For two years, Collin Moore and Colton Gordon-Zimring have been inching closer to their dream of representing their country in baseball.
There is still a way to go, but the two high school juniors are enjoying the ride, and the journey is worth its weight in gold.
They will be in Cary, N.C., the weekend of Aug. 20-23 representing the South Florida region in USA Baseball's annual tournament that will help determine who plays for the nation in the World Cup Games in Japan at the end of the month.
Moore, Manatee High's starting shortstop, and Gordon-Zimring, a 6-foot-4, 185-pound lefty for Lakewood Ranch, will play for USA Baseball's 17 and under development team representing the South Florida region.
"This is my second straight year going to Cary, and it's a blessing that I have been given the opportunity to represent our area with all the good talent we have," Moore said.
Moore and Gordon-Zimring survived a rigorous process to qualify for the 17&U national team identification series. From that competition, USA baseball will select about 12 to 16 players to compete for the 18-year-old team.
Since the two kids are in the younger age group the odds on making the 18-year-old squad this year is long, but next year things will be different, and it only make them better. Moore and Gordon-Zimring are only 16, though they are way ahead of the competition.
"It's a great experience to be around all these great players. There are people who are crazy good. It's the best baseball I ever competed against," Moore said. "My goal this year is to hopefully make the trials for the 18-year-old team. The 18-year-olds are mostly college players, so that is tough."
Two players from the 2014 17U National Team Development Program will be invited to the 2016 18U National Team Trials, and eight will be invited to the 2016 USA Baseball Tournament of Stars.
Baseball in the area appears to have a good future.
Harrison Thiel, who will be a freshman at Palmetto, is playing for the USA Baseball 14U team, and Trevor Viera, son of Manatee High head baseball coach Rob Viera, is on the 11U team.
Timmons coaching at Leto
Brett Timmons, former Out-Of-Door-Academy head football coach and athletic director, has decided to help out an old buddy and former Southeast teammate.
Timmons is working as a volunteer football coach for Matt Kitchie at Tampa Leto High. It's quite a challenge trying to help a program that has won only one game in the past five years.
Timmons and Kitchie played on two Southeast state championship teams (93-94). Timmons was a key player on both squads, while Kitchie was a backup, but they formed a close bond that remains strong today.
At Leto, Timmons will be helping a Class 7A program that has only about 30 kids out for football, which is a daunting task.
"Why wouldn't I want him. We are a Renaissance school with a lot of kids from a lower economic situation, and to put a positive male in front of them is huge," Kitchie said. "Football-wise, he knows what he is talking about and brings immediate respect. He will make me a better coach and knows defense very well."
Timmons is a known winner. Along with his two state championship rings he was a starting linebacker on Tulane's undefeated team that finished the 1998 season 12-0.
"Us guys from the '93-'95 era at Southeast are very close and help each other out," Kitchie said.
"I am just giving him an opportunity to be in Hillsborough County, which is pretty good football. He gets to coach on short notice and is concentrating on the defensive line and linebackers."
Timmons left ODA last month in what he called a mutual parting. He was football program's only head coaching since its inception in 2006 and served as the athletic director since 2012.
Ironically, Leto will be at Southeast on Aug. 21 for the preseason Kickoff Classic.
Timmons' footprint will be on the Leto varsity, though he said he would not be on the sideline. That would change if the school decided to hire him.
Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7056. Follow him on Twitter @ADellSports.