Dillon Adkins, 12 years old from Mechanicsville, stepped up to the plate on the baseball field at the newly constructed Tainan Asian Pacific International Baseball Training Center in Tainan, Taiwan last week representing the United States National team against Korea at the 12-U World Cup.
Trailing 7-2, Adkins homered while pinch hitting, homered again for his next at-bat and had an RBI single to bring the game into extra innings, which the U.S. ended up winning 12-11.
“It was definitely an honor. It was also just shocking, it all happened so fast,” said Adkins, who played left field, first base and pitched. “I felt like I was just flying out to Taiwan yesterday and seeing how you rank against all the kids in the world. There are other kids out there that are better than you from different countries. It was a great experience.
“I don’t think I was nervous. Once I got out there I didn’t want to mess up, but I realized that I’m on the team for a reason.”
Adkins was selected along with 18 other players from all over America for the 12-U national team to compete against countries from around the world including Korea, Japan, South Africa, Fiji, Cuba, Venezuela and Mexico.
“It was like chills and shock all down your body,” Adkins said. “When they announced the team, they announced all the players, the starting lineup and the team and they play the national anthem.”
Adkins’ fondest memory of the experience was playing Korea in the comeback win, and it’s not one that he will soon forget.
“It was definitely Korea,” he said. “I didn’t start every game, but when I got the chance, I would make the best of it. Korea was a good example. It was definitely pride and a great feeling.”
Dillon and his father Brian Adkins stayed in Taiwan for 13 days for the games, while his mother, Gina, had accompanied him to try out at the National Open in Santa Clarita, California the week before along with 128 other players.
“It was definitely an honor,” Brian Adkins said. “It was good to see him rock the USA across his chest and show him everything he worked hard for. It was an honor to see it all come together.”
Currently, Dillon Adkins plays for the Southern Maryland Sting and is heading into the seventh grade at Leonardtown Middle School. He already has Washington Catholic Athletic Conference schools after him to play high school baseball.
“Right now, we are heading for Chopticon,” Brian Adkins said. “They have a great baseball program, but we’ve gotten some phone calls from WCAC schools that are looking at him already. We just want to figure out what’s good for him.”
Brian Adkins experienced being part of the USA national team through his son and was just as excited about the experience.
“I’ve been a baseball fan growing up my whole life,” he said. “I knew USA baseball was something I wanted him to try out for. First, it was a Maryland USA tryout. We got some feedback from coaches, and once we got that email saying, ‘Hey congratulations,’ that’s when it was an eye-opening experience for us all. That was a proud dad moment for me.”
Chris Pharris was in charge of managing media relations for USA baseball while they were in Taiwan.
“It started last Friday and we played five games in the opening round,” Pharris said. “We are three-time defending world champions, but lost by one run to Venezuela and Mexico, so we got knocked out and played the final three games in the consolation round. We wrapped up the final day playing the Czech Republic and then South Africa.
“The competition is honestly the best in the world. These kids are basically miniature athletes, they are so good at what they do and they are the best in their countries and it really shows. It’s not like watching a Little League team play, it’s like watching high school even though they are 12.”
Dillon was selected out of 128 other players his age to participate in the U-12 World Cup.
“Every other year we have our World Cup,” Pharris said. “It’s run by the World Baseball Softball Confederation. There are 15-U, 18-U and a 12-U. They have a U-23 as well. As you get to the older age group it’s related to the Olympics.”
Pharris got to know the players on the USA team well in the couple weeks he spent accompanying them to the games.
“Dillon has been doing really well. He was tied for second in the tournament with three home runs,” he said. “He had two the other day, the first two in a comeback win over Korea. He hit one in the first inning against the Czech Republic, which was postponed because of rain and played the rest of the game before finishing the tournament against South Africa.”
Bonding is important for a U-12 team overseas.
“They were meshing pretty well together,” Pharris said. “It’s not the easiest when you get 18 12-year-olds that don’t know each other in another country and compete at the highest level. As they’ve done in the past, these kids have showed that they can play as a team.”
Dillon wasn’t a huge fan of the food, but he made lifelong friends.
“The food wasn’t the greatest, but we ate it. It was mainly Chinese and Taiwanese. They had chicken nuggets and rice. I typically stuck to American food,” he said. “I made friends with everybody on my team. It was hard to leave them just like that after spending almost a month with them. They are like your best friends.”
Brian Adkins was amongst a small contingent of parents who accompanied their players to the games in Taiwan.
“The coaches did a good job and Dillon did good,” he said. “They let them know they are representing the United States. He handled it well. All the parents were all talking our 12-year-olds had to grow up real quick and mature, so during the day he handled it better than I would playing in a stadium of 10,000 people. Most of them weren’t cheering for the USA. It was a small group of parents wearing red, white and blue.”
Still for Dillon Adkins, who looks up to Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels and hopes to take his baseball career to the professional level after college, the experience was a dream come true.
“I hope to take it to high school and play for a WCAC school or Chopticon,” he said. “And after that I want to play baseball in college and take it further to the MLB and accomplish that. After MLB, they have an Olympic team for USA baseball and I want to play for the United States.”