William Ragland III is ready for his first steps onto a bigger stage.

Next week, Ragland will get to experience playing baseball at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Florida, as a member of the Great Lakes Region USSSA All-American team at the 9U level.

Ragland, a Reynoldsburg resident, earned an automatic berth to compete in the USSSA national showcase by finishing as a "top four participant" in a qualifying competition June 2 in Cincinnati.

"I'm really excited to go down there," Ragland said. "I just really want to play baseball, and since it's in Orlando, it's pretty fun there."

He wasn't sure what to think when his parents came to tell him whether he had made the USSSA national team two days after trying out, but then he "almost broke the floor" from jumping up and down with excitement.

"My mom and dad walked into the office with a serious face and I really didn't think I made it, but when they told me and I read the email, I got so excited," Ragland said. "I really like baseball."

Ragland, who is now 10 and plays for the Reynoldsburg Aces 10U team, will compete in 9U in Florida because of his age at the time of the tryouts.

The USSSA All-American showcase holds opening ceremonies Monday, Aug. 7, and play begins the next day. Championship competition for 9U athletes is Aug. 11.

It costs $175 to participate in one of three tryouts for the Great Lakes Region, which includes players from Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and West Virginia in addition to Ohio.

The cost for participants who were selected for the showcase is an additional $200.

Ragland usually pitches and plays shortstop for his travel team.

Others from central Ohio expected to participate in the USSSA showcase are London Studer of Blacklick and Carter McGarvey of Pickerington, both of whom will compete in 10U.

During the tryout in Cincinnati, Ragland's fastball hit 52 mph.

He will play for the "National League" team from the Great Lakes Region. It is one of two teams of 14 from the region that will compete in Florida in 9U.

There are seven other regions that also will have two 9U teams in the the tournament.

Ragland's father, William Ragland II, is his coach for the Reynoldsburg Aces.

"It's very exciting because he puts a lot of hard work into baseball," his father said. "He's been playing since he was 3 years old. We're excited to see him represent central Ohio and the Aces."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek