Before this week, Austin Bergner had never left the country.
Bergner, a Windermere native and junior at Windermere Prep, is getting his first chance to travel internationally this week — though it is a trip that is a bit more business than pleasure.
The talented right-handed pitcher, widely regarded as one of the most talented underclassmen in the nation by services such as Perfect Game, made the final 20-man roster for the USA Baseball 18-and-under National Team last week. As a result, he and his 19 new teammates will leave for Cabo San Lucas and La Paz, Mexico, this week for the COPABE Pan American Championship.
Bergner earned a spot on the National Team during a weeklong trial process in Houston that saw him pitch three flawless innings of relief baseball in intrasquad scrimmages — performances that led the local standout to believe he was in good shape as he entered the conference room last week with 39 of the best young ballplayers in the country for the announcement of the final cut.
“I was confident in the fact that I took care of my business this week,” Bergner said in a phone interview on Friday afternoon. “I thought I deserved to make the team and it was just great to hear it (his named called).”
The 18U National Team continued to train in Houston following the cut down to its final 20-man roster and began a four-game series Aug. 30 with Canada’s national team to prep for the tournament in Mexico, which begins Sept. 5.
Bergner made an appearance in the 18U National Team’s first game on Saturday against Canada, pitching two scoreless innings and striking out four batters while allowing just one hit to earn the save in the 3-1 victory.
The 18U National Team won again, 11-1, Aug. 31, and had the final two games scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.
Bergner said he is excited about the opportunity to travel internationally to play the game he loves.
“That’s one of the nicest places you can go to in Mexico (Cabo San Lucas) — so that’s pretty fortunate,” Bergner said.
Additionally, Bergner is looking forward to the atmosphere of playing in Latin America, where baseball fans are known to be quite passionate.
“I remember (the coaches) were telling us how they played in Venezuela and they hired a band to sit behind the (USA Baseball team’s) dugout and just play the whole time … just trying to do all this type of stuff to just throw you off of your game,” Bergner recalled. “It’ll definitely be something that you can learn from and grow from.”
Like the other 39 ballplayers who attended the weeklong trials in Houston, the future is bright for Bergner. Although he has yet to settle on school choice for college or decide upon an advisor to consult about his recruiting and Major League Baseball Draft prospects, Bergner did make a move during the summer, transferring from West Orange High School to Windermere Prep.
For now, though, the Windermere teen is just focused on going out and winning ballgames on a big stage — all in the name of representing his country.
“The opportunity that we’re all given to wear United States of America across our chest is just a great honor,” Bergner said. “It’s very cool.”