In the 40 years that Jack Thomson has been coaching high school baseball, he has seen a noticeable rise in the talent of players trying out for his team.
They scorch line drives, they hurl blazing fastballs.
But something is often missing.
“They can’t play catch,” said Thomson, a coach in California, one of the more fertile grounds for future major leaguers. “They’re bad at it. You’d be surprised how bad it looks. We have to teach them how to play catch.”
In modern youth baseball, where the culture has been transformed by the pursuit of the holy grail, a college athletic scholarship, the fundamentals are falling by the wayside in favor of flashier skills like big-league-style hitting and pitching.
Private coaching and specialized camps are proliferating along with travel teams whose primary goal is putting players in a position to display their batting and pitching skills at college recruiting showcases. These events are cattle calls, with everyone trying to impress.