Among the best: James competing in world baseball tourney for Team USA

Published 2:00 pm Monday, August 28, 2023

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By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

Last summer Coy James proved he was big-time by making the national 15-U team and leading Team USA to the gold medal. In the 2022 Baseball World Cup in Mexico, the stars and stripes went 8-1 and James earned tournament MVP by hitting .480, scoring 15 runs, smacking two homers and driving in eight runs.

Last week James reminded us just how awesome he is. The Davie High junior from Advance made the 18-U national team as a 16 year old (he will turn 17 in February).

“It’s very rare that an underclassman makes this 18-and-under national team,” said Brian Hucks, who coached James and the 16-U Canes this spring and summer. “This is comprised of mostly seniors. The fact that they think enough of Coy to keep him on the 18-U team as a 17 year old is an amazing accomplishment. He made the team over guys who I think are elite-level players, too. To make that team is a special honor. There are some guys that I coached through the Canes organization that are top 50 players in the country that didn’t make that team as seniors.”

James was among 72 kids who went through a tryout in Cary. Four advanced from there and 44 guys traveled to San Juan Capistrano, Calif., for the 18-U National Team Training Camp. The 20-man roster was finalized Aug. 25, which included just two 16 year olds. On Aug. 27 the 18-U team flew to Taipei, Taiwan. Team USA will compete in the 31st U-18 Baseball World Cup from Sept. 1-10.

The team is being managed by Michael Cuddyer, who spent 15 years in the big leagues. The pitching coach is LaTroy Hawkins, who was a big leaguer for 21 years.

Hucks was a catcher for the South Carolina Gamecocks in the 1990s. He was drafted and spent a year in the Cincinnati Reds organization. Now he coaches the Canes and Lexington High (S.C.).

“I’ve been following Coy’s progress since he was 14 in our program,” Hucks said. “I was thrilled to death to be able to coach him this summer and I will again this fall. He’s an unbelievable young player and young man.

“Coy’s an elite player, and I don’t use that term lightly. I coach a lot of really good players through my program in the Canes organization. Coy is one of the best young hitters I’ve been able to coach, and I think he’s got an incredible future ahead of him.”

After hitting .451 as a Davie sophomore, James swung a smoking hot bat this spring/summer for the Canes, who steamrolled their way to a 25-2 record and finished with a No. 3 national ranking.

Batting third in the order, James went 35 for 73 for a .479 average. His on-base percentage was .519. He knocked in 32 runs, only struck out nine times and swiped 19 bases in 20 attempts. His OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) was a ridiculous 1.217.

“He led our team in just about every offensive category,” Hucks said. “My nickname for Coy is Mr. Barrel because he has a knack for knowing where the barrel is at all times and always seems to make hard contact. He always seemed to get the big hit whenever we needed it.”

And then: “One thing that makes Coy so good is he’s aggressive. He only walked three times, so he’s up there to swing. He’ll get himself out at times because he’s so aggressive. As he grows and matures and gets more plate discipline, I think he’s really, really going to take off.”

Just like he’s done for two years at Davie, James was the shortstop for the Canes.

“He played shortstop 90 percent of the time,” Hucks said. “We had some other really good infielders that are elite shortstops in their own right, but Coy was our primary shortstop all summer. He’s got elite-level range and arm strength.”

Hucks wasn’t done praising James. It’s hard not to like a guy who just goes out there and never says much and plays his heart out and crushes 90-mph-plus pitches.

“Coy is a quiet and humble kid,” Hucks said. “With the recognition and all the honors he’s received, he’s got every reason in the world to be an arrogant player. But he’s the complete opposite. He just shows up every day ready to play. His parents (Matt and Heather) keep him grounded for sure.”