Thursday, May 14, 2009
Increased Scholarships Equals Increased Participation
RT Staff Note: We scour the Rivals message boards and contribute from time to time from the east coast to the west coast commenting on high school and college baseball. One of our favorites is NorCal Preps, which offers some unique perpsectives on baseball issues. One such contributor had a great post. We aren't going to print it all, but he brings up some good points and conversely, some perceptions that many parents wrongly have of the pursuit of college baseball. Here's a portion of his comments in italics...our comments are below his...
Baseball seems to have evolved into a game dominated by suburban white kids. Unfortunately, money has become absolutely critical to the development process. A thirteen year old suburban kid may have eight years of organized baseball under his belt. He has been taught the fundamentals. He understands the game and knows how to execute. He also has a sincere appreciation of the "team" concept.
By the time this kid shows up for his tryouts in high school, he represents the creme of the crop. The parents of the "wanna-be" baseball players stopped investing in those $200.00 gloves and $300.00 bats two years ago. The remaining parents are now investing thousands of dollars every summer in travel ball and camps along with the Demarini bats, high priced "sliding pants", and expensive gloves. Hell, I know one kid who's parents spent more on their kids' BATTING gloves than I spent on my kids fielding glove!
The parents that I converse with tell me that the investment is worth it because that four year college scholie is worth up to $180,000 and they expect little Johnny to earn one.
Though coaching and parental support are critical to development in ALL team sports, I believe that they are particularly critical to baseball. Baseball requires knowledgeable and competent coaches, training techniques, and physical facilities --and most of these elements don't adequately exist in the Urban Environment. And, to the extent one seeks to become supremely competent, money.
I don't believe it's enough to suggest that if a kid has talent, he will be recognized and selected for advancement in baseball. It may happen at Bushrod Park in basketball or high school in football, but, baseball seems to have a more difficult road in terms of attracting that gifted athlete that needs the where-with-all to maintain that interest in high school. I think the ideal solution lies in the establishment and marketing of baseball academies in inner-city communities. I also believe that MLB and individuals that have benefited greatly as a result of their affiliation with MLB should pursue the economic resources and political avenues to make this work.
First of all, we agree in principal with his comments. Baseball has become a white, suburban sport. As he stated, there are many parents that think that they will get that big time scholarship if they invest thousands of dollars to make Johnny a better player.
The reality is...they will spend more money to get that scholarship than what the scholarship is worth. His figure of $180,000 for a college scholarship is way, way off. If a high school player is lucky...if he is the second coming of Steven Strasburg...he MAY get $10,000 - $12,000 a year...and that is based on a typical state school. Depending on his contribution to the program, that figure shrinks each year. So, over a four year period a player is lucky to get $30-$45,000 worth of cumulative scholarship money...which is about what most families spend over 8 years of travel, lessons, equipment and college development programs from the age of 10-18 years of age.
Yet, that's what colleges expect from their recruits. They need to be seasoned...they need to playing in the top showcase tournaments and competition...and that costs money and requires unprecedented dedication to the game. You don't see recruiters hanging out at the local Berkelely playgrounds. They are at the circus like events where everyone has $375 Demarini's, Wilson's, Rawlings, Mizuno's and Under Armor.
It's not that the road to get to the college ranks is too expensive...there are alternatives and scholarships to many College Developement Programs available...basketball and football, which can be equally expensive and travel intensive, offer that as well.
It's just that in baseball, the rewards at the end of high school don't equal the invested time and money and many families in general...not just those in inner city and urban areas...can't pay the difference of what a college scholarship doesn't cover. Most state schools cost around $21,000 for tuition, books room and board. A top pitcher may get $10,000 to cover that cost. Therefore, a family must pay the difference or seek out FASFA loan assitance, Pell grants and such to cover a part...but not all... of the remaining costs.
That is part of the reason why baseball is not as popular in the inner cities...football and basketball give out 100%....yet baseball requires more work and dedication than any other sport.
They practice for 45+ days in the fall and winter...have strength and conditioning 4 days a week at 6:30 in the morning...They practice everyday from January til the end of the season...oh, and play 56+ games depending on the conference and post season activity...They then get assigned to summer wood bat leagues clear across the country where they will play an additional 50+ games.
Now a student athlete is a student first and no matter what the scholarship, they should be grateful that they are getting an education at close to half price...
Well...yes and no. Collegiate sports are hard work and are in many cases more grueling than a full time job....plus an additional part time job. An athlete will find it very tough to take more than 12 -14 units during the season...and they can't make it up during the summer because they are in the Cape or Alaska playing ball....making it even tougher to graduate on time.
Therefore, after their college season is done, they have to pay out of their own pocket..an additional year or more just to get their degree.
The answer folks is not the cost of summer College Development Programs or travel or the showcases...Basketball has the same thing...gym time costs money...the top basketball shoes cost an arm and a leg...they travel everywhere like baseball...
The problem is the reward...If baseball were to become a fully funded sport and offer at least 25 scholarships a year, we would see an increase in participation and competitive leagues...not just in the inner cities...although that's where the biggest percentage increases will be...but everywhere...Baseball will become America's past time once again.