North Canton athlete Noah Capozzi is putting his skills to the test this week.
Noah, a starting catcher on his North Canton Little League travel team, was selected last week by USA Baseball to represent the Ohio Valley region in the the USA Baseball 14 and Under National Team Identification Series Tournament.
Twelve regions come together for the tournament this week in Cary, North Carolina. The athletes compete Thursday through Sunday, and Noah's first game is Friday against the South Florida region.
"I was very excited and happy to be able to represent North Canton and Northeast Ohio to the highest level," Noah said this past weekend.
What's the goal? To play your best and hope to be selected for next year’s USA Baseball National Team. The top 24 players out of the 12 regions are selected.
Noah logged close to 60 games while playing travel ball this summer and has been working out two to three times a day in preparation for this week's tournament. That means running, stretches, catching drills and hitting 300-400 baseballs a day.
He said he feels prepared, but playing alongside athletes he's never met might be a challenge at first.
"It’s a little strange not knowing who I'm playing with and not knowing how they perform," Noah said. "It’s a new experience, but I’ll get used to it.”
So, how does someone get selected for the honor?
Noah's father, Chris Capozzi, says the player must be nominated by a coach who's not his own (Noah had caught the eye of a coach from Pittsburgh), and players must make it through the tryouts, which take place throughout the country.
"At beginning there were over 5,000 players in process," Chris said. "That was whittled down to final roster of 18 to represent the Ohio Valley region, which is Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio and half of Pennsylvania."
Right now, the family is trying to raise money to cover the costs of competing in the tournament. Chris said this past weekend that Noah was about 30 percent to his goal of $1,000. (You can donate to help Noah reach his goal here.)
As parents, Chris and his wife Stefanie are feeling pretty proud. Chris said they're thrilled Noah has the opportunity to show off the skills he's been working so hard on, and to get recognized for his work outside the classroom.
"It just goes to show good character and good hard work pay off in the end," Chris said.
"His mom and I are so proud of everything that he’s accomplished, and we just wish him the best of luck (this) week and hope he does a good job representing our family and our community.”
Editor's note: Think you know a North Canton student who would make a great academic or sports feature story on North Canton Patch? Send a heads up to Local Editor Morgan Day at Morgan.Day@patch.com.