The players stood in center field of the Team USA training complex in Cary, North Carolina, and listened for their name. It would qualify as a scene out of the 'Hunger Games' series if the characters had been equipped with spikes and a leather glove.
'They brought all 108 of us out there to center field, and we all stood there and listened to the loudspeaker,' said Waukesha West incoming junior Jarred Kelenic, 16. 'They called our names, one by one. It was pretty nerve-racking.
'The way I did this week, I thought I had a good shot going in, but I was talking to my host dad about it,' Kelenic added. 'He said, 'Just expect the worst and hope for the best.' I was ready for anything that was going to come at me.'
It turned out to be the best. Kelenic was one of 40 choices for the USA Baseball 18U National Team Trials, impressing scouts enough after play in 12 games and two scouting days at the 2016 'Tournament of Stars.'
Kelenic, a pitcher and outfielder who has played with traveling club teams in Racine and Chicago, now eyes the Sept. 11-15 trials in Houston, Texas, where he can become one of 20 to make the team that will play in the COPABE Pan Am Championships in Monterrey, Mexico, from Sept. 23 to Oct. 2.
Kelenic said he was one of four choices for the trials who have two years of high school eligibility remaining, while the rest are rising seniors. Playing with older kids has never been a problem.
'I started out at the Waukesha Blazers, ever since I was 8, and I always played up two years,' Kelenic said. 'I hopped on with the Wisconsin Elite when I was 14, and it was a U16 team. I played there for a year, and when I was 15, I started playing with the Rawlings Hitters (of Racine), and I've been there ever since. I think playing up with older guys definitely made me mature as a player, and it just made me rise to the occasion. It made me overall a better baseball player, as well as a person.'
The plan will be to attend the University of Louisville as a fall of 2018 recruit. It's the same destination as other players from the area, including South Milwaukee's Matt McCarty and Justin Lavey of Kenosha Tremper. The 2016 first-round draft choice of the Milwaukee Brewers, Corey Ray, also played for the Cardinals and was a member of the Racine Hitters.
Before Kelenic gets there, he has some items on his checklist.
On Monday, Kelenic flew home to Wisconsin from his weekend in North Carolina. On Tuesday, he was scheduled to leave for Georgia to play in the Perfect Game World Wood Bat Association U17 event in Georgia with his Hitters team. He'll play in the Area Code Games in Long Beach, California, later this summer, participating with a Chicago Scout Association team representing the Chicago White Sox. In two weeks, a weekend tournament in Oshkosh is on the docket.
His presence at the Team USA camp, however, came by invitation only. Kelenic said he knew only one other player trying out to make the cut.
'A lot of us were recommended by pro scouts that had come to watch us, and they reached out to 108 high-school kids,' he said. 'I think I did pretty well. I hit really well, I fielded well and I pitched pretty well. We did a workout the first day, took batting practice and threw, and after that, it was all games.'
Kelenic received word in mid-winter that he had been invited.
'I just knew that by coming down there, that I was fortunate enough to be one of the 100 players, all of us had a shot,' he said. 'I knew if I gave it my all, good things would happen.'
Scouts on Twitter admired some of Kelenic's left-handed swing, yielding a double off the wall and a home run in the Tournament of Stars, and also pointed out his arm strength, clocked at 93 miles per hour on throws from the outfield.
If he makes one more cut, he'll officially be traveling beyond the country's borders as a USA representative.
'I think what I'm looking forward to is representing our country, having 'USA' on my chest and just playing the game of baseball,' Kelenic said.