- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The weekend of Aug. 18 is one two local baseball players won’t soon forget.
Both have been friends for quite some time and were part of the Chopticon Braves baseball team, which clinched its first Southern Maryland Athletic Conference championship in 39 years this past spring.
Right-handed pitcher Ljay Newsome and catcher Robby Kidwell, who also played on the Southern Maryland Sting together in the past, were invited by former major league infielder Jeff Schaefer, who manages the Carolinas Baseball Center’s scout team, to play against the Chinese Taipei 18-and-Under National Team.
Newsome, who has known Schaefer by playing for him on the Demarini Stars team in the past, gave a firm yes, and Kidwell jumped at the chance, not knowing that his high school teammate would be going as well. The two joined players from Virginia and North Carolina to play at the USA Baseball National training camp in Cary, N.C.
“It was a great experience,” Kidwell said. “When he [Schaefer] asked me, I was really surprised and later that night I found out that Ljay was also going to be there.”
Schaefer first met Newsome at the Virginia Sports Complex, a facility that he owns, during a showcase two years ago and a friendship began immediately.
“At age 15 to be throwing 88 miles per hour, that was beyond impressive.” Schaefer said. “He’s throwing 92 [mph] now [at age 17]. He’ll eventually at the next level be in the mid-90s, maybe even more than that. His control is phenomenal and his mechanics are very good. That’s what was very impressive about it. Everything came out very clean. He throws strikes and is very compact.”
Schaefer first saw Kidwell play during his first and second rounds of tryouts for the USA baseball team. He ironically saw Kidwell at Duke University in a showcase tournament called the Battle of the Border.
“I saw him throw a kid out from his knees and I was very impressed with that,” Schaefer said, “and I watched him at bat and there were things that were definitely above average about him.
“We put a team together in a matter of days and played well up against a team that had been together for years.”
With Newsome on the mound against Chinese Taipei and Kidwell behind the plate for three innings, CBC led 2-1. Newsome struck out seven batters in his three innings pitched. A rain delay stopped play and the game resumed the following day. Chinese Taipei came back to win 4-2.
“Since we’ve played together for a while, I know what he likes to throw and the different pitches he uses to strike people out,” Kidwell said. “If it’s something he doesn’t want to pitch, he’ll just tell me no and we’ll work through it. We just know each other well enough to work together.
“His change-ups and his fastballs were working for him. We were trying to stay away from the Chinese players because they had really quick hands, turning the ball real fast. We were just trying to get them to either hit a groundball or pop up.”
Newsome said Chinese Taipei was great competition and the USA complex was impressive.
“They were actually pretty good,” Newsome said. “They play the USA National team in the World Cup so we knew they were good. They weren’t hitting my fastball though. I stuck with that most of the time. The complex was set up like a professional stadium. It was amazing.”
Newsome hasn’t honed in on a college just yet, but he’s aiming for a baseball scholarship and a trip to the major leagues would be more than welcomed.
Schaefer said it’s all about getting the talented baseball players the exposure they need to advance to the next level, whether that’s going from middle school to high school or high school to college, or bypassing college to sign a deal with a minor league or major league team.
Schaefer is dedicated to exposing local talent and getting them showcased.
“Ljay has faced some very high level competition throughout this summer. Every time the level raises, he raises with it,” Schaefer said. “I would hope that there’s a trickle down effect. I did play at the University of Maryland and I really don’t want to see kids miss out on opportunities. Hopefully kids in Southern Maryland will reach out to us. I’m willing to come down and run camps in the area.
“I’ve seen nothing but good talent come out of southern Maryland.”
A fall ball league is forming now for high school teams within the SMAC that want to play against one another and travel to local tournaments. Newsome and Kidwell are looking forward to that opportunity.