With each name called, Doug Nikhazy got a little more concerned.
The Ocoee native and incoming freshman at West Orange High School this fall sat along with 39 of the best baseball players in the country, ages 15-and-under, waiting to find out who would make the 20-man roster for USA Baseball’s 15U National Team.
Plenty was at stake for the young ballplayers who had already come so far, chosen to compete at the 2014 15U National Team Trials in North Carolina from among thousands of others.
The 20-man roster would train for a few days before playing an exhibition game at Chase Field in Phoenix on July 29 and then would move on to Mazatlan, Mexico, to play in the 2014 WBSC “AA” 15U World Cup.
So, as Doug and the other finalists sat this past Friday night and heard the names of the first dozen or so players on the roster announced, moments of wavering confidence for the young ace were thankfully replaced by a moment of pure jubilation.
“I think I was one of the last five people for them to name,” Doug said. “As they kept on naming names, my confidence just dropped, and then when they said my name it just blew my mind.”
Doug made the 20-man roster and is will be heading to Mexico from July 31 through August 11 to compete for a Gold Medal.
The talented left-handed pitcher was one of just six roster members selected from the state of Florida and the only representative from the Central Florida region on the 15U roster.
If Doug was concerned during the process, then his father, James Nikhazy, was — in his own words — a “nervous wreck” awaiting the decision. When James got word that his son had accomplished such a feat, he remembers being overwhelmed by the moment.
“Words can’t even describe it,” James said. “I don’t think any parent can be prepared to get some good news like this. …
Doug, who plays for the Florida Burn 2017 Pennant Team under coach Mark Guthrie for his travel ball, was stellar in his outings during last week’s trials. The southpaw tossed six scoreless innings in two outings over the course of the week, allowing just one hit while striking out six batters.
James, who kept up with the play-by-play from the trials via his computer, expressed amazement at his son’s ability to keep his cool in such a pressure-packed environment and credited Doug’s mother, Jill Nikhazy, for their son’s poise.
“I know how nervous I was following online and then for him to actually have to experience that and then go in on Friday and no-hit them for three innings — how do you do that?” James marveled. “It’s certainly not me — that’s got to come from Jill.”
For his part, Doug credited both of his parents for his remarkable success at an early age, noting that, without their dedication to helping him chase his dreams, he likely wouldn’t be heading to Mexico in a few days.
“For me, my parents are everything,” Doug said. “I wouldn’t be anywhere [near] where I am if my parents weren’t there to take me to games or keep me moving when I really didn’t want to go anymore.”
Doug expressed excitement over traveling internationally to play baseball and says that the gear he and his teammates have received from USA Baseball isn’t too shabby, either.
USA Baseball’s 15U National Team will play five games in five days to start play in the World Cup, beginning with a game against Panama on July 31 at 10:30 p.m. EST.
The Medal Round for the 2014 WBSC “AA” 15U World Cup is scheduled for August 10.
Though it may seem like a ways away, given his current situation, Doug says there is something else he is very excited about in the future — moving up to the high school baseball ranks and donning the blue and orange of the West Orange Warriors, where he will play under head coach Jesse Marlo.
“I’m extremely excited for high school [baseball] — that’s what I’ve been waiting for,” Doug said. “Growing up, just going to West Orange games since I was way young … there’s a lot to look forward to and I’m really excited.”