The list of alternates were rattled off and Cole Tucker, sitting among the nation’s top 144 candidates for the USA 18U baseball team, figured he gave it his best shot after not hearing his named called.

He had a blast in North Carolina, playing in the Tournament of Stars in front of the USA coaching staff while being evaluated like never before, and held his own among the country’s top players.

He figured he did his best and so he would shake some hands, thank them for the opportunity, and come back to Ahwatukee in order to get back to work.

“They took all the kids to center field during the closing ceremonies and when they listed the alternates I knew I did my best and would go home with no regrets,” he said. “Then they started listing the 40 who made the next cut and they had to run to the infield. I was the seventh player they named and when I heard it, I jumped up like I had springs in my feet and ran to the infield as fast as I could.”

And just like that the Mountain Pointe senior-to-be is one step closer to representing his country in the IBAF 18U World Cup in Taichung, Taiwan, Aug. 30-Sept. 8.

There are 40 players still in the team trials process and they will head to Los Angeles in mid-August where they will compete and practice until the final cut — down to 20 players – is decided before heading to Asia.

Tucker, who is one of two (Brophy’s Ryan Castellani) Arizona players to make the cut, had a chance to put on the USA uniform for a photo shoot. He said it gave him goose bumps and that he can’t imagine what it feels like to button it up for a game.

“Every baseball player from all 50 states dreams about that,” he said. “You watch Derek Jeter and Joe Mauer do it in the (World) Baseball Classic and it’s what you want to do some day. It makes you feel accomplished and representing your country is so important. It’s the coolest thing.”

Here is something even cooler.

While Tucker, who will be in Los Angeles for the New Balance Area Codes games Aug. 5-10 before joining Team USA, has work to do before getting a chance to wear the USA jersey, his younger brother, Carson, was already named to the U12 team and has secured his trip to Taiwan.

It’s the first time USA Baseball will compete in the IBAF 12U World Cup, July 18-28. The 12U program will open international competition for the first time against Panama on July 18.

“It’s so cool for me to get to wear the USA jersey because I know that there are thousands of kids who dream about playing for their country,” Carson said. “And I’m lucky to get to play for mine.” 

Cole entered the tryout in North Carolina with a hint of doubt that he’d be advancing to the final two stages, but now that he has Tucker is ready to make it happen.

“I didn’t think I had any chance at all at making the cut,” he said. “It’s 144 kids and that’s a lot of cuts. I didn’t think it was a real thing. I played my hardest so that I could give them a chance to see what I am about.”

Clearly, Tucker is talented but his best intangible is the way he approaches the game and while flashing his pearly whites. It is very evident that he loves the game and plays it accordingly.

Just ask USA Baseball 18U National Team manager Rob Cooper.

“The coach pulled me off to the side and said he really enjoyed watching the approach I had for the game,” Tucker said. “He said I played the game the right way, smiled and not many (in camp) showed that type of attitude. He said he looked forward to me making the team and winning a gold medal together.

“It gave me a different mind-set heading into the next stage. There’s a place for me on that team and I am going to do whatever it takes to make it.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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