AGUASCALIENTES, Mexico – It’s been a summer to remember for Temecula’s Jacob Miller, a 12-year-old that stormed onto the scene recently, representing the United States on the baseball field. Miller was selected to join Team USA after attending a tryout through their National Team Identification System about 18 months ago. In total, he attended three different tryouts before being selected for the USA 12u National Team. It’s a challenging process that starts with about 5,000 kids, before they get to the final selection for the 18-man roster.
The first stop for Jacob and Team USA was the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) U-12 Baseball World Cup Americas Qualifier, held in Aguascalientes, Mexico. After pool play and making their way through the winners bracket, it all came down to Team USA (9-0) where they overcame an 11-run deficit to win gold with a 29-28 win over Venezuela (6-3) in seven innings on Sunday, May 28.
When Team USA faced Venezuela in the Opening Round, nearly a week earlier, the 25-24 game ended with a U.S. walk-off home run. Fast forward to Sunday and the two teams combined for eight more runs scored in the contest, but this time it ended with a walk-off drag bunt.
“It was an awesome experience,” says Miller. “In the Mexico qualifier, we played against other international teams from nine different countries where it was very loud and exciting during the games. I did my best to block out the noise and stayed focused when I was pitching. I also got to make new friends on our USA Team with players from all over the US and got to experience the culture in Mexico and traveling there.”
The battle between the WBSC U-12 Baseball World Cup Americas Qualifier’s two highest scoring teams lived up to the hype. Team USA led 15-6 in the third before Venezuela scored 19 unanswered runs to lead by 10 in the fifth, 25-15. The U.S. added two in the bottom of the fifth, but Venezuela added three in the sixth to earn the game’s largest lead at 28-17 headed into the final inning.
With three outs left in the game, Team USA stayed calm, collected, and patient at the plate to score seven until it had one out to go. Zaylon Johnson stepped up to the plate with the bases-loaded and hit a grand slam to tie the game. One inning later, an error on a sacrifice bunt allowed Team USA to win gold and set a 12U National Team record for most runs scored in a single game.
Team USA had five players earn honors at the WBSC U-12 Baseball World Cup Americas Qualifier with Jacob Miller earning the tournament’s Best Pitcher award, recording the most wins (3) and lowest ERA (0.50). With the top-four finish at the WBSC U-12 Baseball World Cup Americas Qualifier, Team USA will head to the WBSC U-12 Baseball World Cup in Tainan, Taiwan, later this summer. The U.S. is the defending champion after defeating Venezuela in the 2022 edition. This will be the sixth World Cup appearance for the 12U National Team after winning four of the five that it has previously participated in.
“The most exciting part was just getting to represent our Country and wear the USA uniform,” added Miller. “Playing for Team USA has been a dream and goal of mine. I was nervous at first but once the games started, our team came together and we won the gold medal, going 9-0. We helped the USA qualify for the upcoming 12u World Championship in Taiwan.”
After returning home to Temecula, Miller, who started his playing days as a T-Baller with French Valley Pony, was invited back out to train in Cary, North Carolina in hopes of making the final 18-man roster for the next leg of the 12U National team’s journey in Taiwan from July 28-August 6. Fourteen players on that Training Camp roster, with Miller in tow, were reunited after just helping Team USA win gold.
The roster was selected after an extremely competitive week of training and when USA Baseball named the final 18-man roster for the 2023 12U National Team, Miller’s name was called yet again. Jacob says prior to being with Team USA, his competitive drive grew while playing with ZT National Prospects from Anaheim. “The major tournaments we go to helped me to compete against the best players at my age group in the Country.”
As for the team trials, Miller says they were incredibly challenging as it had 36 of the best players from around the US competing for only 18 spots. “I feel extremely fortunate and blessed to make the USA Team twice in 2023. I have a lot of people to thank, including my parents, coaches, my ZT organization, and USA baseball for the opportunity.”
The U.S. has a world-best four world titles at the U-12 level, having won three-consecutive gold medals in 2013, 2015, and 2017. It will look to defend its title this summer after taking home the title of World Champion in 2022.
This year’s roster features 11 players who were a part of the 12U National Team that won gold at the WBSC U-12 Baseball World Cup Americas Qualifier in May and will open up World Cup play against the Czech Republic on July 28 at 2:30 a.m. ET. The full 2023 12U National Team schedule can be found online, but as for California kids the roster also includes Micah Delosreyes (Moreno Valley), Ty Glaus (Son of former MLB slugger Troy Glaus; Del Mar), Gavin Gomez (Long Beach), Bryant Ju (Cerritos), Julian Knudsen (Los Angeles), and Michael Ohman (San Francisco).
Jacob also said it was important to him to share this once-in a lifetime experience with his parents, who have supported him in his baseball journey every step of the way since he was 4 years old. While Team USA pays for his travel, he wanted to start a GoFundMe page to help his parents, which can be found at www.gofund.me/c60a81ad.
“The funds I raise will be used to help with my family’s travel expenses to Taiwan and the hotel and expenses associated with our trip,” says Miller. “I really appreciate any help for an experience I will never forget.”
JP Raineri can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.