Ratliff Aiming For USA Softball Men’s National Team

Written by Bob on June 26th, 2016

USASoftball

SANDY, UTAH – Matt Ratliff has enjoyed his share of success in fastpitch. He’s won an ASA national championship and in 2015 he was selected second-team, All-World at the ISC World Tournament.

He’s played on some of the world’s best fastpitch teams, including the California A’s, and currently the Peligro Gremlins of New York City.

But there’s one team – the ultimate team – he yearns to play for: The USA Softball Men’s National Team.

Ratliff’s been to national team tryouts, and he’s come ever so close to claiming one of the 17 coveted roster spots, but close only counts in you-know-what.

IMPRESSIVE TOURNAMENT

But his showing at the 2016 ASA/USA Invitational Fastpitch Tournament in Ashland, Ohio, certainly didn’t hurt his chances to land a spot on the national team for the 2017 WBSC World Championship in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada.

Playing for the second place Peligro Gremlins, Ratliff blasted tournament pitching for a .579 batting average, going 11-for-19, along with two home runs. Earning him Most Valuable Player honors.

USA Assistant Coach Gregg Leather evaluated players at the tournament. He believes Ratliff has the all-around game needed to succeed at the top of the game.

“Matt is a complete player,” said Leather, who also manages the New York Gremlins of Clifton Park. “He can hit for average and power and runs well. Peligro had him in centerfield last year, but have since moved him to right and he seems better suited there. He had an excellent defensive tournament in Ashland to go along with his production at the plate. He can even toe the rubber a bit in a pinch.”

Ratliff knows the upcoming tryouts will be brimming with talent, but he’s determined to convince the coaching staff he deserves a spot on the national team.

How bad does he want it?

“I’ve come close before, and I’m doing everything possible to make it happen,” said Ratliff, 31. “I would love to represent my country in international competition.”

IMPRESSIVE SKILLS

Vern Shaut, manager of the Peligro Gremlins, has seen Ratliff’s skills over the past two seasons. He has all the tools of a complete fastpitch player, said Shaut.

He’s a line drive hitter, but also a threat to knock one out of the park. And with his speed batting from the left side, singles often become doubles.

“He really is a threat at multiple levels,” Shaut said.

Shaut recalls a game in the 2015 ISC World Tournament that typifies Ratliff’s talent. The Gremlins had lost a 4-3 heartbreaker to the eventual champion Hill United Chiefs that dropped the Gremlins into the losers bracket.

“We’re down 2-0 to the (Kitchener) Cubs after three innings and we are pressing,” Shaut said. “Matt led off the inning with a slow roller through the right side and saw an opportunity to take two with the right fielder charging a little lazy. A bloop (hit) and a blast later and we’re back on top 6-2. Matt can really spark us up at any time in a lot of ways.”

Ratliff helped the Gremlins finish sixth with a 4-2 mark. And his .409 average (9-for-22) with six runs and three RBI earned him Second Team, All-World honors.

FASTPITCH GENE POOL

Ratliff comes from a fastpitch family. His father, David Jr., and grandfather, David Sr., both played fastpitch. And barely out of grade school, young Matt was playing along side of them.

“I started at 14 when my dad would give me a bat here and there,” Ratliff said. “I was always at the ball park.”

Though fastpitch won out, Ratliff also played baseball in high school and college. He’s says the quick reactions required in fastpitch helped make him a better baseball player.

TOUGH CHUCKERS

And those quick reactions are a must when facing some of the best pitchers in fastpitch, such as Australia’s Adam Folkard and Venezuela’s Ramon Jones and Canada’s Devon McCullough.

“It was a whole new experience facing those three,” Ratliff said with a chuckle. “Folkard’s rise ball explodes and his drop falls off the table. Jones throws so hard and the ball moves all over the place. McCullough has a great rise and change-up, but I’m starting to adjust to that caliber of pitching.”

COMPOSED LEADER

Talent is important, no doubt. But so is attitude, grit and staying calm under pressure when battling the best teams and pitchers in the game.

“Matt stays really even-keeled, never too high and never too low, a lead by example kind of guy,” Shaut said. “He runs every ball he hits out hard, sprinting to and from the dugout in between innings. He’s a low maintenance super-star, and I look forward to cheering him on when he’s in the red, white and blue in Yukon (world championship) next summer.”

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