Spend just a few minutes with Santa Clara native James Odle and you will sense the presence of a teenager who eats, sleeps and breathes baseball. And while the 14-year-old steered clear of any overused cliches, it’s his competitive nature that jumps off the page.
“I tried to stand out from everyone on my team. I always try to out-do everyone else,” remarked Odle on his USA regional tryout team. “At first I didn’t know any of the other players on my team, but I became friends with most of them. They were the same as me, they wanted to be better than everyone.”
It’s not everyday that one comes across young teenage athletes who are dedicated to being the best. Odle’s drive to outperform his peers will serve him well going into his first year at Wilcox. While Odle has yet to meet his future high school coach, it was his current travel ball coach Kris Mims who had nothing but high praise for the incoming freshman.
“James came to us as a 12-year-old with a lot of upside, a lot of potential and he’s been working really hard the last few years,” commented Mims, who is also the head coach for Mountain View high’s varsity squad. “It’s finally paid off this year for him. He’s definitely a good ball player, he’s going to do well at Wilcox next year. We enjoy coaching him, he’s a hard-working, fun individual to be around.”
Mims might have to prepare himself for four years of Odle sticking it to his Spartan squad. Wilcox and Mountain View face each other at least twice a year. Mims also noted that Odle will now get extra opportunities given his latest accolade as an alternate for the USA Northern California U-14 regional team.
“It helps with exposure and opens up other opportunities for him down the road,” added Mims. “It’s also nice to have an accolade like that, being an alternate on the NTIS regional team. It’s a stat padder for the resume.”
NTIS, or the National Team Identification Series, is USA baseball’s development program. NTIS takes the best youth baseball players of various ages and places them onto teams from 16 different regions to compete at a National tournament in Carey, North Carolina.
Odle’s tryout tournament for the Northern California region was back in early July at Manteca’s Big League Dreams complex. After his tryout, Odle was pulled aside for a private conversation with USA baseball coach Dempsey Grover–a UCSB graduate who played in the College World Series in 2016–and tournament director Adam Farb.
A few weeks later and Odle was officially named as an alternate on the U-14 team. Odle impressed the USA coaches despite never having previously attended a USA tryout at the younger levels. There were over 200 kids in the U-14 age group who attended the various tryouts for the Northern California regional team this year. As an alternate, Odle was one of the select 35 to put his name on the map and on the roster of the best baseball players in Northern California.