Baseball Primer Newsblog
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Friday, April 19, 2013
The committee members need to see the industry of youth baseball for what it has become: A business enterprise designed to exclude those without the means and mobility to participate. Over the past 15 to 20 years, the proliferation of pay-for-play teams in youth baseball—and the parallel proliferation of parents willing to pay for them and coaches willing to cash their checks—has had more of an impact on African-American participation than anything another sport has to offer.
It’s become standard in youth baseball for parents of supposedly “elite” kids to eschew the riffraff of Little League and cast their lot with travel teams that play as many as 130 games a year. Both preposterous and routine, it’s based on the questionable theory that the more you pay and the farther you travel, the better you will become. Longtime big leaguer LaTroy Hawkins said it directly: Baseball in the United States has become a sport for the rich.
This is the root of the issue, one that Selig’s committee doesn’t seem to be assembled to address. With the possible exception of Southern University coach Roger Cador, most of the esteemed committee members come at the game with either an ethereal or nostalgic viewpoint.
If I were Selig, I would give each committee member a reading assignment: Amy Shipley’s fantastic piece in the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel on the travel-ball industry. I’ve seen this world close-up, and it’s shaping what baseball looks like in this country. It’s contingent on year-round participation—which either eliminates or severely reduces the possibility of playing other sports—and a level of parental involvement that often goes far beyond reason.
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