-rounded player during his time with the team.
“This summer, I’m looking forward to playing top level competition to get me ready for college baseball,” Chambers said. “The Canes have helped to developed me as a player by pushing me to be better because we have so much talent on our teams.”
Left-handed hitting outfielder Dustin Mercer is in his first season with the Canes American team joining us from Weddington High School in North Carolina. A Virginia Tech commitment, Mercer is ready to travel this summer to have some new experiences on the baseball field.
“I am looking forward to going to the tournament in Arizona,” Mercer said. “I also am excited to meet a bunch of new people with similar aspirations to mine. But most of all I’m excited for a summer full of baseball! I wanted to join the Canes for the intense level of competition it brings and also the memories that I will make with this organization.”
First baseman Hunter Stokely, a North Carolina commitment, is one of eight players from the Tar Heel State on the team hailing from Fike High School in North Carolina. A veteran of the Canes, Stokely is in his fourth season with the organization, so he knows what to expect in terms of standard of play.
“The Canes have helped me play better competition and play in front of scouts. I joined the canes because I wanted to be a part of the best team in the country,” Stokely said. “I’m looking forward to this summers schedule and to win a lot of games. I’m also looking forward to being able to play with some friends that I haven’t seen in a year.”
The longest-tenured player on the roster is middle infielder Jalen Buster, who has been with the Canes for five years. Buster is from Cave Spring High School in Virginia and committed to play his college baseball at Radford University.
“Playing for the Canes has made me mature as a player. It made me worker harder to better myself for the future,” Buster said. “I’m very excited to play for a team that everyone has the same goal since everyone is committed. I wanted to join the Canes because I knew I wanted to play at the next level. This is the best program in the nation and I wanted to be a part of it.”
Another player who will see action in multiple spots this summer is outfielder and utility player Jake Gelof, who plays for IMG Academy in Florida. A William & Mary commitment, Gelof, who will also feature on the mound, is in his third year with the Canes.
“My most memorable moment with the Canes was winning the Wilson Premier event. I pitched well in the semifinals and helped the team get to the championship and I had a lot of fun winning it with my teammates,” Gelof said. “When I first came to the Canes, I had control issues on the mound. After working with the pitching coaches, they helped on being consistent and pounding the zone.”
Infielder Brandon Eike joins the organization for the first time this summer out of Powhathan High School in Virginia. The Virginia Tech commitment will also feature some on the mound.
“This summer I am looking forward to all the traveling as well as all of the good competition we will play,” Eike said. “I wanted to join the Canes because they are a well known and successful team every year.”
Catcher and outfielder Lincoln Ransom is in his second year with the Canes out of Whiteville High School in North Carolina. Committed to Old Dominion, Ransom will also see time on the mound for us this summer.
“My most memorable moment with the Canes is playing last year in Florida. I got to meet and bond with my new teammates and I made friends that will last a lifetime,” Ransom said. “I’m looking forward to going out and competing with a new group of guys. Canes baseball put me out on the recruiting market better than any other team I’d played for before. Their contributions helped me to commit to play baseball at a D1 level. I’m so thankful for that.”
Outfielder JT Benson is one of two players from the state of Kentucky on the roster, coming to us from South Oldham High School. A Louisville commitment, Benson joined the team last fall to go to Jupiter, and he will be in his first summer with us this year.
“I’m mostly looking forward to meeting more highly looked upon athletes that I haven’t met before. Also looking forward to playing against athletes that I will be in playing against in college,” Benson said. “Playing in these tournaments that will expose me to scouts which is important for my future. I’m also looking forward to meeting people on this team build friendships that are always remembered.”
Middle infielder Logan Beard out of North Oldham High School is our second Kentucky native on the roster. Like his crosstown high school rival, Beard is committed to Louisville, and will be in his first summer with the Canes organization.
“I played with the American team as a fill in during the fall in Florida and had a great time. It was a blast being around lots of other high level performing high school baseball players and playing extremely good competition,” Beard said. “I am looking forward to seeing a few guys on this team from other states that have known in the previous years. I wanted to play amongst other high level high school players that I know will challenge me to get better.”
Catcher Cole Houser is in his first year with the Canes organization and comes to us from Hemp Field High School in Pennsylvania. A Pittsburgh commitment, Houser cites the organization’s reputation as one of the chief reasons to play on the American team this summer.
“The Canes have a reputation of being the best and I want to be part of the best. I look forward to working with the coaches and meeting my new teammates,” Houser said. “I am looking forward to playing with very talented players and against top competition. I have worked very hard to become a solid catcher and want to test my skills against the best competition and I want to catch the best pitchers. This will help me improve as a catcher and hopefully gets me ready for the next level.”
Middle infielder Nathan Furman is in his first full year with the Canes out of Monsignor Bonner High School in Pennsylvania. Furman is committed to Seton Hall and looks at the organization as a place he can better himself as a player.
“The opportunity to play for a program like the Canes is a huge honor. The caliber of players and coaches in the Canes organization was a big factor in my decision and was really an opportunity that was too good to pass up,” Furman said. “I am most looking forward to playing with high level players in a high level program. Wearing the Canes jersey is a huge honor for me. This summer is going to be great, and I can’t wait to get started!
Also seeing some time in the field and at the plate for us this summer will be Alonzo Treadwell, out of Mater Dei High School in California. The UCLA commitment will play some at first base, but the majority of his action will be on the mound for the American team this summer.