Baseball’s Next Level, one of the must successful local baseball factories for young aspiring players, will look to continue building on its impressive alumni with founder and director Bryan Huie and his staff conducting tryouts next Saturday.
The Seventh Annual event will take place at the Sahuarita High School junior varsity field beginning at 8 a.m. with current seventh and eighth graders. The remainder of the schedule: Ninth graders from 9:30 to 11, 10th graders from 11 to 12:30 p.m. and 11th graders from 12:30 to 2.
BNL has produced 191 alumni who have progressed to college baseball at all levels, including a few that are now with a major-league franchise. The most prominent among them is former Cienega and New Mexico State standout infielder Nick Gonzales, who was selected seventh overall in the MLB draft last June by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“One of the best parts of what I do is helping all these kids in Southern Arizona with my connections,” said Huie, who is an area scout for the New York Yankees in addition to being the principal at Mission Manor Elementary School in the Sunnyside Unified School District.
Players selected from the tryouts move on to play in four summer competitions for BNL starting in late May.
Other noted BNL alumni:
— Trevor Rogers, a first-round draft pick by the Florida Marlins in 2017. He is a left-hander from Carlsbad, N.M., who headed to Tucson in the summer to compete for Huie’s BNL operation.
— Tristan Peterson, infielder at Washington State. Peterson is a CDO graduate who played for New Mexico State before transferring as a senior to Washington State in June. He batted .400 with 20 home runs and 90 RBIs for New Mexico State in 2019.
— Preston Clifford, also at Washington State who is an infielder. As a freshman from Sabino last season, Clifford started all of the Cougars’ 11 games at second base before COVID-19 canceled the remainder of the season.
— Gil Luna, a left-hander at Arizona who hails from Casa Grande, will be a junior with the Wildcats this season.
— Ian Mejia, Chris Barraza and Brendon Rodriguez, all Sahuarita High School grads, at New Mexico State. Mejia and Barraza are sophomore right-handers. Mejia first was part of Arizona’s program before transferring to Pima College. Rodriguez is a fifth-year senior left-hander from Sahuarita and Scottsdale Community College whose fastball was recently clocked at 93 mph.
— Nick Ames, a first baseman formerly of CDO and UNLV who will enter his third season in the minors in 2020 as part of the Detroit Tigers organization.
Huie is just as proud helping the prospects get a college education as he is making them high-level baseball players.
“I am such an educational advocate,” Huie said. “I tell kids this all the time, ‘Baseball is one of those greatest sports to be invented but one day baseball is going to be over for all of us.’
“These kids need to go off to school and get their degree, that piece of paper that nobody can take away from them. Don’t get me wrong, professional baseball is great, but we’re very committed to help these kids play college baseball and first and foremost become good young adults.”
Huie often mentions his BNL players conduct themselves with class saying, “Yes sir” and “Mr. Umpire, sir.”
Players are trained “military style,” he said, with coaches keeping them disciplined with every detail.
“We stretch in straight lines, and if we’re not, than coaches say, ‘Hey, let’s go, get in your lines.’ It’s very structured. At the end of the day, the reality is not all of these kids will go on to play college baseball. That’s why we pound into their heads to have good character and people skills, respect and manners and still be able to go to college or trade school and be a productive citizen.”
The BNL coaching staff includes more than 10 people with extensive backgrounds in high school, college and pro baseball.
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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.