Is nationally respected and consistently ranked as one of the top organizations in the country
Focuses on player development more than rings and trophies
Promotes its players to over 160 D1 college coaches
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The University of Maryland coaching staff got some good news from USA Elite 2016 catcher, Ty Friedrich, when he gave them the news that he would accept their scholarship offer. “I have been in close contact with them for over a year now, said Friedrich. Coach Helsel encourages us to build relationships with the coaches who are recruiting us. Over that year I have learned alot about the school, the coaches and their baseball program. I have a lot of confidence in what they are doing at Maryland. I wanted to be a part of that”.
Friedrich has been in the USA Elite program since he was 13 years old and says the program has helped him in many ways. “I started with them my first year out of little league. They were running a developmental league for 13U players. It was very different because it focused more on individual development than winning trophies. Looking back, I think that helped put me in the right mindset to work hard to develop myself, both on and off the field.”
USA Director, Mark Helsel, has watched Friedrich develop over the last 3 years. “Ty followed the plan to becoming a D1 player. Even at 13 you could see he had the tools to be an elite level player. But, like most kids, developing those tools is the key to success. Ty did that. He was a tall, lanky kid that needed to add strength and quickness. He did that. As a catcher, he continued to hone his skills. He stayed hungry and was a tireless worker. Getting a D1 scholarship as a catcher is very difficult. College coaches scrutinize catchers more than any other position. Ty has been a leader in our program and a joy to have around. He comes from a great family that supported his dream and they encouraged him to aim high. He’s a high energy kid and always has a smile on his face. He’s everything we want our players to be”.
Friedrich credits his USA Elite coaches with helping him make his final decision. “Coach McKay and Coach Rowland both helped me alot. They sat down with me and my family while we were in Georgia and just laid everything out. They took the time to help me sort through all the pros and cons. Both of them have a lot of experience in the recruiting process. In the end, it was clear that Maryland was the right fit for me”.
Friedrich becomes the second USA Elite player to commit to Maryland. 2014 grad, Zack Jancarski, will be a freshman there this fall.
2015 RHP, Zack Helsel, breathed a sigh of relief after he called recruiting coordinator, Jason Murray, and gave him the news that he would accept a scholarship to play for Liberty University. “It felt so great to make that call. I couldn’t be more excited. I’ve busted my butt to put myself in this position and it feels really good”. Helsel, whose older brother, Christian, was a highly recruited player in the USA Elite organization, says his journey is very different than his brother’s. “Christian had lots of offers early. I had to wait a lot longer for mine”.
Helsel’s journey was anything but easy or early. After working all winter long during the 2013 off season to put on muscle, Helsel was injured in a collision with a teammate at the first event of the summer in 2013. He broke his jaw, his collarbone and had a concussion. He missed all of that summer and some of the fall before returning to play in October. Unfortunately, the setback caused him to lose nearly all of the muscle he had gained during the off season. “At my lowest I was 137 lbs. My jaw was wired shut so I couldn’t eat anything”. When he finally returned to full strength in late fall/2013 he knew he had no time to waste. He credits USA Elite Pitching Coordinator, Brian Murtha, with giving him a workout plan to add strength and muscle. “Coach Murtha did the research. He gave me the workout and the encouragement. At first it was super difficult. I was so weak”, explained Helsel. “But, my body started really changing and I think I became obsessed with working out. I just love the way it feels to put on muscle”. The results followed soon thereafter. Helsel jumped up to 190 lbs and added 10 mph to his fastball (85-86). He then earned the top score in the organization’s athletic testing combine out of 185 athletes in the USA Elite organization.
USA Elite Director, Mark Helsel, father of Zack, knows his son’s story well. “I’ve really enjoyed watching him develop. He created a great story. It’s all about desire. It was almost like a lightbulb went off and he said I’m tired of being the skinny little brother of Christian Helsel. He got after it and I’m obviously very proud of him. His story should be a great inspiration to our younger players. Very few people would have projected him to be a D1 pitcher even a year ago. But, to his credit, he focused on the right stuff and he’s getting what he deserves now”.
Helsel has had a productive summer pitching for the USA Elite 2015 Red team. He is a side arm specialist pitcher that gives hitters fits. “I enjoy pitching, especially side arm. Hitters complain about having to hit off me.
That’s funny”. He has only given up 3 earned runs all summer. HIs dad thinks it’s a good style for him. “He just started doing it one day. It took him awhile to get a feel for it, but I think he has a knack for it. His ball moves a lot and he also throws a late breaking slider from two arm slots. Alot of college coaches are looking for something different and he definitely has a different look”.
When asked why he chose Liberty, Helsel, had the answers. “First and foremost, it’s a Christian school and my faith is very important to me. I visited there and the players were great. They prayed together after practice. I loved that. Obviously, Liberty’s new 20 million dollar stadium will be a great place to play. The coaches also showed alot of interest in me. They came and watched me pitched three times this summer. From the start they made me feel very comfortable. Coach Quinn (pitching coach) was also a side armer like me, so he’ll be able to give me some great instruction. It’s far enough south to feel southern, but not too far away from home that I have to fly. It’s just the perfect place for me and I can’t wait to get there”. Liberty., located in Lynchburg, VA, just won the Big South Conference championship for a second year in a row finishing with a 23-3 conference record and 41-18 overall. They played in the UVA regional.
Chad Luensmann began playing in the USA Elite organization when he was 13 years old. Perhaps Chad knew he would someday get a baseball scholarship to a D1 school, but few others probably would have projected him as one of the top 2015 grad pitchers in Pennsylvania and a future Nebraska Cornhusker. Even USA Elite Baseball Director, Mark Helsel, is amazed at the development of Luensmann. “In one sense, it’s somewhat surprising, but in another, it’s not at all. Chad has an incredible work ethic. Its been awesome to watch him stay the course and get a scholarship to Nebraska. If there was every a kid who deserved it, its Chad”.
Luensmann says the guidance and direction he got while playing for USA Elite Baseball made a big difference. “Coach Helsel is very honest and direct about what needs to be done to reach the highest levels. He told me early on that I had to get stronger. I was the typical tall lanky kid that wasn’t very strong. He also told me that I projected as a pitcher, and not as a position player. Initially, that was a little hard to hear, but once I embraced it I just focused on becoming the best pitcher I could be”.
Luensmann developed a plus change up to go along with his mid to upper 80’s FB. He also grew to 6’4” and is up to 200 lbs and was always among the top scorers in the athletic testing combine. “He began getting attention from college coaches at the Perfect Game event in Ft. Myers when he was a sophomore. “They liked his physique, his calm demeanor and his plus change. They could easily see what he could become”, said Helsel.
Luensmann says he visited Nebraska and knew it was the place for him. He turned down several other D1 offers from schools closer to home. “They have a great engineering program and that’s very important to me (Luensmann has 4.0 GPA) and their baseball program is outstanding. I really connected with their coaches”.