“When I went into college I was a boy, and when I left I was a man!” – Patrick Ewing
With pitchers and catchers set to report to spring training camps in less than a week and a half, I figured I would post about my favorite sport, and America’s pastime, baseball! Prior to my time at Ohio University, I attended the University of Missouri and served as the student manager and bullpen catcher for the Tigers baseball team. I had the pleasure of catching two first round pitchers as well as work with three major leaguers during my time at Mizzou. During my time I also witnessed at least five of our recruits forgo their collegiate career for the chance to play minor league baseball as an 18 year old and begin living their childhood dream. Of these five players that chose to pursue their professional career early, only one of the players is currently at a higher level within their team’s farm system compared to those who signed to come to Missouri, and came, the same year. For this reason, I believe that high school baseball players should attend college, unless they are offered a signing bonus upwards of $1 million.
The possibility of making a major league team is very slim as there are only 750 spots; spread throughout 30 teams with a 25-man roster. Keep in mind that there are over 220 MLB affiliated minor league teams, ranging from different types of rookie teams to AAA teams, with at least 25 players on each team. Doing the math that leads to over 5,500 affiliated minor league players. Along with these teams, there are independent leagues that have had some success in producing major league talent, see the Northern League or Golden League, as well as foreign players who have access to major league affiliated training facilities and leagues in their home country. This leads to a pool of roughly 10,000 professional athletes competing for 750 spots. With this being said, if one gets drafted in the first round or is offered more than $1 million, which is late first round money, later on in the draft, they should not turn down this opportunity. These players will get more chances and a longer leeway period than the lower paid minor leaguer.
Along with the small percentage of those who make the minor leagues, I believe that the benefits one gains from attending college outweigh the benefits from a signing bonus one might receive straight out of high school. To begin with, the social experiences one receives in the college setting are second to none. A group of thousands of 18 year-old kids get to experience the social eye opener that is college life and life on their own. These new collegians move out of the comfort of their parents’ home to a dormitory full of others in the same shoe as they are in. These times allow for mistakes to be made, lessons to be learned and fun times to be had. Maturity is built in these college years and life’s necessities are learned, something that is made infinitely harder when an 18 year-old kid is thrown into the baseball world on his own.
Another benefit of attending college rather than going straight into professional baseball is the education one receives. Baseball comes and goes, but brain power and a degree stick with you forever. The average career span for a major leaguer, the only league in which you make substantial money, is 5.6 years. This shows that baseball is not forever and “normal” work will need to be done to earn an income. By attending college, even if it is for the minimum three years that is required if one attends and plays at a Division I university, one will have began the path towards his degree and should be close to finishing the degree. Also, most professional teams will cover the rest of your schooling when you sign to play pro ball, something not always done when a high school player is drafted. By going to college you gain a fall back in case of an injury or if your career does not pan out.
These benefits; as well as increased one-on-one baseball training, year-round baseball training, career development training, and gaining lifelong friends; all lead to my belief in that high school baseball players should attend college. With this being said, I do not think the opportunity for a high school player to go straight into professional baseball should be prohibited. If one wants to start making money they should be allowed to, just as any other American is for other jobs all across the country. However, by signing a letter of intent and showing up to the college campus on the first day of classes, the student should be required to stay for at least three years, which they are in collegiate baseball. I believe that this is what sets the baseball model apart from the current basketball model of one and done.
The basketball model not only hurts the elite high school basketball player, as he cannot begin his professional career, but hurts the player’s institution as well. With the player leaving after just one year an institution bypasses a potential four year commitment from another recruit, an institution may be stuck with an unused scholarship for the next year, and the institution would be hit by the academic progress rate (APR). By a player leaving, the team is hit with a one point APR loss and potentially another point if the player does not finish his spring semester, which is likely when training for the upcoming draft. The university is required to make a scholarship commitment to the player and the player should be the same.
This is an ever-changing topic idea in all areas of collegiate sports. Remember back in the Maurice Clarett era when he attempted to enter the draft early and was followed by USC receiver Mike Williams and a few high school players? This is such a big deal in basketball that it is attached with the leagues collective bargaining agreement. Should high school players be allowed to go pro out of high school? Should there be a collegiate length requirement? What do you think about this issue?