MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Most summer days, you can expect Derek Paris to be working on his batting or his defensive skills behind home plate.
But one day recently, he was a typical teen with his eyes glued to a screen.
“I was on the computer all day waiting for the email to pop up,” Paris said this week. “I was definitely excited and happy when I saw it.”
The email in question was the one inviting Paris, a rising freshman at Mount Greylock, to this month’s tryouts for the USA Baseball National 14-and-under team in Cary, N.C.
Paris was named to the National Team Identification Series Team New England after a series of tryouts in Connecticut.
It was his second go-around trying to make the national development squad.
“Last year, I made it to the second [regional] tryout, but I didn’t make it to go to North Carolina,” he said. “This year, I felt a lot more confident. I worked hard in the off-season to get better. Where I am now and seeing the kids last year, I felt like I was better than them.”
And by a key metric for his position, he definitely was better than he was a year ago.
“My pop time this year was 2.1 [seconds],” he said. “Last year, it was 2.66. I got that down a lot, which is really good.”
Pop time is the measurement of how long it takes a catcher to get the ball from his mitt to the second baseman to catch a runner attempting to steal.
Paris worked on lowering his time and improving other skills throughout the year.
“I did the Baseball Factory, a weeklong camp, in Dodgertown [Vero Beach, Fla.],” he said. “That helped me. It gave me drills I could do with me dad that he would help me with. I go down to the field almost every day with my dad.
“Every time, I’d do both defense and offense.”
In addition to that one-on-one with with Rick Paris, an assistant coach at Mount Greylock, Derek has been playing travel ball this summer with the Troy, N.Y.,-based Tri-City Bombers.
And this week, he is in New Hampshire to participate in a catcher’s camp, one last tuneup before the Aug. 22-26 national tryouts in North Carolina.
“He started for the JV this spring,” Rick Paris said of the then-eighth grader. “But he was called up to the varsity for the last three or four games and started the tournament game. That built up his confidence playing with older kids.”
Later this month, Derek will work with a whole new group of kids on the New England team.
“When I get there, I’ll ask [the pitchers] where they like to pitch, what different pitches they throw and build a relationship before the games to make sure what they like to throw and where they want to throw it,” he said. “They can always shake me off. But I’ve basically got to talk to them before the game and get to know them more.”
Whatever happens in terms of selections for the national team, Derek knows that the experience in North Carolina will be another valuable step in his development as a player -- just as last year’s regional tryouts were.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I don’t know exactly what the competition will be, but I know everyone will be great down there.
“I’ll get to improve myself. I just have to show what I can do.”
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