Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Good Choice Is A Good Education

I keep hearing stories about talented Olympic Athletes finding themselves in Vancouver after a disappointing showing 4 years ago at Turin when they were younger and less disciplined. Bode Miller owes his recent success to settling down, having a family and finally putting priorities and the meaning of sports competition into perspective. Three medals later is good proof that he has found his way.

Let's use that analogy to analyze baseball athletes. How many baseball careers have been lost to the immaturity of an 17-18 year old kid out of high school with money in his pocket, that is thrust into a life of adulthood overnight? Look back to when you all were 18. Would any of you have had the discipline, drive and know how to survive life on the road with co-workers that were of legal drinking age? I am not saying that all baseball athletes live a life of debauchery, but the temptation is always there...the lack of a higher purpose is not looming over their heads, making them accountable or keeping the focused. Some have what it takes to succeed, but many do not. Many young athletes out of high school need a daily routine and rigorous schedule to keep them focused and on target. They need college.

Now, college is not going to make angels out of them. There are plenty of temptations there as well. But that weeknight kegger is followed by a 6:30am wake-up call to the strength and conditioning coach and that is followed by 4 hours of school and another 4 hours of on-field practice. After practice, there's study hall and over time, that attendance at that Wednesday or Thursday night party becomes shorter and shorter.

Thus, the life of the student-athlete becomes a lot more scripted and the results are much more rewarding in most cases. Listen, not all student athletes have success, but the good news is that those that eventually fail at the athlete part, have a back-up plan...and that's an education. It's so much easier to slip into the the role of student, when you already are one.

Last week, I mentioned that there is talk of MLB becoming more involved in the success of college baseball. The first order of business is to eliminate the high school draft. Like football and basketball, baseball players should be required to attend at least three years of college...two if it's at a JC.

Of course, in order to make that work, and to keep baseball players from skirting the rules and going through the motions at the local JC, they need to increase the scholarship limits to 25 at the 4 year colleges and make baseball a fully funded sport. But, baseball has too make a nice financial return for the school in order for this to happen.

As I mentioned yesterday, the interest for college baseball can reap financial rewards if marketed properly. If a sizable and distraction rich city like Austin can draw 5,000 plus to every game, so can the rest of the college towns and cities across the country. Austin, Baton Rouge, Oxford, MS, Houston, Phoenix, Tallahassee and others know how to market their teams and keep them engaged.

That type of engagement will draw recruits to the college game which in turn draws fans. It sickens me sometimes to see the big high school stud lost to the black hole of the minor league system. Just the other day, I was asked about where a local former high school Player of The Year was playing. I couldn't tell them. I don't even know if he is still with the club that drafted him. So, I looked him up and there has been no real progression in his prospect status. He has been in the minor league system for 5 years now.

I think it would have been a better choice if that kid had gone to college. After 5 years of moderate success in the minors, his pro days are numbered. In those 5 years, he could have had his college degree and a better understanding of his role as a future big leaguer. And if that didn't look like it would have worked out, he would have had a degree and better prepared for the next stage in his life. More later.


Xvolunteers said...

great perspective. I wish that the NCAA would eliminate the high school draft. But first, they also have to make it easier for kids to go to college and increase the scholarships awarded.

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