The calendar will say December and the feel will not be all basketball in Tucson. The weather here at that time is conducive to baseball. The aspirations of the community’s youth will be on display at the Kino Sports Complex early that month.
Baseball’s Next Level (BNL) — headed by local New York Yankees scout Bryan Huie — will conduct its tryouts for the upcoming summer season on Dec. 7 at the Kino Sports Complex Field No. 9.
Registration is only $20 and the tryouts start at 7:30 that morning. Players in grades 7 through 12 are invited to attend for the 14U, 15/16U, 17U and 18U teams.
BNL, which works with local high school coaches to advance players to college, has helped produce 167 college players and eight major-league draft picks in its five years of existence.
“In five years, that’s pretty darn cool. That’s like 33 kids a year,” said Huie, who is also the principal at Mission Manor Elementary School. “It’s been great. My high school relationships with all the high school coaches has been a great thing for Southern Arizona.”
One of the BNL alumni is former Cienega High School standout Nick Gonzales, who is a national player of the year candidate as a second baseman heading into his junior season at New Mexico State. BNL had much to do with his development working alongside Cienega’s coaches and Gonzales went from a walk-on with the Aggies to being a likely first-round selection in the next MLB draft.
As a sophomore last year, Gonzales led all NCAA Division I players in batting average, at .432. He led the Aggies to a WAC regular-season title and was named an All-American by six different publications.
The most recent college commitment from BNL is from Salpointe senior outfielder Levi Padilla, who is bound for Regis University next fall. Padilla batted .293 for the state championship Lancers last season.
Recently, Pusch Ridge pitcher/utility player Alessandro Castro, only a sophomore who is being groomed by the Lions’ coaches and BNL, recently took an unofficial recruiting visit of Cal State Fullerton’s campus.
“I really thank all our high school coaches because if I didn’t have decent relationships with them, BNL would not exist,” Huie said. “The high school coaches are very good about saying, ‘Hey, you need to go out and play in these tournaments (with BNL) because it’s getting you seen (by pro scouts and college recruiters).’ It’s been a great partnership. We’re all in it for the kids.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.