Breakdown of current Travelers roster:
• Went to college -- 10 players
• Went to community college -- 2 players
• No college (turned pro after high school) -- 6 players
• No college (from foreign countries) -- 9 players
Every June, Major League Baseball convinces hundreds of kids coming out of high school to skip a promising college baseball scholarship for the allure of signing a contract for thousands of dollars to go be stuck in the lowest levels of Minor League Baseball with the dream of making it to the bigs.
While it is hard to argue with the large signing bonuses many of these high-school kids are receiving, the case could be made that they are giving up something more valuable than whatever is going in their new bank accounts -- their college years.
It is very difficult for most of these kids to see past the pile of money some MLB general manager has put at their door step, and their parents seem to have the same trouble. But someone needs to provide these 18-year-olds with a little more perspective as to what they are going to miss in exchange and how it will impact the rest of their lives.
College is a great experience both for development as a person and for having some really fun years that you will never have the chance to experience again. These kids don't know what they are missing in exchange for selling their bodies to professional baseball.
Baseball isn't everything, and if you prove yourself in college, you will still be pursued by MLB scouts and will have improved your baseball ability while becoming a more mature person ready to handle the rigors of a difficult professional life. Plus, you will have some fun memories to take with you.
Let's take a look at the players on the current Travs roster who did not go to college and how much money they were paid to sign with a Major League Baseball team instead:
• Mike Trout -- $1,215,000
• Ryan Mount -- $615,000
• Clay Fuller -- $227,500
• Robert Fish -- $140,000
• Trevor Reckling -- $123,300
• Eddie McKiernan -- $80,000
Again, it's very hard to say to Mike Trout that he should not take $1.2 million and instead go to college. But imagine the time of his life he would be having at whatever college he picked to attend. And will his maturity be forever arrested like so many NBA players who made the jump straight out of college?
But Trout is the exception (however, if I were his parent, I would have directed him somewhere like the University of Virginia because making yourself a smarter person is worth even more than $1.2 million -- and the money will still be waiting three years later).
Look at the next in line, Ryan Mount. He is now 24 and has toiled in the minor leagues for seven years. His window of opportunity to make it to Los Angeles seems to be closing. He is a smart guy (I have observed this based on how good he is at the kids clinics) and will be fine, but I wonder about some others who don't have such a good head on their shoulders.
What do they do after their baseball career stalls and they've spent a decade giving themselves to the sport?
Take Eddie McKiernan as another example. He signed for $80,000, which probably seemed like a lot at the time but after taxes and five years in the minors probably isn't quite so much. Was that worth foregoing a rare period in his life for fun and personal development that he will never get back?
The guys who go to community college are another problem. These community colleges are nothing more than the minor leagues for the minor leagues. The high school kids who go to community college go there solely to play baseball, not to learn or do anything else.
Unfortunately there is one large problem for Minor League Baseball if more American kids go to college first -- it probably opens the floodgates for the influx of more foreign players, virtually none of which went to college in their home country and in some cases you wonder if they even went to high school because of how young they are.
You can't knock these foreign players for not going to college because baseball is a means of survival for so many. Getting even a small contract to play baseball in America is a life changer.
So because of the foreign players, Major League Baseball could never institute requirements that force these kids into college like the NBA and NFL have done. Those two organizations have realized that preventing an 18-year-old from turning pro is in the best interest of the league and the kid.
MLB teams, meanwhile, have rosters to fill on seven other teams besides its own and constantly throw money on the table hoping a gamble on a teenager based on scouting reports will pan out early and in the long run save the franchise money on salaries until free agency hits.
It's a shame because this system is doing the high-school kids no favors and leading to a generally dumber dugout where the professional baseball culture is never challenged.
That's how we ended up with such a steroids problem.
-- Travelerocity reporter