Pike’s Avant selected to USA Development Program

Published 11:25 pm Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Pike Liberal Arts School's Chandler Avant (6) throws the ball to first for an out on an attempted steal during an AISA playoff baseball game against Bessemer Academy in Troy, Ala., Thursday, March 26, 2012. (Messenger Staff Photo/Thomas Graning)

Chandler Avant is having a good year. Scratch that, Chandler Avant is having a phenomenal year.

After leading Pike Liberal Arts to the AISA Class AAA state baseball title in May and earning the championship series MVP, the shortstop racked up numerous awards including Alabama Sports Writers Association AISA All-State honors and The Messenger Player of the Year.

He might have topped all of those.

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Last week, at the conclusion of the 17U Championships in Palm Beach, Fla., Avant was invited to participate in the USA Baseball 17U National Development Program in Cary, N.C.

Avant was playing in Florida as a member of his California based summer team, So Cal National Travel Team, which boosts nine current major leaguers as alumni including Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman.

Though Avant had a successful tournament, the invitation came as a surprise.

“It feels good,” Avant said. “I really didn’t know they were doing invitations but after the tournament was over they approached me and asked if I wanted to go.”

Avant confirmed his attendance and becomes one of just 11 players invited from the tournament hosting 42 teams.

The National Development Program is in its first year but was instituted as a result of changes to the International Baseball Federation’s (IBAF) age designations of its World Championship events. With the elimination of the 14U and 16U championships, USA Baseball began the program in order to continue assisting players with their development and possible participation on 15U, 18U and 21U National Teams. The program is the developmental and identification vehicle used to select the USA National Team, which competes in international competition.

Pike Liberal Arts head coach Butch Austin says Avant has worked hard and deserves his recent success.

“We’ll practice three hours and (Avant) will go to the cage and hit for another hour or take ground balls,” Austin said. “His hard work earned him a lot of awards this year and if he keeps working, it will earn him a lot more.”

Avant made the Patriots roster as a seventh grader and started at shortstop his freshman year. Now a rising junior, Avant is making a name for himself outside of Troy.

“This is big for him, it’s big for Pike and it’s big for our baseball program,” Austin said. “I wish him the best and hope he get to continue on.”

Avant will not have the opportunity to make the 17U National Team roster until next year but the chance to receive instruction from likes of former major leaguers Brent Abernathy, Paul Byrd and Dennis Cook is unique.

“I’m excited about the whole thing,” Avant said. “My goal now is to continue on until I can make a team and play for (USA National Team).”

Avant will report to the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, N.C., on Aug. 10 where players will receive a week full of training and competition as well as exposure to professional scouts and college recruiters.

A game will be played everyday between the 30 players that will be divided into two teams.

For more information on USA Baseball and the USA National Team Development Program, visit www.usabaseball.com