At the beginning of August, Jonathan Hughes will get an opportunity most kids only dream of.
The 14-year-old Hughes, who recently graduated from West Hall Middle, will be in Cary, N.C. on Aug. 1 to try out for the U.S.A. 14-under national baseball team. He’ll be one of 39 kids competing for 18 spots, and those who make the team will remain in Cary until Aug. 11, when they fly to Venezuela to compete in the Pan Am games, which run through Aug. 22.
Hughes will be competing as a pitcher and infielder.
“I’m throwing every day and working on my pitches,” said Hughes, who has a mid-80s fastball to go with a two-seamer and curveball. “I’m running on my street, eating right, staying active — I’m focused on the goal ahead.”
Not only has he been staying active with drills, he’s also had plenty of in-game experience with his travel team, the Georgia Roadrunners. Last week, he and his team were at the Disney Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando competing in the Elite 32.
He’ll train at home the next two weeks with his father Danny, who he credits for helping him get this far early in his career. In the Hughes’ basement is a batting cage Danny built, as well a field in the yard.
“He’s always taught me the fundamentals,” Hughes said.
However, beginning Aug. 1, Hughes will be on his own. His parents won’t be making the trip with him to Cary, or to Venezuela should he make the national team. That means, for the fist time in his life, Hughes will be away from his parents for more than three weeks.
“It’s going to be different,” Hughes said. “But actually, I’m prepared for it. I’ve been to some tournaments where it was only my teammates before, so it won’t be that much of a change.
Hughes said he’s already familiar with a lot of the kids who will be in Cary trying out.
“I’ll be extremely excited to go to Venezuela if I make the team,” he said. “I wish my mom and dad could be there, but they can watch online. I’m sure at first I’ll be a little nervous, but after that, the playoffs will start and it will be all about business. It should be a good experience.”
While Hughes is looking forward to his opportunity, his mother Deanna admits to feeling some stress.
“He’ll have a great time and he’s excited about going,” she said. “But the preparation of sending him out of the country has been a little nerve-wracking for me.”
Whatever happens of Hughes’ trip to Cary, his baseball future is looking bright. Though he’ll no longer be attending school in the West Hall district, he has enrolled in King’s Ridge, a private Christian school in Alpharetta. He plans on the budding athletic program at a school where former Braves pitcher John Smoltz is heavily involved.
“As a parent, I’m very proud,” Deanna said. “I feel like he’s worked very hard for these opportunities.”