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Brother, sister set sights on baseball, softball Elite Development Invitational

VERO BEACH, FLA. — John L. Ory softball coach Chad Smith Sr. wasn’t surprised when his children were selected for the prestigious Elite Development Invitational baseball and softball training programs.

This month, incoming freshman Tr’Nahja and rising eighth grader Jayden will embark on an all-expenses-paid trip to Historic Dodgertown in Florida for expert instruction and high intensity athletic training.

Tr’Nahja is one of 90 girls from across the nation participating in the softball invitational, Smith said, adding the program is structured to mirror USA softball women’s national training camps.

Jayden’s baseball invitational, hosted July 28 – Aug. 1 by MLB and USA Baseball, affords participants competitive growth alongside more than 30 professionals, including Jerry Manuel, Tom Gordon and Endy Chavez.

Coaches from across the United States submit baseball and softball recommendations, which are narrowed down based on stats, according to Smith.

When Tr’Nahja Smith, above, isn’t making plays on the softball field, she is supporting brother Jayden in his baseball pursuits.

“I was more excited than surprised to hear Tr’Nahja and Jayden were selected because I know who these kids are and what they are capable of,” Smith said.

“They’ve put themselves in a position to go out there and showcase their talent and character. There are kids all over the world who are good at baseball and softball, but the way they exemplify themselves and adapt to different situations is what I’m most pleased with.”

Recent John L. Ory graduate Adison Cooper was also chosen to attend the EDI softball program, Smith said. As co-MVP along with Tr’Nahja, Adison led the team on the field and in the classroom.

This summer, Tr’Nahja and Jayden have kept busy playing travel ball for the New Orleans-based Team MLB. When they aren’t on the field, they attend LA GEAR UP summer camp to learn STEM and STEAM skills and earn state funded scholarships.

The siblings said they were excited about EDI training because it presents an opportunity to play with other young athletes.

Tr’Nahja’s softball idol, two-time Olympic medalist Jennie Finch, is helping coach the event.

“I like that Jennie Finch is a good pitcher and a good hitter,” Tr’Nahja said. “We’re both tall, so that makes me feel like I can take my height and go a long way with it.”

She also looks up to Aleshia Ocasio, a University of Florida softball player known for striking out opponents.

“Aleshia plays more than one position in college, so it shows me I can be that person who plays pitcher and outfield or shortstop when I go to college,” Tr’Nahja said.

This year, Tr’Nahja stood as a solid utility player for Ory and pitched three no-hitters. She looks forward to becoming a better outfielder and perfecting her hitting mechanics at EDI.

Jayden started playing baseball at age 4 and soon learned he had a strong arm. In his athletic career, he hopes to follow in David Ortiz’s shoes.

“David Ortiz is a good hitter, and I like how he hits a lot of home runs,” Jayden said. “I’m a good power hitter, and I hit home runs, too.”

At EDI, Jayden will work to perfect his hitting mechanics and fielding.