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Hot Stove Baseball

Team USA Finds Long Island Talent

By Keldy Ortiz Photos by Ellen Schuerger, 11/04/10, 8:20AM EDT

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As winter begins to fall upon us and school is in full swing, most baseball players are thinking about winter workouts and the approaching season. Matt Vogel, a young, talented baseball player from Patchogue-Medford High School is also thinking ahead for whats to come, but also reminisces about the unbelievable journey he had playing for his country.

In September 2009, Vogel, then 14, was selected to play for the 14 and under National U.S.A. Baseball team, which gave players from around the United States the opportunity to compete at levels far beyond that of little league. Players chosen for the team competed in an Olympic style atmosphere while trying to win that all-important gold medal.
 
“It was a life changing experience because you got to go play with all these kids, from not only just the U.S., but also from other countries,” said Vogel recalling the experience.
 
Players that have received the call to represent the U.S.A. have gone on to have successful careers in the major leagues, such as current stars Alex Rodriguez and Jeff Francoeur. Aspiring to become in the major leagues himself, Vogel said, “I did not take the situation lightly.”
 
As a versatile infielder, with the capability as a pitcher added to his resume, the Medford, Long Island native made his U.S.A. debut in Ecuador, competing in the Pan American Baseball Confederation. Featured were not only sixteen teams, but also sixteen different cultures who rarely clashed with one another.

For Vogel, the idea of stepping into a hostile environment and pitching in front of a crowd that rooted for the opposing team did not bother him. In his first game against Panama, Vogel threw three shutout innings, while striking out nine, which ranks third all-time in Team U.S.A. history. Through two games, Vogel had an ERA of 1.69, while holding opponents to just under a .250 average. In addition to performing on the mound, Vogel was instrumental at the plate. Hitting a two run homerun to put the U.S.A. up 3-0, and driving in another run at his next at bat, helped his team cruise to a 6-0 victory.
 
“I was with him the whole trip,” said Peter, Matt’s father, who made the trip to Ecuador. “Matt has come thus far and worked hard. He’s very driven.”
 
After going undefeated in tournament play, the U.S.A. made it to the gold medal game against rival Puerto Rico. Though Vogel was not in the lineup for the game, he felt close to the action as his team prevailed 4-3 to capture the gold medal for the U.S.A.

Part of Matt’s fearlessness against opponents comes from motivation of his older brother, who is currently in a semi-conscious state, after an accident in 2008. Though they were only a few years apart, Vogel remembers his parents telling him his brother was active in all sports and dominated in them too.
“They won the championship that weekend. The three of us were there and that’s probably the last time that he saw his brother and they were able to speak to one another,” Peter said recalling the experience. While it has been a difficult time for the Vogel family, Matt gains inspiration from the experience and looks forward to the challenges that lie ahead.

A year has passed, since that moment where U.S.A. captured gold, it’s Vogel’s hope to participate with the team next summer in the 16 and under division after injuring himself this past summer preventing him from playing. Vogel, however, has seen action playing for Patchogue-Medford High School varsity baseball in various tournaments throughout the summer. Only a sophomore, Vogel said that he hopes to have his skills prepared for collegiate baseball.
 

As for possibly by passing college if given the opportunity to play in the minors, Vogel said, “If I had the opportunity to go to the major leagues straight out of high school, and probably go to the minors, I would still go get a college education because that is my dream, to play for a college baseball team.”