Braiden Ward’s fear of sharks, snakes, scorpions and invisible jellyfish won’t be enough to stop him from what he feels is the opportunity of a lifetime.
The El Capitan High School senior has been selected to play for the New York Yankees International Scout Team in Australia in December.
The Yankees team will be made up of 16 players from the United States who were referred by professional scouts. The team will compete in the Goodwill Series, which will be 12 games against the State Team Australia players, who are considered the best players in the country, including professional and collegiate players. Ward will leave for Australia on Dec. 15 and return Jan. 1.
“It’s really exciting,” said Ward, who was named the Sun-Star’s Co-Player of the Year last year with teammate Sai Davuluri. “It’s going to be some good baseball. We’re going up against some great athletes and baseball players. It’s going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and not just because of the baseball.”
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The Yankees team will play games in Adelaide and Brisbane.
“Australia is one place I never thought I’d go,” Ward said. “I’ve seen the ‘Crocodile Hunter’ on TV. I’ve watched the ‘Animal Planet.’ Just about every animal there can kill you. They have invisible jellyfish. There’s crocodiles, sharks, scorpions and spiders. I’m going to have to check my shoes every time I take them off and stay out of the water.”
Ward led the Gauchos with a .457 batting average to go with a team-high 43 runs and 27 stolen bases to help El Capitan (22-8) win the Western Athletic Conference championship and reach the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship game.
Ward has verbally committed to the University of Washington and plans to sign his national letter of intent in November.
Ward was persuaded to take advantage of the opportunity by former major-league pitcher Steven Whitaker, whose son Chase plays with Ward at El Capitan. Whitaker took a similar trip to Japan in 1988.
“I really want to thank Mr. Whitaker,” Ward said. “He really encouraged me to take the trip if I could. He told me about his trip to Japan.”
The Ward family set up a Gofundme account to help raise money for the trip. As of Tuesday afternoon, $1,955 had been raised toward their goal of $3,500. Donations can be made at www.gofundme.com/2sjmbb8w.
“It’s been so humbling to see people make donations for me to get this opportunity,” Ward said. “This is a chance for me to play in front of some pro scouts and former players. It means a lot.”
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