It was an eye-opener for 13-year-old Nick Bowron.
That was last summer when the Rochester boy made the cut to participate in the USA Baseball National Team Identification Series in California.
Bowron had already safely made it through one massive regional tryout in Chicago, ultimately sending him to California where the top 100 12-years-olds in the country would compete for a spot on the USA National team.
Bowron didn’t get that ultimate prize. But what he did get was an education as well as had his passion for the game stoked to an all-time high.
His father, Chris Bowron, was there to watch all of it.
“You go in thinking that you’re good,” Chris said. “But then you see these other kids and then you’re like, ‘Wow, I’m good, but I’m not THAT good.
“The difference with a lot of them is their physical size. Nick is above average size-wise (5-foot-4, 130 pounds), but some of these 12-year-olds were huge, like 6-2. That makes a big difference in your ability to throw hard and hit the ball hard.”
Nick Bowron didn’t come home with his ultimate prize. But now he has a chance to go for it again, as do two other boys from Rochester and one from Kasson. Browron (13 years old), Chase Gasner (14) Grady Babcock (Kasson, 12) and Nolan Rolih (11) have all advanced in their separate age groups to the National Team Identification Series this week and next at Cary, N.C.
Nick Bowron and Rolih are there now through Sunday, while Gasner and Babcock compete next week.
Though Chase Gasner’s father, Darin Gasner, says the chance of any of them surviving the next cut and being named to a 40-player USA National Development team is slight, the possibility is still out there.
Gasner also says none of them are too worried about that. Each has already survived two prestigious cuts, one in a regional in Minneapolis and another in a regional in Chicago.
Babcock didn’t make it through the Chicago tryout last year, but did this time.
“He’s taken that next step,” said his father, Aaron Babcock. “It’s just a great experience. I want him to enjoy the process and be thankful to God that he’s able to play at such a high level.”
High enough to send him to to Cary, N.C., where he, Gasner, Bowron and Rolih will be playing alongside the top 180 kids in the nation in their age groups.
“There is a very slim chance of making (the National Development team),” Darin Gasner said. “But it gives these kids a good measuring stick of where they stand (nationally). A kid goes in with confidence and then they play in this and they find out the stuff they have to get better at.”
That’s certainly been the case with Nick Bowron. He took note of where he fell short in California last year, then went to work, doing almost all of his training under the tutelage of Jeff Milene, owner of Rochester Batting Cages and Training Facility.
Milene has also trained Babcock and Rolih, and has done extensive work with Rochester Century senior and major baseball prospect Mac Horvath, among others.
“Nick loves the game of baseball and he understands that hard work is going to help him get to where he wants to go,” Milene said. “Sometimes he pushes me to the limit with how hard he works. But he knows what’s going to make him better.”
The 13-year-old is laser focused on a couple of areas. That time in California lit a fire under him. Now he wants to show that all of that hard work is paying off.
“Every day I go to the batting cages with Milene,” said Bowron, who also plays on a Class AAA Rochester Youth Baseball Association traveling team and in the fall and spring travels four days per week to Woodbury to play on an elite team. “He helps me so much. I want get better all around. But I really want to get faster and stronger, those are the main things.”