CARY, N.C. – Even as the top high school baseball player in the country, Kumar Rocker is thoroughly convinced that extreme preparation and competition to the point of discomfort is the recipe for supreme success.
“It brings out things in you that you haven’t tapped into in years,” said Rocker, a right-handed pitcher from North Oconee (Bogart, Ga.) who is committed to Vanderbilt. “I love it.”
That’s why he was “so excited” to be at the Tournament of Stars this week to, in essence, tryout for the USA 18U National Team.
After the TOS the 80 players will be cut down to 40 and those players will participate in USA 18U Trials from August 19-24 in Minneapolis. Following that the final team of 20 players will be named and compete in the World Cup in Thunder Bay, Ontario from September 1-10.
The USA 18U National Team is the three-time defending World Cup champion.
“Being here changes everything,” said Rocker, whose father, Tracy, is in the College Football Hall of Fame. “These are real dudes out here; the best of the best. It gives you that fire and you just want it. You want it bad. I’m glad to know I still want something this bad.”
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Makes sense that he was unsure since Rocker hadn’t tried out for a team in eight years.
Rocker recalled being a pudgy, 9-year-old kid trying out for the Oxford Rebels, who were coached by Ole Miss head baseball coach Mike Bianco’s father, Ron.
“He was a tough, old man,” Rocker said. “He taught me a lot to this point; made me hard. Practices were harder than the game. The tryout was so tough, but it brought a crazy competitor out of me.”
The ferocious competitor is back this week at the TOS.
Rocker, who is suiting up for Team United (1-1), managed 35 strikes in 63 pitches in his debut on Tuesday.
“It’s a great feeling,” Rocker said. “It’s been so long since I’ve felt this, it’s almost like it’s new to me. Being here and not knowing whether you’ll make it and being a little nervous and giving it everything you’ve got and competing is a great feeling. I love it.”
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY