Need to find those organic greenies.
Anyway, one of the topics that piqued my interest this weekend was the decision by Bryce Harper to forego his final two years of high school to enter community college. Of course he’s going to get his GED first, which will make him eligible for the 2010 Major League draft.
Well, a lot of people don’t think so. But let’s back up for a second and explain who Bryce Harper is since most of us appeared to learn from Tom Verducci and Sports Illustrated last week.
Bryce Harper just finished his sophomore year at Las Vegas High. He’s described as the first LeBron/Kevin Garnet type prodigy in baseball. In fact, scouts suggest that had he been eligible for the baseball draft this year, he would have been selected no worse than third overall.
So rather than sit around in high school where he might have reached his apex as a ballplayer, Harper is going to drop out of school, get his GED and go to community college for a year just so he can be eligible to play pro ball. The rules of Major League baseball state that a player must finish his high school eligibility in order to be in the draft.
High school and a citizen of the United States.
In other words, players from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Japan, etc. are free agents from the time they are allowed to sign a contract. So had Harper not been a U.S. citizen or U.S. high school player, he wouldn’t have to get a GED or even attend community college. Instead, he would have been available to the highest bidder.
But since Harper is from Las Vegas and plays baseball, he is forced to go to school even at an age where he can drop out and get a job anywhere that would hire him.
Apparently education – at least high school education – is important in order to be drafted to Major League Baseball, where, according to estimates from The Wall Street Journal, only 26 players and managers have a college degree.
No, that’s not 26 percent. It’s 26 total. Like one more than 25 or .03 percent of the current 25 man rosters in the big leagues. So yes, you can see how important education is to MLB.
Look, I’m not denigrating higher learning or the level of education of most baseball players. Far from it. The truth is there are more opportunities for kids Harper’s age by going to school for as long as possible than not. In fact, there was a story in The New York Times last year about how there are many more opportunities for kids to get scholarships, grants and aid through academics than through athletics. This is despite the notion that in order to get a scholarship or money for school one has to be a top athlete.
Actually, the opposite is true – one has to be a good student no matter what. That’s the key.
But if Bryce Harper is as good as everyone says he is, why does he have to go to school? Sure, there are the ancillary benefits to being around kids his own age as far as socialization and mental health, etc., but where were these people making the same argument about child actors or even ballplayers from other countries?
Matt Stairs did not graduate from high school and as the statistics show, most Major Leaguers didn’t even bother with college and those that did didn’t finish. These days a lot of kids drafted out of high school have money allocated for education written into their contracts. Kelly Dugan got one from the Phillies when he signed last week, but then again most guys make enough money to send their entire families to school for generations.
Besides, for every stereotype about the dumb jock, there are plenty of guys who set those clichés on its head. Stairs, for instance, is pretty sharp. Scott Rolen, the son and brother of teachers, turned down scholarships to play baseball or basketball at big schools because “it wasn’t the dream.” If he wants to go to school now, however, he can. According to Baseball-Reference, Rolen has made more than $83 million in salary from playing ball.
Then there is Randy Wolf, who spent three years at Pepperdine before being drafted by the Phillies. When that happened he never went back… or looked back. The same goes for Lance Berkman who says he majored in “eligibility” at Rice.
Certainly the odds are pretty fat for most sophomores in high school to even be drafted let alone actually make it to the big leagues. 99.9 percent of kids that play ball need something to fall back on. So too do the same amount of kids who take drama lessons or pick up a guitar.
And no really seems to care about whether or not their favorite actor or musician went to school when they were 16 or not. Sure, we like it if they did, but there are lots of different ways to get an education.
Perhaps most importantly, we don’t really need anyone telling Bryce Harper’s parents what’s best for their kid. It’s easy to tell someone that their kid he’s a dumb jock just as it is to tell them the kid spends too much time studying and not having fun.