The almost 12-year-old baseball prodigy remains humble a year following his TIME Magazine cover.
By KRYSTAL NURSE
Almost 12-year-old Joey Erace, of Mullica Hill, is budding to become the next great baseball icon. With his feature on the cover of TIME Magazine, he and his parents, dad Joe and mom Bryn, said he’s just a regular kid who happens to love baseball.
On the Sept. 4, 2017, issue of TIME Magazine, Joey was featured on the cover for his exceptional skill in baseball, and his parents said it brought mostly good attention to their family. He has since acquired the nickname “Joey Baseball,” reflecting a similar moniker to Johnny “Johnny Football” Manziel and Johnny “Johnny Hockey” Gaudreau.
“In the end, probably more like 95 percent of it is good,” said Joe. “He gets stuff all the time on Instagram saying ‘you inspire me’ and ‘great article.’ It’s all good stuff, there’s a couple of weirdos that say something.”
Joey has played in tournaments in California, Florida, Texas, Louisiana and Indiana for Select Baseball, a national baseball team geared toward kids under 18 that helps streamline the process into the country’s adult national team, Banditos, Top Tier and U.S.A. Baseball.
“I pitch and play outfield sometimes, but my favorite position is middle infielder, which is near the second base,” said Joey.
“There isn’t a USA Olympic baseball team,” said Bryn Erace, Joey’s mom. “This is how you move through the process. It’s not like how with swimmers they have an Olympic team. This is how the Olympic baseball team gets their kids.”
Baseball has not been in the Olympic Summer Games since the 2008 Beijing Games.
Joey’s love for baseball started when he picked up a bat and started swinging at 3 years old. Since then, he’s been able to make a name for himself in the sport and propel himself to a star player. Like any other athlete, Joey faced a few hardships and learned tough lessons along the way.
“I broke my index finger two times, thumb two times and then my pinky,” said Joey. “I broke a lot of my bones, but it didn’t make me want to stop.”
A few years ago, he and his dad remember an Indiana tournament where he “wasn’t himself” and didn’t play the way he usually does. Following it, Joey put in longer hours into working out and made it a priority to himself to learn from that tournament and come out better than before.
His determination to be better was recognized by a softball coach at Arizona State University when he was trying to complete a 36-inch plyo box jump workout. Bryn said he quickly became frustrated with himself and stayed in their garage, which is a makeshift training room.
“I was getting frustrated as a parent because he wouldn’t stop for the night and go to bed,” said Bryn. “He had his shoes and socks off, his shorts off and he was in his underwear and ripped his shirt off and he figures his clothes were wearing him down, I guess.”
An edited video of his attempts were on the Instagram page his dad manages and many saw it and messaged Joey saying he has helped them stay focused.
“Some of it’s long and it’s like ‘I’m 17 years old, gave up on baseball I didn’t think I could do it,’” said Joe. “‘I’ve been watching your videos and you inspire me to go out and work hard and now I just made my high school team’ and I’m like wow! Because of him? And his videos?”
“Joey’s still a kid, he has his bad days where he doesn’t want to do anything, go to school or wakes up with a headache,” said Bryn. “People don’t see that.”
The almost 12-year-old said maintaining his schedule with baseball and school isn’t a difficulty for him as he’s still provided with time to do homework, hang out with friends and family and be able to play in games.
Joey was featured in a short YouTube documentary by Whistle Sports, a sports media company, where his coaches and athletic trainers said he frequently stays past the time he’s required for workouts.
“He’s the underdog,” said Bryn. “He’s a smaller kid, so he has to push and has to drive. One day, the big kids are going to stop, and then hopefully he’ll soar. That’s what we always try to tell him, but he’s always been like that since he’s been a little kid.”
Other than his love for baseball, he and his parents said Joey is just like any other kid who loves to play Fortnite, an online multiplayer game, and hang out with his friends.
“He’s just a normal kid that has a passion for something, which so happens to be baseball,” said Joe. “He wants to be great at it. He’s not going to let anybody or anything get in his way. He’s humble about it and likes to help kids.”