Youth baseball players learn on the job skills

GLENDALE — A group of nearly 20 participants were set to be put to the test, knowing they would be evaluated following the completion of nearly 10 drills across the expansive baseball field at the Glendale Sports Complex on Tuesday.

From hitting ability to arm strength to running speed and more, the contingent took part in the inaugural My Pro Day, a skills evaluation conducted across the country by the United States Baseball Academy for players 5-18.

With radar guns used at practically every drill station, the players looked to accelerate their learning curve before receiving a detailed report on what skills they have mastered and where they need to improve after attending the one-day event.

"It's not your typical baseball camp you go to in the summer," said Joe Cotti, the chief evaluator of the workout at the Glendale site and a former Hoover High baseball coach from 2010-12. "You are not receiving instruction.

"Instead, it's a complete evaluation process and you get tested for velocity, agility, hitting and speed. You go from station to station and you get a better idea of where you stand."

Prior to the start of the four-hour event, each participant was given an evaluation sheet chronicling every exercise they would encounter. Following the completion of a drill, the participants' marks were recorded on the scorecard.

It proved to be the ideal course of action for each member in their quest to advance to the next stage of competition. The event was attended by high school players and Little Leaguers from around Glendale and Los Angeles and as far away as Louisiana.

Devin Aure, 8, came prepared to showcase his skills.

Aure, a Los Angeles resident, went to the bullpen down the right-field line to test his pitching skills. The right-hander threw five pitches at an average speed off 44 miles per hour.

"I'm usually an outfielder or infielder," said Aure, sporting a blue baseball cap and uniform. "It doesn't hurt to know how to pitch, either.

"I want to be a baseball player and this is a good camp because you find out where you stand in different areas. I felt like my pitches were good and fast. I also wanted to see how fast I could run."

Amari Yolas, 9, appeared confident after he stepped into the batter's box and hit five balls of a tee. Four of the balls Yolas hit went to the right side of second base and one landed in the outfield.

Each of Yolas' hits clocked 80 MPH off the bat.

"I think it's a great drill," said Yolas, who plays on a Little League all-star team in Baldwin Hills. "You get a better idea of how fast you hit the ball.

"I'm also looking to get better at tracking down balls. I usually play shortstop. You try to find ways to get to the ball quickly and this [event] helps you get a better idea."

Julian Corral, a Glendale resident, came to the competition looking to improve his speed on offense and defense.

Corral, 7, said the drills will help him as he plans to pursue playing baseball for a while.

"There are so many things you can learn, like learning how to throw and run faster" Corral said. "I think it's cool that you can come here and learn."

Cotti, who coached last season at Milken Community, said the participants' results are entered into an international database and divulge how they measure up against players their age around the nation.

"They find out where they stack up and they know where they will compare with others," Cotti said. "You get used to the exposure and you keep learning.

"The more things you can do, the more comfortable you'll get."


Follow Charles Rich on Twitter: @TCNCharlesRich.

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