Mike Slate was the first in the household to find out his son Kobe was selected for the Atlantic Region team at the USSSA All American Games.
Then he played it cool when his son watched the selection show online last Friday night.
Slate, of Mount Airy, is one of just two players from North Carolina to make the Atlantic Region 13U team that will compete at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Kissimme, Fla. July 31-Aug. 3.
“I was very surprised at first, then I got really exited and was very happy I was on the team,” Kobe Slate said.
Out of 150 players who tried out in Spartanburg, S.C., the rising freshman at North Surry was one of 15 to make the 13U team. There are eight regions at the All American Games with six age divisions (9U to 14U).
Kobe joins Zack Michael from Summerfield as the only two North Carolinians on the team. The rest of the lineup features players from Florida and Georgia.
“I watched (the selection show) first, then I acted like I hadn’t seen it,” Mike said. “My wife and son came in there, and we watched it. His name popped up from little ol’ Mount Airy, North Carolina. It was a surprise to all of us. He did really good at the combine. He was pretty impressive against those in his age group.”
Kobe was able to try out for two positions, and he chose outfield and pitcher. His fastball was clocked at 75 mph, and he was timed on a 60-yard dash for speed. There was a pitcher bullpen session and a batting session also.
Kobe played for Gentry Middle School this year, mostly pitching. He also plays travel ball for the North Carolina Young Guns 13U Major team.
Tryouts for the All American Games were intense and pressure-packed, with college coaches and scouts on hand.
“The tryouts were nerve-racking at first but once I got there I felt like I belonged,” Kobe said. “I just told myself to stay calm and play to the best of my ability and all the pressure went away mostly and I just went out and had fun.”
At the All American Games, teams from the Midwest, Central, Southeast, Atlantic, Great Lakes, Northeast, Far West and Northwest will battle it out. The eight teams will be split into two pools, with the Pool A and B winner going head to head for the championship.
The All American champion advances to the international tournament.
Kobe was referred to the Spartanburg tryouts by his travel ball coach Daryll Johnson.
“It’s a well-deserved trip,” Johnson said. “I’ve had him since he was 8. He’s like my kid. He’s probably one of the hardest working kids and one of the most respectful kids I’ve coached. He’s that kid everybody wants on their team. When his dad called and told me he made it, it was a very exciting time. We’ve won a lot of championships together.”
Kobe currently plays for the 13U Carolina BlueClaws under Johnson. Kobe also played for Johnson with the White Plains Pirates. He’s been on Johnson’s Major and Minor league teams that won championships in the Cal Ripken league every year but one — that year they finished second.
“He’s a special kid,” Johnson said. “When a 13-year old gets on the gun throwing 75 mph, that’s bringing it. I think it was second to a kid in Florida throwing 81. He’s that kid you put on the mound and you expect to win.”
Kobe, whose favorite player is Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals, said making it to the All American Games is a big step for him.
“Many people will be in Florida to watch me and a lot of scouts and college coaches will be there,” Kobe said. “I hope it helps me to be around college coaches and players and maybe listening to them can help me learn what I need to do to get into a good college in the future.”
The All American Games will be broadcast online at ESPN3, with the championship game scheduled to air on ESPN2. Founded in 1968, the USSSA has grown to more than 3.7 million participants, competing in 13 nationally sanctioned sports.
The family is planning a trip to Disney World while they are near Orlando.
“I think me and his mom are about as excited as he is,” Mike said. “We put it on Facebook. We are proud of him. He works his tail off. He’s got a real strong work ethic. He loves the game. He’s down in the basement throwing the ball off the wall, trying to field it. We try to do whatever we can to help out.”