HICKORY, N.C. — Catawba Valley Community College head baseball coach Paul Rozzelle absorbed a lot from his time coaching for USA Baseball in the 14U National Developmental Program less than a week ago in Cary.
Rozzelle feels honored to be a part of such a prestigious organization and process.
"Being involved with USA Baseball is always an unbelievable honor," Rozzelle said. "It just feels different when you get to put that 'USA' on your chest."
Although this was the second-straight year that Rozzelle has been involved with USA Baseball, it was his first as a part of a national team selection process, which included 40 athletes from across the United States.
"To actually get on the field and coach and work with those kids as they try to make the national team just made it even more special," Rozzelle said. "USA Baseball is first class in everything that they do for the players and how they treat the coaches. Just getting a chance to be out there with those guys and be a small part of their journey as they are trying to get to the highest levels of this game was unbelievably special."
Although Rozzelle is accustomed to working with athletes who are 18 and older at CVCC, he says nothing changed in his approach to coaching younger athletes.
"The older guys just have a little bit more reps than the young guys because they are just starting their journey," he said. "All in all from what you're teaching and saying it's all the same stuff. Those kids (with USA Baseball) are extremely talented are going to be 'Power Five' signees. They are going to hear their name called on draft day. There are names that we are going to know years for now at the professional level. There were a hand full of kids that are 14 years old that could play for the Red Hawks right now."
Dividing into two teams — "Stars" and "Stripes" — all 40 athletes were able to play against one another in three different games.
Rozzelle worked closely with the players on the "Stripes" team and its coaching staff, including Vanderbilt University Associate Head Coach Scott Brown, who helped lead the Commodores to the NCAA Division I National Championship at the College World Series this past spring.
Also on the "Stripes" staff with Rozzelle were Virginia Commonwealth University head coach Shawn Stiffler and Chaparral High School (Ariz.) head coach Troy Gerlach.
"Being around those guys was an unbelievable experience," Rozzelle said. "You had such a wide range of coaching experience. The baseball knowledge that was shared was unbelievable. Watching those guys and trying to pick their brain was really awesome. There is definitely something from each and every single coach that was there — not just on my team — that I've taken something from and are bringing it back to our program."
The highlight of Rozzelle's time with USA Baseball came last Monday when his 9-month-old son Zeke and wife Cayley were able to be there to watch him in coaching action.
"It's a pretty special moment for me that I got to share it with my wife and son," Rozzelle said. "Being able to have that memory to look back on forever is really cool. My son got to see his dad with USA Baseball on his chest and go out there and coach a little bit with all those other great coaches and unbelievable players. It was a special, special moment."
With his most recent USA Baseball experience behind him, Rozzelle turns his attention to this fall as he gears the Red Hawks baseball team up for the 2020 baseball spring season.
"I am excited to get back to work and get back to our grassroots in this program," Rozzelle said. "I want to take the things I've learned and put it to good use. We are unbelievably talented. After the experience with USA Baseball, it has done nothing, but energize me. I am chomping at the bit. I wished we started yesterday. We are ready to go."