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Looking For That Diamond In The Rough.

Photo/ Bill Coppola Copiague HS 2018

How has this pandemic impacted the future of possible prospects as it pertains to baseball? Where have they been playing over the past twelve months so scouts both college and professional can evaluate them? Keep in mind that although we in the north east have a short season of good weather, there are places throughout the south and west that literally play all year. For example, my granddaughter Molly in California had one month off in December in her softball season and she is only playing 11 year old youth softball.

Softball teams could play three, four and sometimes up to ten games from Friday to Sunday. Where as boys baseball usually will see as little as two to three games on average on a weekend plus a game or two during the week. Today all of that has been scaled back because of the restrictions due to covid. Even with that long stretch of good weather in parts of the country, the seasons have been contracted into one third of what they would normally schedule. Yet that is still good steady competition for those who live in regions where the climate is conducive to playing outdoor sports.

The northern parts of the country are already dealing with horrific cold and snow that could leave them with little or no games played. That is normal for them. Over the past number of years, many players from these colder regions have gone to the travel baseball route during the spring and summer. Taking them all over the country to play in tournaments with the hope of being seen. Something that is expensive and at times exhausting for families of young amateurs. Think of it as a yearly whole family vacation where they are committed to a member of that family and his or her chance to be seen by scouts from colleges or the pros. That is a luxury most people can’t afford. Add on top of that the restrictions during this pandemic and it makes being seen today that much harder. And guess what? We are beginning year two of this dilemma.

I asked a professional area scout this week how is he able to evaluate amateur players today with all of these seasons being cut short? He said: “I can’t honestly give a good evaluation when I only see a kid once or twice. Hopefully I  get to see the ones I want to see let alone a sleeper. And now we are looking at year two of this mess. I feel we most definitely will miss some kid who we didn’t go to see specifically, who could come out of nowhere and impress us. That’s a shame.” He called it “The Mike Piazza phenomena.” He continued: “No one wants to be the guy who missed the next HOF player because he didn’t get to see him play as a low level amateur.” In the case of Piazza, he was playing for Miami Dade JR College in Florida. A school that has been scouted heavily for as long as I can remember. He was seen by plenty of scouts and they all passed on him. Famously drafted in the 62nd round as a favor to his father’s close friend, Hall of Fame Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda as the 1,390th player chosen in 1988, long before the draft was shortened to its current length of 40 rounds. It happens.

Today the fear of losing that diamond in the rough is always on the minds of today’s scouts. It is equally on the minds of young amateur players who have invested years of hard work to get to the next level. Hopefully the money and time they and their families, in particular, have invested in private coaches, clinics, medical attention and traveling will not have been spent in vane. Unfortunately todays young athletes are caught up in a possible road block that is not of their doing.

We will never know if someone will not get the chance to live out their dreams of becoming a big league player or getting a scholarship to a university, allowing them to live a comfortable life in most cases. Missed opportunities will happen under normal circumstances, that is a given. But what these young gifted athletes are up against today is just another part of the pain of this pandemic.

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