Cairo native Demetrio Morales is taking his baseball game to new heights.
The nine-year-old slugger traveled to Atlanta, Georgia in early June to compete in a tryout to earn a spot on the United States Speciality Sports Association Northeast Regional 9U team.
Playing amongst some of the best players in the Northeast and exhibiting his skills in the five tools of baseball — hitting, base running, speed, throwing and fielding ability — Morales’ talent reigned supreme with the young standout receiving the news that he has been selected to represent the Northeast team in August at the 2017 All-American Games held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Kissimmee, Florida.
“He was actually pretty stunned,” said his mother, Kristi Morales. “He was pretty much in shock and then was excited for me to finalize everything.”
The All-American Games allow the top players across eight regions — Far West, Atlantic, Northeast, Northwest, Midwest, Southeast, Central and Great Lakes — and six different age divisions to compete against each other on a national stage. There are two teams within an age division, American and National, that will compete to be named the ultimate champion.
Morales’ journey to the USSSA All-American showcase started a year ago as he was preparing to turn nine years old.
For his birthday, the then eight-year-old did not ask his parents for toys or video games, but pitching lessons from John Madden, a former pitching prospect for the San Diego Padres and New York Mets.
Madden, who lives in Florida, owns You Go Pro Baseball, created a website to give back to the game and help kids who don’t have the opportunity to get lessons every week or continuously travel to camps and tournaments.
Morales found Madden on YouTube and started watching his pitching videos which piqued his interest in wanting to take lessons under the former minor league prospect.
The Morales family traveled to Florida for the pitching lessons and it was Madden whom suggested Demetrio attend the USSSA All-American showcase and tryout because the first age division is 9U, which he would he eligible to play for.
“We went to the tryout in Georgia because there were 15 different tryouts and the tryouts for the Northeast division were in Virginia and New Jersey, but they were in the very beginning of May and with the way weather was, he wouldn’t have picked up a baseball until almost the middle of April to start pitching,” Kristi said. “He was trying out to be a pitcher, so we decided to go to one of the later tryouts in the year so that he would have more practice and better results.”
The goal of the tryout for Demetrio were for him to gain experience and exposure of being evaluated by coaches and scouts.
“I really wasn’t banking on him being picked,” Kristi said. “Obviously we were hoping that he made the Northeast team, but we knew it was a long shot with the number of kids that tried out.”
The Greene County native was competing against other nine year olds from the region who get to play baseball nearly year-round, giving them a distinct advantage on the diamond at the tryout. However, Demetrio and his family wanted to see where he fell in line with his peers around the country.
Although Demetrio wasn’t a direct selection at the Atlanta tryout, he still earned his spot on the team and received confirmation of that on June 29.
“There are no words,” Kristi said on how proud she is of Demetrio. “I always try to encourage him to do his best and what happens, happens after that. You can’t change people’s opinions, decisions, or evaluations when you go somewhere and you don’t know people, it’s not like small-town politics where your ticket is picked because you’re friends with so-and-so. When you go to something like this, your kid actually gets evaluated based on their skill and their talent.”
Beyond receiving training from Madden and attending the All-American Games, Demetrio plays for the Cairo Little League and the Diamond Dogs travel team.
For Demetrio, baseball is more than just a game — it’s life. He works on his skill set every day with his father to make sure that he has what it takes to continued to advance in his baseball career. Demetrio is a baseball junkie.
“Since he was about two, he would sit and watch baseball games,” Kristi said. “He knows all of the Major League Baseball players’ statistics, numbers, where they are batting and how many home runs they have. He just studies the sport over and over, and he loves to watch as much as he loves to play.”
Another aspiration Demetrio has is to attend a baseball school in Puerto Rico and be able get his education while playing baseball. He has been researching various schools, including the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy, to gain more information into the idea.
“If the timing works, and either my husband or I are able to make the dream come true for him, then that’s what we will do,” Kristi said.
Demetrio takes the field for the American 9U team on Aug. 6.