It all began with a vision. A vision to bring the Olympics to USSSA’s backyard. To take the level of competition that can only exist when the entire globe participates and make it accessible. A vision with limitless potential to bring countries together for what can only be considered the highest quality amateur play in the world. A vision that in its first year has already seen tremendous growth and success. A vision that has become the USSSA International Program.
“The entire International Program really began with Mr. DeDonatis’ vision brought to life,” said Vice President of the International Program George Gonzalez. “We watched the World Baseball Classic and took the basic structure and made it our own.”
The first event to come in the development of the program was the first annual USSSA Gold Medal Games, held July 11-17, 2010 at the Osceola County Sports Complex. Eight international teams and two USSSA All-American teams, participated in the quest for the USSSA International Championship. Eight unique countries were represented including the Bahamas, Canada, France, Italy, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico, and the United States.
“The first year was incredibly successful,” said Gonzalez. “There were a few setbacks including issues with securing visas for the team from the Dominican Republic, but we put together a team here in Central Florida of kids with Hispanic heritage, calling them the Latin America team, and we solved the issue in that way.”
It was the Latin America team that eventually took the first ever USSSA International Title, coming out on top of the Puerto Rico team who went in as the heavy favorites, but were unable to hold out through the end.
Beyond the Gold Medal Games, which brought teams from across the globe to Kissimmee, the International Program has actively gone out and promoted competition in other parts of the world as well. Two All-Star teams, selected from the USSSA All-American Games, recently made their way to the other side of the world to compete in Japan against a team comprised of the best young athletes from that country.
With the inroads being made for partnerships with other countries, it can be predicted that the program will grow with each passing year to come. Already in the works are plans for the Gold Medal Games to expand for the 2011 season.
“As for next year, we are in the works to have Panama and Venezuela join the international roster,” said Gonzalez. “As for the Dominican Republic, we are sure that after last year, there won’t be any issues with the visas, so we should be at least three teams up. With the connections we’ve made over in Japan, we foresee them sending a team to participate as well, so the growth potential really is huge.”
Just how limitless the potential for the International Program is is yet to be seen, but all signs point to success.
“As we make these connections with other countries, we see repeatedly how intrigued and excited they are by the opportunity to come to the United States to play here and see what our competition and our program is all about,” said Gonzalez. “With those connections, and building upon the success of the first year, there really is no limit to where this program can go.”