Friday, August 22, 2008

Turning Down the Minors For A Major

If your son is a true baseball field rat, then he knows all about the College World Series and probably hasn’t missed it since he was 10 or 11. In fact, I bet that he has had a recurring dream or longing desire to want to play in front of those sell-out crowds at Rosenblatt Stadium. I know my son has. It also seemed to have a big influence on many of the recent top baseball players from the Class of 2008.

In addition to Gerrit Cole, there were many other players that decided to play college baseball for the next three years and all of those players went to teams that were selected to play in the NCAA post-season this year. Coincidence? No it's the power of televised sports. When you give a great sport like college baseball the air time it deserves, these are the benefits that result from it.

Another influential factor of today's players decision to go to college is that unlike many of the parents of baby boomers, more of today's kids have parents that went to college and are more aware of the benefits a college education can offer. According to a great article on Baseball, Gerrit Cole's family sat down and discussed the benefits and risks of college versus pro. His final decision was influenced by discussions initiated by his family in addition to his own desire to go to UCLA.

The desire to attend college to play ball seems to be a growing trend. The next highest ranked player to Cole had a similar experience as well as the same advisor. Alex Meyer, a 6-foot-7 righthander, was also a Scott Boras client and he spurned his first round selection by the Yankee hating Red Sox to play for the University of Kentucky. Is Boras losing his magic touch? He has had two clients in Cole and Meyer who got drafted by arguably the two most desired teams in baseball and they both are off to school.

Boras himself played college ball and had a time in the Cubs system. He also has a medical and law degree...he was even an overachiever back then. Could he have a softness in his heart for college bound players and had any influence in any of these decisions? Sure makes you wonder, although I'm not sure Brian Cashman or Theo Epstein would have wasted a first round pick if that was the case.

The Wildcats of Kentucky are just happy to have Alex no matter how he arrived at the decision to become a student. They wished more of their recruits would have done the same. Kentucky had a great NLI signing day last November. Experts called it the best signing class in the country, but lost three to the draft and one to academic issues, but still may end up with one of the best recruiting classes in the nation due to other recruits stepping it up this summer. Alex Meyer's decision to be a Wildcat helps solidify that strong class.

Another top draftee that chose college over the pros was Sonny Gray a RHP fire baller that has Tim Lincecum like power and size. Vanderbilt, who had a great season this year was the benefactor of Gray’s decision and will give the pitching rich Commodores some great depth that could propel them to another appearance in Omaha this upcoming season.

Others that turned down a trip to the minors to concentrate on a major were...

Nick Maronde was the 70th overall pick and will be a Gator…Zack Cox was number 72 and chose Arkansas…6 picks down the charts, at 78 was Brett Mooneyham who wisely chose one of the most picturesque and top academic schools in the nation in Stanford…Danny Hultzen, a sought after LHP picked the Cavaliers of Virginia…Zach Cone, a 6’2” 210 lbs outfielder was the 80th overall pick and chose Georgia…Donnie Roach a polished RHP at number 94 overall, picked the Wildcats of Arizona.

So in a few years, if you have a son that reaches the status of great players like these, we won’t blame you if you choose the pro’s over college. In fact, consider yourselves very fortunate if your son has the opportunity to make such a choice.

But, consider that these players chose to turn down $1 million and more to experience the college life. Now, a million dollars doesn’t come knocking that frequently in our lifetime…Yet, an education to these players was worth so much more than that. You can’t put a price tag on a Stanford, UCLA, Vanderbilt, Georgia, Kentucky, Virginia, Florida or Arizona education.

These great players also won’t regret their decision this fall when they are sitting in the stands at a Saturday football game on a cool crisp autumn day or in January during their basketball team’s quest to play in March. There’s nothing like the college experience…nothing at all.

Congratulation guys…

You made the choice that was right for you and that is what this quest for next level baseball is all about.

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