West Forsyth catcher/infielder Chris Cullen understands what it takes to play for his country. Having made two national teams in previous seasons, the rising senior has come to appreciate any opportunity to don a Team USA uniform.
And after a strong junior campaign with the Wolverines, there’s a good chance he’ll return to the international stage once more.
Cullen, along with 43 others, has been named to USA Baseball’s U18 Trial Roster, which was announced following the annual Tournament of the Stars in Cary, North Carolina. Those who were selected will gather in Houston from August 23-29, where they will vie for 20 spots on the final roster.
"I think my odds are as good as anyone’s," said Cullen, who is listed as a catcher by USA Baseball. "I’m beyond blessed to have this opportunity again to wear USA across my chest.
"Some of the best in the nation are going try and make it … I’m just going to go have fun."
Cullen, who helped lead West to a playoff berth this spring, played on the USA U14 and U15 teams in 2011 and 2012, respectively, winning a gold medal with the U14 club. This prior experience has given him a lot of confidence, as well the kind of knowledge not often found in those his age.
"[The scouts] really look at how you handle failure," Cullen explained. "That’s big. They look at how you respond when you make an error or out. You have to have a short-term memory and come back and make the next play.
"A positive attitude keeps you going longer and eventually allows yourself to have the most success."
Cullen finished the 2014 high school season with a .424 average, a .500 on-base percentage, 25 RBIs and 25 runs, which helped propel West to a 17-11 record. Those strong numbers, along with his prior accomplishments with Team USA, afforded him the shot to make a national team for the third time in his career.
Should he survive the rounds of cuts in Houston, he’ll join 19 others on a trip to San Lucas, Mexico, where they’ll compete in the U18 COPABE Pan American Championship. The tournament will take place from Sept. 5-14.
Though Cullen understands there are no guarantees — especially considering how many talented ballplayers he’s going up against — he is confident that he’ll ultimately get the nod.
"Every single day I’ll continue working," he said. "I’m working hard to improve my game, and hopefully I’ll have success down in Houston."