Women's National Open set for tryouts

Event is first step in forming the US Women's Baseball Pan Am Games Team

Women's National Open set for tryouts

With their male counterparts a month away from the first official Spring Training reporting dates, 60 to 80 of the best known female baseball players across America are gathered right now in the Houston area for a three-day tryout as the first phase in a selection process that will determine the roster for the 2015 U.S. Women's Baseball Pan Am Games Team.

The inaugural Women's National Open runs from Friday morning to Sunday afternoon in The Woodlands, Texas. Registered players are divided onto four teams each coached by USA Baseball Women's National Team coaches and staff. Each player will compete in three games and also participate in an individual workout session for her particular position. The event is free to entrants 16 years or older and is supported by Major League Baseball.

"As close partners with USA Baseball, Major League Baseball is proud to support the upcoming Women's National Open and the 2015 USA Baseball Women's National Team as they compete for the gold medal at the Pan American Games in Toronto this summer," said Chris Marinak, MLB senior vice president of league economics and strategy. "The Women's National Open will be a great showcase of the many talented women baseball players who represent our country in international competition. We hope this event serves as a reminder to women of all ages that there are lifelong opportunities to play baseball in a competitive environment."

Ashley Bratcher, director of National Team Development Programs and the Women's National Team Program for USA Baseball, said the assemblage of talent this weekend is "a mixed bag." What kind of talent will be in Texas? We know this much: Mo'ne Davis is still too young.

"There are certainly a large number of them that are very baseball-heavy, and that's their background," Bratcher said. "But then we also have a large number of our players who come from the softball ranks, whether they played baseball originally and went over to softball and are now coming back, or some of them have zero baseball experience. It's very much a variety. But across the board, the skill sets are all similar.

"It's an open tryout [with] women from all over the country. We're splitting them up into teams, we're doing some positional workouts, skills sessions. They're going to play games amongst themselves, and it's really our first exposure to a lot of these women and our first evaluation process in identifying who will make it to Phase 2 of this process."

Following the Women's National Open, USA Baseball will announce the 34 players being invited for an all-expenses-paid trip to the Women's National Team Trials on May 22-24. The majority of these players will be selected out of this weekend's Women's National Open, but there will be some exceptions to possibly add players who were unable to attend this weekend due to work or school or injury. Some invites may be filled via the 2014 Women's National Team Identification Series selections, 2014 Women's National Team and recommendations from coaches and scouts.

The Women's National Team Trials will include heavy on-field positional and team fundamentals training as well as a series of Stars vs. Stripes intrasquad games. Players there will be evaluated on and off the field as the Women's National Team coaches and staff finalize the final 18-player roster. The 18 players will know their status by May 24.

The third phase of this path to the Pan Am Games in Toronto will be the gathering of the Women's National Team from July 8-27 in Cooperstown, N.Y. Prior to traveling to Toronto, the team will train and play a series of exhibition games as part of the overall preparation. The goal of the Cooperstown Tournament, hosted by Charity Hop and the Baseball Hall of Fame, is to have six total international women's teams to compete in a tournament to bring exposure to women's baseball.

In the event they are not able to secure enough international women's teams to host the event, the USA Baseball Women's National Team will change its training location to Cary, N.C., so that training occurs at the USA Baseball National Training Complex rather than Cooperstown. But Bratcher seemed optimistic there would be sufficient cause for a tournament.

"It's something we're really looking forward to," Bratcher said of the Cooperstown trip. "Canada is coming down, Japan's actually going to bring a team over. So our goal is to have a four- to six-team international tournament up there as kind of a warmup to going up to the Pan Am Games in Toronto.

"We're just thrilled. We've been going to the World Cup every other year and playing internationally there. But in terms of being a part of the Pan Am Games and around that pre-Olympic movement, it's something we're thrilled about. Just to give this opportunity to our athletes is something we're very much looking forward to."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.