Amador Valley High junior Ryan Westcott suited up for Team USA with some of the country's best young baseball players to compete in an international tournament with peers from Canada, St. Croix and the Dominican Republic this summer.
On the field, Westcott primarily played left field and went 5-10 at the plate with two doubles, a triple and six walks during five games in the event. Off the field, he said he gained life lessons that he would not forget.
"Looking back, my experiences playing teams from Latin American countries were totally unique and surreal," he said in an email interview this week. "Although there was a clear language barrier, the baseball barrier was knocked down as soon as I stepped out on the field."
Westcott was part of the under-16 USA team during the Latin American Baseball Classic, held Aug. 6-12 in the Dominican Republic. His team was coached by former Chicago White Sox and Tampa Bay Devil Rays pitcher Jim Parque and former Major League Baseball scout Chris Pera.
The team went 5-1 during the tournament and took home the championship trophy.
"Throughout every game there would be young kids watching our games, and they even sat atop about a 15-foot wall to watch. After the game, players on my team would give gear to the children, including bats, helmets, gloves, cleats and batting gloves," Westcott said.
"It was wonderful seeing the joy that these kids got as they received our old equipment. This made me appreciate where I come from and where I am growing up, and makes you realize everything you have and that you take for granted every day," he added.
The team opened with an 8-7 loss, with Westcott going 0-1 with two walks. He didn't play in the team's next game, a 5-4 victory.
He again went 0-1 with two walks -- plus two stolen bases -- in Team USA's 10-6 win in Game 3, and he followed with a 2-2 performance, with a double, triple and walk, in the team's ensuing match-up, a 15-4 victory.
Team USA won its semifinal 13-12 against Liga La Javila, a Dominican Republic team. Westcott went 2-3 with a double and walk.
In the finale, the Americans won 8-2 against another Dominican team, Liga Nefalty Cruz, with Westcott going 1-3.
The Pleasanton native said he gained great respect for his competitors after seeing first-hand some of the challenges many of them overcame to play at such a high level.
"An eye-opening experience for me was seeing the opposing teams from a poor country using, at the most, three bats that could be as old as the player using it and passing helmets back and forth between each other," he said.
That, he added, helped him realize "that the equipment doesn't make the player, but the skills and their passion for the game does."