June 19, 2008 

Young Baseball Players Showcase Talent

CARY, N.C. - Future members of the 18-and-under version of the U.S. Olympic baseball team are here in the Triangle this week trying to showcase their talent.
The "Tournament of Stars" features almost 150 of the country's best high school players.
There's an added bonus a lot of them didn't count on, though.
Whenever Isaac Ballou steps onto the field, he's got a whole family cheering just for him.
He's only known that family for a couple days, though.
The Virginia ballplayer is staying with the Pippins, a Cary family who lives just a few miles from the ballpark, as part of USA Baseball's host family program. 
Every single player in the tournament is paired up with a family who feeds them, get them to and from the park, and just hang out during down time.
"This family's great. The kids are nice, the family's nice, the parents are nice," said Ballou. "Everybody here in the neighborhood, they're really warm and inviting. It's a great place to be, you know."
The program's a pretty unique opportunity for most of these players; usually they have to stay in a hotel room.
"It was a little awkward at first, but once you get to know everyone, it's just like you're in your own home," said Tyler Spurlin, a pitcher from Woodlands, Texas.
Spurlin is Ballou's roommate at the Pippin household. 
The two of them have already gotten comfortable with each other, and their host family, even if the kids are sometimes better at Mario Kart than the baseball players.
"Not yet," said Spurlin, when asked if there's any Wii trash talk between the new friends. Then he grins and admits: "Yes, yes, yes. A little bit."
The Pippin family likes it too, because for the second year in a row, they get some good influences for the kids.
"It's kind of neat, because it's kind of like having two big brothers for a week," said Ron Pippin.
The week's not just fun and games though. 
"The exposure they're getting to college and major league scouts is awesome, in and of itself," said 18U National Team Director Ray Darwin. "But the big carrot for us is trying to make the 18U version of the Olympic team."
The final games are this weekend at the USA Baseball Complex in Cary, and they're open to the public.