Wednesday, February 10, 2010

At a Crossroads...Can MLB Help The College Game?

RT Staff Note: A thread on Rivals college baseball brought up an article on ESPN's web site that discussed MLB's probable role in helping College baseball succeed. Below, is the partial ESPN article in italics and below that are my comments. To post comments of your own...go the the comments section below this posting.

How MLB can help the college game

Saturday, February 6, 2010 | Feedback | Print Entry

When the general managers gathered at the owners meetings a few weeks ago, they spent some time discussing how Major League Baseball could aid college baseball, which is slowly being strangled, on the fringes, because of budget cuts. There is a sense among some executives that MLB needs to help college baseball thrive, and to be in position to lure athletes, because year by year there is a sense within the offices of scouts, scouting directors and general managers that great athletes in the U.S. are increasingly being lost to other sports.

Division I college baseball teams can offer only 11.7 scholarships to players. Meanwhile, college football teams can offer dozens of scholarships. "So in other words," said one MLB talent evaluator, "the third-string cornerback at Florida State is on a full ride, and the starting center fielder on the baseball team is only getting 40 percent scholarship."

The health of college baseball is of great concern to Major League Baseball, of course, because it represents another avenue of player development, in the way that college football is a feeder system for the NFL. Historically, the relationship between MLB and college baseball has been shaky at best, largely because they compete for the same players. But in general, the stronger college baseball is, the better off Major League Baseball will be..........................

I have been ranting about this issue on Rounding Third for over three years. Baseball is losing great athletes to other sports...mainly football... because of the scholarship issue...especially in the inner cities. And, the present economy is not helping matters one bit. That tuition "gap" is tough for all families I have talked with the past year or so...Money is tight and the amount of time a baseball athlete has to dedicate to his sport is not commensurate with the amount of scholarship money he is granted.

I have said this a million times....No athlete in any sport...has to dedicate as much time to their sport year round...(45 fall practices... daily strength and conditioning...56 regular season games...50 collegiate summer league games) as baseball players...And, no athlete gets rewarded so little for the effort.

As far as MLB being concerned...they should be and they ought to push for reform. College baseball is great for MLB. I have heard many scouts say that they have shifted much of their prospect watch to college baseball for several reasons.

1.) More mature, worldly athletes. The college player is not awestruck by the change in his social environment like a kid out of high school would be. This doesn't guarantee success...the players still must perform, but it does help to alleviate certain draft risks.

2) More physically developed players. They are older, and due to many universities highly perfected Strength and conditioning great physical condition.. This helps minor league programs save on the costs of intense physical development. These college kids have had at least 3 years of work ethic ingrained in their brains.

3) Well coached players...used to over 100 games a year. Not only do players in the top conferences have excellent coaching, but they also get great mentoring in the wood bat summer leagues to get a taste of the pro style game. College players have the experience of a grueling 100+ game a year schedule with the long bus rides and travel schedules very few high school kids experience.

4) This is pure speculation on my part, but it would seem to me that a college player would cost a MLB team a bit less due to the fact that there are little or no college tuition costs built in to contracts for the top round players. High school top rounders usually build in the cost of a four year college into their contracts...costs that could add up to $100,000. Most top college players only have a few semesters left to graduate.

So, if I was a MLB scout, I'd surely have to put more consideration on a player that was much more mature mentally and physically, was baseball savvy, able to adapt to the rigors of travel, had a sound knowledge base of the game and could potentially produce results in a much shorter period of time. MLB is a business by the way...and this sure sounds like a better business decision to me.

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