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USA Baseball Part 1: Jagoda Joins Red, White and Blue

As minor league spring training was about to start, Frank Jagoda left what he called an “opportunity of a lifetime” to work for an organization in which he gets to wear the USA across his chest again.
Image courtesy of USA Baseball
For nine years, Frank Jagoda coached college baseball. In five of those summers, he worked for USA Baseball events. In 2017, he was the pitching coach on USA Baseball’s 15U team, a team that won a gold medal in Columbia.

In 2018, he was offered a job in the Twins organization and accepted it.

“I was the rehab coordinator. Unfortunately we had way too many big leaguers down with me in Florida which means they weren’t helping the big league club. But when I wasn’t with them, I was with the GCL club. I went to probably 85-90% of their games.”

In January, the Twins announced that Jagoda was going to be the fourth coach with Toby Gardenhire and the Ft. Myers Miracle.

However, an opportunity to return to USA Baseball opened up. He talked it through with his wife, and it became clear that he had to pursue it. He was offered the USA Baseball 18U Director position. Along with that, he is responsible for the 16U and 17U developmental programs. He calls it a combination of being a GM and a farm director.

(As an aside, there are five USA Baseball teams that travel internationally, 12U, 15U, 18U, College and Professional. Ages 13 and 14, and 16 and 17, there are developmental programs, similar to what you see in hockey.)

“USA Baseball always been near and dear to me. USA Baseball, to me, is more than just a game. It’s something that means a lot to me for everything we organize and what it means to wear USA across your chest. Now I get the opportunity to do that every day at work. It’s something truly special to me and my family. That's really what it boils down to for me.”

You can hear the conviction and the pride in his voice when Frank Jagoda talks about USA Baseball. And that’s why he is completely at peace and happy with what was a very difficult decision.

“It was a very hard decision. I spent just over a year with the Minnesota Twins. (Twins Minor League Director) Jeremy Zoll gave me the opportunity of a lifetime, and I was around a great group of people, a great leadership group with the Twins. Very thankful for my time spent with them. Although it was short, it was very impactful on my career and on my life and on my family.”

For one, Jagoda was able to move back to North Carolina. Cary, North Carolina, is the national training center for USA baseball. It is complete with a stadium and three back fields.

“Real excited to be back and from a family aspect, very excited to be back in the Carolinas and excited about what we have going on and what we have in store.”

What he has in store is a really busy summer.

From August 30th through September 8th, USA Baseball will bring a squad of 20 players to Busan, South Korea for the 2019 WBSC World Cup.

But before then, a lot of decisions have to be made. Approximately 80 players from around the country have been invited to participate in the PDP (Player Development Pipeline) League in Bradenton, Florida. The PDP lasts about 23 days at the IMG academy. And while players are ultimately trying to make the final 20-man roster, it is also a huge opportunity for these players to develop their games.

Jagoda says that the players were invited “based on my knowledge of those kids, feedback from professional organizations, scouts, MLB front office personnel and other things.”

By the way, two players from Minnesota have accepted their invitations to participate in the PDP League. We’ll talk more about them in coming days as part of this series on USA Baseball.

Of the 80 in Bradenton, 40 kids will head to Cleveland to play in a exhibition game around All Star weekend.

Then in early August, those 40 players, plus a few from the 17U developmental team, will head to Los Angeles for trials. In about a week, the group of 40-50 players will be pared down to the 20-player travel roster.

The group will travel to Taiwan and play some international friendlies against Taiwan. It will allow the team to try to acclimate to the time zone, the weather, the food and more.

Then from August 30th to September 8th, they will be in Busan, South Korea, trying to repeat as the World Cup champion. In fact, the USA team has won four straight World Cups (2012, 2013, 2015, 2017) and eight straight gold medals internationally since 2011.

As Jagoda noted, “No pressure, right?”

Jagoda will work with an experienced coaching staff in those efforts.

Jack Leggett returns for his second straight season as manager of the 18U team. He spent 22 years (1994-2015) as the head coach at Clemson where he won 955 games and went to 21 NCAA tournaments and six trips to the College World Series.

His pitching coach has quite the resume as well. Scott Bankhead played for Team USA in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. He was a first-round draft pick that year out of North Carolina and spent parts of 10 seasons in the big leagues. He now owns and operates the North Carolina Baseball Academy. This is his second season as the 18U pitching coach.

Gregg Ritchie is back for his third straight year as the 18U hitting coach. He was the hitting coach of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2011 and 2012. Since then, he has led George Washington University.

In addition, George Laird, who spent 13 years in the big leagues, is also on the coaching staff.

Other former MLB players and coaches will help during the Player Development Pipeline League and at the LA Trials.

And Frank Jagoda will lead the charge, and he is thrilled about the opportunity. He is also very thankful for his time with the Twins organization and their support.

“The Minnesota Twins were very gracious in the process and were very very supportive, and I couldn’t thank them more for how they handled it.”

In coming days, we will discuss USA Baseball further. We will highlight the Minnesota and the Minnesota Twins connections to USA Baseball, and we will highlight the player development side of USA Baseball.

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