N.C. State baseball standouts continue world tour

csmith@newsobserver.comJuly 12, 2012 

N.C. State freshman pitcher Carlos Rodon, rear, talks with Michael Conforto, a freshman from Oregon State, right, before the start of the 4th game of the USA Baseball Prospect Classic at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park on Tuesday, July 3, 2012.

COREY LOWENSTEIN — clowenst@newsobserver.com

Trea Turner and Carlos Rodon are on the road again.

After helping the USA Collegiate National baseball team secure two wins in a five-game series against the Cuban National team, Turner and Rodon traveled to the Netherlands to compete against other national teams, including Japan and Puerto Rico.

“It’s just been a whirlwind so far,” Turner said. “The only phrase I can use is ‘eye opening.’ Just seeing how other people go about their business on and off the field is sometimes so different from the way we live at home.

“This experience has already made me see the game in a completely different light.”

The Collegiate National team typically plays a warm-up series before competing in a World Championship, but the series in Cuba was a different.

The countries have not played each other in a series since 1996. Team USA and Tennessee Volunteers coach Dave Serrano compared the series to the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. Turner and Rodon, both freshmen at N.C. State, have played in several crucial series in the past few months, but Turner said nothing matched the series against Cuba.

“It was just something really special for us,” Turner said. “It was huge for us to be able to play Cuba and bridge that gap that’s been there for 16 years. Hopefully that will become a series that is played every year and will help the two countries not just on the ball field, but in other ways.

“We went there to play baseball, but we could tell it meant a lot more to the Cubans than just a game.”

As for Rodon’s experience in Cuba, he recalled a team meeting with Fidel Castro’s son, Tony, before the final game.

“It definitely wasn’t just baseball down there,” Rodon said. “Tony Castro came into the stadium and he was telling us that we were making history by playing in the series. He said, ‘You’re not just playing a game, you’re opening up ties between us all.’ ”

Turner compiled a .350 on-base percentage against Cuba. Rodon started the final game, allowing three runs in six innings. He struck out four.

With the Honkbal-Haarlem Baseball Week in the Netherlands starting Saturday, Turner said he will look to improve his approach at the plate to reach base at a higher percentage from the lead off role.

“I felt like I was thinking way too much at the plate,” Turner said. “But in the last game I hit probably the hardest ball I’ve hit so far with the team, and I feel really locked in and I have some more confidence going into next week. I already know what my strengths are, so now I’m trying to work on my weaknesses.”

While they meshed well with teammates, Rodon said it’s nice seeing a familiar face in Turner.

“Every time we go to a new hotel, it’s just a new experience for us,” Rodon said. “It’s nice to have the same roommate and have him right there along for this ride. There’s not really any time to reflect on what we’ve been through so far, but I’m sure this will make for great memories down the road.”

The Collegiate National team will play Japan on Saturday at 2 p.m., then has games against Cuba, Japan, Puerto Rico, Chinese Taipei and the Netherlands before semifinals begin competition for the gold medal game July 22.

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