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College versus Pro

by Jeff Spelman
Director, Team One Showcases

For many "blue chip" high school baseball players the most difficult decision to make is not which college to attend.

Thousands of high school senior baseball players will be looking forward with great anticipation and hope to the Major League Amateur Free Agent Draft, held each June.

Four or five seniors will become instant millionaires. Perhaps a hundred or so others will be very happy with the draft. All others will likely be disappointed because they were chosen late or not selected at all.

Major League teams can make as many selections as they want. In 1995, several teams bowed out after the 45th round while others went beyond 80 rounds. But the later a player is drafted, the less likely he is to sign. Of the 1,666 players drafted in 1995, approximately 780 were high school players. Of the number drafted, usually 225 to 250 high school players sign contracts.

WHAT'S BEST FOR YOUR SON? Be realistic and look at the numbers. Pro teams thrive on players that think they will overcome the long odds against becoming a major league player. Actually only 5 to 6 percent of drafted players ever play a day in the major leagues And about 40 percent of the first round draft picks never make it either.

If your son chooses a pro career, he is a least significantly delaying if not giving up a college education. Questions to consider; What's a degree worth, and how far will he be behind his peers if he enters the work force four years after they do?

If a high school player signs a bonus of $100,000 (roughly third round money), how long will it last? Uncle Sam claims 31%, for taxes, leaving your son with $69,000. He may use $10,000 for a down payment on a car. That leaves $59,000. His minor league salary will be about $850 per month - during the six month season only. So if he wants to live on $20,000 a year, he'll have to use his bonus money. At that rate, he'll use it up in four or five years. By then, he'll be out of baseball, still be making $15,000 a year in the minors, or possibly be in the Major Leagues.

On the other hand, major league teams do offer players entry into professional baseball at a younger age, which can translate into earlier higher earnings and additional benefits. And although many college coaches disagree, Major League Baseball says the best instructors in the world are available to your son.

WHEN DEALING WITH SCOUTS, always be honest and consistent. But remember, you do not have to give them direct answers to all of their questions. For example, scouts commonly ask if your son wants to sign out of high school and how much money it would take to sign him. Don't give a range or a figure. Many parents simply respond, "My son would definitely be interested in signing, if it's the right offer."

Teams not only draft for talent but also for signability. If you do not want your son to sign a pro contract, out of high school and you let the pro scouts know that, then be prepared for the fact that he probably won't be drafted at all. Players who have signed scholarships with to top academic universities often go undrafted or get chosen later than expected because teams are worried about their signability.

If your son may be a high draft pick, you'll notice large numbers of scouts at his games late in the high school season, and a major league team's top scouts - regional supervisors, cross checkers, and even scouting directors - will attend.

AS A PARENT OF A POTENTIAL draft pick, try to keep your son from being distracted by all the hype. The only way he can enhance his draft status is by performing well on the field -- and distractions can hurt his performance.

Prepare your son emotionally for what might happen in the draft. It's nice to dream, but you and your son need to be realistic.

Always consider not taking a team's first offer. Many players earn more by holding out a week than they would have earned in a whole season had they taken the first offer. However, this strategy may have diminishing returns if the hold out lasts too long.

Deciding between college and an immediate pro career can be a difficult decision. There's no magic formula. Look at all of your son's options, which may include a couple of years of college first, then discuss them with him.

And enjoy the attention your son receives. It's a "once in a lifetime" experience. So be sure you are prepared.

Reprinted from the
Baseball Parent Magazine

 

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Revised February 09, 2003 .