By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
“You’ve got to see it early,” Jon Townsend said. “You gotta be so dialed in that you are going to catch the ball.”
Townsend gave those instructions on how to play the cut-off throw from the outfield to a group of high school players Monday evening at South London Little League.
Townsend has started giving baseball instruction on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays to area players who want to improve their baseball skills.
“We try to work on all the things they don’t have time to practice with their high school teams,” Townsend said. “I want them to be prepared for college.”
Townsend knows what he’s talking about. A graduate of South Laurel High School, Townsend played two years at the University of Louisville before transferring to Saddlebrook Community College for a year. He then finished his collegiate career at the University of Florida.
After college he was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels and spent four years in their minor league system, advancing to AA ball. This past season he played for the St. Paul Saints in Minnesota along with his older brother, Tanner.
Townsend has also decided to hang up his glove and spikes.
“I got to play with my brother,” Townsend said. “That was something special. It’s a good way to go out.” Townsend also cited injuries as another reason he’s decided to retire.
Now he’s back in London passing his knowledge to eager young baseball players, and thrilled with what he has seen so far.
“I’ve really seen improvement,” Townsend said. “We work on a variety of skills. Monday it is mostly defense, Tuesday baserunning and Thursday batting and more defense. Some days we just sit around and talk about things, like what to do in certain situations and things like that.”
One drill they were working on Monday was how to toss the ball to second and pivot to throw to first and complete the double play. Alex Sears, Joe Gaines, Austin Rudder and Daniel Neal, along with Townsend, performed the routine over and over until Townsend felt they had it right.
“When I went to college stuff like this was the hardest to adjust to,” Townsend said. “They need to be prepared for this stuff, along with mental preparation.”
Having played all over the country, Townsend said there’s a misconception when it comes to talent in this area.
“The players here in this part of the state are just as good as any part of the country,” Townsend said. “It’s just giving them more instruction and more time to work on their skills. Players in Texas and Florida, places like that, can work almost year round. Here we aren’t so fortunate.”
But he hopes that will change in the near future as he’s looking to open a training facility.
“My instruction isn’t just for North Laurel and South Laurel players,” Townsend said. “Any player from any school can attend.”
If you are interested in finding out more information, please contact Townsend at firstname.lastname@example.org.