Here's why high school baseball offenses have hit the wall
Yogi Berra once said rather famously, “you can observe a lot by watching.” And so here is what I’ve observed a lot by watching high school baseball around here this year:
Nobody can hit.
And while the disorder is hardly endemic to just this year, the spring of 2019 has marked the time when a few symptoms have graduated into the full blown plague.
I’ve spent the past few weeks talking to coaches, umpires, fans and other baseball people trying to pinpoint some reasons. And after the surface-level stuff about cold weather and good pitching, here is my conclusion:
Our kids just aren’t being taught with much consistency or expertise. Their heads are filled with jargon that’s bigger on sounding sophisticated than having any practical use. Yogi again: You can’t hit and think at the same time. Not only is there too much thinking, but thinking about all the wrong things.
I’m not willing to blame high school coaches either. Not much they can do. Seattle Slew is out of the barn and galloping toward oncoming traffic. If by high school a kid can’t hit, it’s not happening, at least not without an intervention.
Parents, most of whom know less than they think, are more psycho than ever. They’re either unequipped to teach their kids properly or paying oodles of dollars to others who need to justify their existences with fancy lingo. The result: Not only do I see kids with batting averages lower than our downstate area code (203), but I don’t even see many hard outs.
Is this the same region that but 15 years ago had Matt Browning, Brian McGugan and Matt Harvey crushing the ball in the middle of the same order at Fitch?
It’s stunning. This part of the state has always been known for baseball excellence, evidenced by how our itty bitty geographic breadth belies our gaggle of major leaguers. And now, sure, we have some future Division I players among us, but none who will have a bat in their hands.
This begins in Little League. Kids just aren’t being taught how to hit correctly, certainly not with the same passion coaches have for winning. It is noble that a bunch of dads want to coach the kids. But what if they don’t know anything — or certainly less than they think? Hitting is hard enough. But at some point, hitting comes down to knowing the strike zone, having a plan and some situational awareness.
Anyone teach that anymore, or are we all awash in launch angle now?
Ah, launch angle. The entrée of all the pseudo-intellectual, analytical blather that may have its place in the majors, but certainly not for 14-year-olds who are still trying to figure out how to make solid contact.
Launch Angle represents the vertical angle at which the ball leaves a player's bat after being struck. It’s one thing to demand more launch angle from Aaron Judge — a grown man who has taken a million swings. But to some kid who has neither the physical nor mental tools to process anything close to something that esoteric?
But then remember: The experts have to earn their money somehow.
This isn’t going to get better. Parents have become better at lecturing than listening. Socrates would have gulped the hemlock a lot sooner if he knew our society would betray his wisdom of “know thyself” with such alarming regularity now. People don’t know themselves. Or are unwilling to admit what they don’t know.
Me? If sonny boy wants to play baseball, I’d go to Ed Harvey for hitting lessons. Harvey, the former three-time state championship coach at Fitch (and later coached at Avery Point) knows more about hitting than anyone else I know. He uses plain English and probably wouldn’t charge the gross national product of Argentina.
Then I would go to all the games, stand alone in the outfield and take sonny for ice cream after. Maybe, though, I’ve had an advantage over everyone else for the last 30 years. I’ve learned what to do by watching what NOT to do.
If you’re going to watch a game next week, don’t be late. They’ve only been running about 90 minutes. Not like anybody can string three hits together anymore.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro
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