SOUTHINGTON — Two Southington High School baseball players are going Down Under to take their game up to the next level.
Blue Knight juniors Andrew Paradis and Jake Neuman have been selected to play in the Goodwill Series International Baseball games in New Zealand and Australia. The duo embarks on the trip this coming December.
Paradis is a centerfielder, Neuman a left-handed pitcher/first baseman. As members of the Goodwill squad, they will train with professional coaches, scouts and athletic trainers, play a series of 12 games in two different cities and stay with host families.
“It’s great to be picked and I’m excited to go,” Neuman said this week. “Hopefully, I will get some good experiences out of it. I’m looking forward to experiencing some new cultures, too. It’s a huge accomplishment. Not many people get the chance to do this. It’s really special. It’s going to be great and I will also be going with one of my best friends.”
Neuman and Paradis have been friends since elementery school and have been long-time teammates in baseball. Both emerged on the Southington varsity scene last year, starting as sophomores.
Paradis was second on the team in hitting with a .342 average. He led the team in slugging percentage (.589) and doubles (10) and tied for first in home runs (2) and runs batted in (17).
Neuman hit .288. On the mound, he was 0-3 with one save, but pitched to a 1.25 ERA. The southpaw made 10 appearances, started three games and was second on the team in innings pitched with 28. In those 28 innings, Neuman fanned 28 in 28 innings batters and walked seven.
“They both pretty much started from the beginning of the season,” Southington baseball coach Charlie Lembo said. “They both did a great job. We had a few other sophomores that had good seasons, too, but [Paradis and Neuman] were the identified and chosen for this game, and I think it’s going to be a great experience for them.”
Paradis said he’s excited about the opportunity to play abroad.
“I will get to play with a bunch of new players and we will get to play against people from other countries,” Paradis said. “It’s going to be a great opportunity to see how people from other countries play and learn from them.”
Before playing at Southington High, Paradis and Neuman were teammates at DePaolo Middle School. They also play travel ball for the CT Edge Baseball Academy, based in Meriden.
New Britain’s Michael Gajda and Justin Adorno will also be making the Goodwill trip. The team will be coached by New Britain’s Roberto Mercado.
“We had played New Britain during last season and both Jake and Andrew had big games,” Lembo said. “Roberto Mercado went last year as head coach and asked me about those two and I said they would be a great addition to Team USA at the Goodwill games. They are great kids. They work hard and are great players and now they are on their way.”
The boys will depart on Dec. 20 and arrive back on Jan. 4. They’ll play in Aukland, New Zealand and Brisbane, Australia.
“They are going to be playing different countries outside of Australia and New Zealand,” Lembo said. “It will be a great experience, not just baseball-wise, but with their development as students and student-athletes. You can’t put a price on what they are going to take from this.”
The Southington duo is raising funds to offset the cost of the trip. A portion of purchases made at Smashburger on Queen Street on Thursday, Oct. 18 and Saturday, Oct. 20 from noon to closing will go to the players.
For information about making a contribution, email firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
“They are so excited,” said Beth Paradis, Andrew’s mother. “It will be a chance of a lifetime for them.”
“We are trying to raise as much as we can,” Joanne Neuman, Jake’s mother said. “They are staying with host families. It’s costly, but it is an opportunity of a lifetime. They are both so crazy about baseball. It’s kind of neat that they got picked together.”