Baseball scouts are quick to point out that places with year-round warm weather — the Dominican Republic, Florida, Southern California and Texas — are hotbeds for Major League prospects. But that does not discourage young players in the dead of the New Jersey winter, where the fields of dreams are industrial hangars with fluorescent lighting, artificial turf and mesh netting to protect the windows.
Where New Jersey seems to have an edge is in the number of professional players and former pros willing to train alongside the kids. For example, advising the young batters of Toms River is Todd Frazier, a graduate of Toms River South High and current Chicago White Sox third baseman, who hit 40 home runs last year. (Mr. Frazier has two brothers, Charlie and Jeff, who also played pro ball, and they each have their own training facilities.) In a backyard shed in Forked River, the proper grip for a changeup is demonstrated by Mark Leiter, who pitched for 11 years in the majors. And every now and then this winter, high school prospects hoping to train like the pros can work out with Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout, a favorite son of Vineland and the reigning American League M.V.P., widely considered the game’s best player.
These clinics can cost anywhere from $40 to $200 a day, and at least one of them, like the sessions run by Dan Richter, who has trained Mr. Trout since he was a high school player, are invitation-only. But the young players of New Jersey are aware that all of this talent in one place is unusual. And they’re not questioning their good fortune.
Jaden Grillo, 13, of Holmdel, attends winter clinics and has trained with Mr. Leiter. He is encouraged by the success the pros have had. “They inspire me to do better and to have hope,” Jaden said. “We might not have the weather, but we have other resources. If you want to do it, you will, and you can.”
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