Erace knocks pitch after pitch into the netting of his $15,000 backyard batting cage, the pings from his metal bat filling the air in the south New Jersey cul-de-sac. His private hitting coach, who’s charging $100 for this hour-long session, tells Joey to shorten his stride. He’s accustomed to such focused instruction: the evening batting practice followed a one-on-one fielding lesson in PhilLY earlier in the day, which cost another $100.
Relentless training is essential for a top player who suits up for nationally ranked teams based in Texas and California, thousands of miles from home. But Joey has talents that scouts covet, including lightning quickness with a rare knack for making slight adjustments at the plate–lowering a shoulder angle, turning a hip–to drive the ball. “He has a real swagger,” says Joey’s hitting coach, Dan Hennigan, a former minor leaguer. “As long as he keeps putting in this work, he’s going to be a really, really solid baseball player at a really, really high level.