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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Baseball Prospectus: Too Easy to Say ‘Just Play Baseball’

Because telling young football players to just play baseball isn’t that simple.

First of all, most young athletes don’t have the choice. Not every two-sport high schooler is Deion Sanders, or even Jeff Samardzija. Consider how small a segment of the population can play high-level college or pro baseball or football, and consider how much smaller a segment of the population is capable of doing both. Alabama defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson, a 20-yeear-old listed at 6-foot-4, 312 pounds, is ideally suited for pushing large men and tackling small ones, which are skills as useless to baseball as Joey Votto’s ability to hit a small ball with a round bat is to football.

But that’s obvious. Let’s address the case of the day, players like Antwaan Randle El, who actually had the choice between football and baseball and chose the former. Saying “just choose baseball” ignores the profound economic disparities between amateur baseball and football.

For all its other faults, the route to fame and fortune in football is one of the most meritocratic in sports. There are elite private clinics for kids, particularly quarterbacks, but—ironically, perhaps because of the brutality of the sport—football players, most of the time, play for their high schools and nowhere else. Colleges scout and recruit high schoolers at their schools, and pro teams scout colleges. Acknowledging that rich parents can hire personal trainers, or send their kids to private schools, or pay for sessions with George Whitfield, you can get noticed by Alabama or Florida State, and in turn by the NFL, if you just show up for your high school football team.

That’s much less true in baseball, and it’s one of the sport’s most severe and least-discussed problems when it comes to spreading the game at the grassroots level. Once the amateur game becomes essentially privatized—a year-round phenomenon where travel teams and private showcases supplement and supplant school teams—it gets expensive, quickly.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 21, 2016 at 01:36 PM | 38 comment(s)
  Beats: bonuses, football, salaries, tommy john surgery

 

 

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