Conneaut's Rivera gets invited to Junior All-American Games

Anthony Rivera earn a trip to West Palm Beach, Florida for the Junior All-American games in January.

In this age, typical youngster can tell you all about Snapchat, Instagram, and their latest go at it on Minecraft, aren’t too keen on the infield fly rule, or the importance of never making the final out of an inning at third base, Anthony Rivera stands apart.

Rivera, a seventh-grader at Conneaut Middle School, loves baseball the way most kids his age love video games.

This summer, he was busy with not only his Kingsville Little League team, as also a travel team out of Erie. Rivera’s playing fall-ball as well.

He’s attended youth clinics with the Cleveland Indians and the Lake County Captains.

Nothing though compared to what he was able to experience Aug. 14-17 and will likely get to experience again in January.

Rivera was invited to play in a Baseball Youth All-American tournament in Ocean City, Maryland.

He has also been invited to play in the Junior All-American Games in West Palm Beach, Florida this January.

“I was really excited,” he said when he found out about the opportunity he had. “I was excited, but at the same time nervous.”

He was excited because he was going to get to play with great ballplayers from all over the country at a state of the art facility, but nervous because he was not sure he would be able to hold his own.

Rivera could, though, getting multiple hits in each of the four games he played and striking out only a couple of times against some of the best pitching he’s seen.

“It was a lot more experienced,” he said of the pitching he faced. “The movement [on pitches] was a lot better. Their curveballs were a lot different compared to what I see around here. They were a lot harder to hit. The fastballs were a lot faster also. You had to time it super early.”

With high school and perhaps a spot on the Conneaut varsity team in the future, he believes the experience he gained can go a long way.

“I think it helped me a lot,” Rivera said. “I was able to get a lot of experience that other kids may not be able to get.”

For his parents, seeing their child have a chance to compete with the best of the best was also a rewarding experience.

“It was nice to see because anytime we play out here, anyone we meet will tell us he’s just a natural baseball player,” said his mother, Michele Sandella-Wardrop.

“He’s been playing since he was 5, and even then he looked like a natural player and when we got to go to Maryland, he got to play with kids that were as experienced or more experienced and it was great to see him get to play at that level.”

Defensively, Rivera also received some tutelage at catcher — his natural position —  and also seeing some time at shortstop.

When the news was presented to him that he had played well enough to earn a trip to Florida, the excitement overtook him once again.

“I was excited,” he said. “I’ve never been to Florida before so I’m excited to see what it’s like there.”

Of course, he had to ask his parents about it.

“There was no question,” Sandella Wardrop quickly said. “He loves baseball, so that wasn’t even a question. We paid for him a personal trainer for baseball, so he’s going. The COVID thing is the biggest concern, but there’s no question, he’s going.”

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