Xander makes an early pitch for the top

IT'S the simple things in sport that often get people interested, and if you happen to have some skill you can make it to the top.

Xander Barling, 12, may have just returned from a baseball tour to the USA but it's still the simple things about the game that excite him.

"I love just whacking the ball as hard as I can," he says.

Xander, who plays for the North Balwyn club, "whacked" his way into the Australian team that recently competed in the Cal Ripkin Series in Aberdeen, Maryland against the best kids of his age in the world.

The Cal Ripkin series is an annual event for 11 and 12-year-olds that brings together 10 US teams and six international sides.

Xander played against Canada, Mexico, Dominican Republic, South Korea and eventual winners Japan, and enjoyed the challenge.

"I loved playing against the best in the world," he says. "It was tough but we didn't do too badly, especially against Mexico and Canada."

The match against Japan was the hardest, with the Aussies' 5-0 loss a reflection of the difference in skill level.

"They were very good, their fielding was very organised, they had great hitters and played as a team really well," Xander says.

While Australia won only one game – 13-6 against Canada – it didn't dim Xander's enthusiasm and he's already targeting a baseball career.

"I'd like to go all the way," he says. "I'd be happy to go overseas straight away, go to America and learn over there. That would be great."

For now it seems choosing which part of the game to focus on is Xander's biggest challenge.

"I'd love to be an all-rounder," he says. "I love hitting and I love short-stop. But I'd really like to be a pitcher."

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