I love these Facebook polls with the Rhode Island Baseball community. I recently polled members of my FB page with the following question:
“Go Pro or Go To College? Your child’s baseball career in your town is one of legends. His team won the 11U States, the 12U States, and 3 games at the Nationals. His middle school team won the states and he was the MVP. His travel team placed 3rd out of 300 in Orlando and he was on the All-Tournament team as a 15 year old. He is a 3 time Rhode Island All-State selection and going into his senior year, he is a pre-season Gatorade Player of the Year candidate. D1 schools have been emailing you, his parents, for 3 years now. Pro scouts rank him a top 100 “Can’t Miss” prospect. He has the grades, is a fantastic volunteer in your community, is the Prom King, and is set to embark on a memorable career in baseball and life. So, parents, guardians, friends, family members, the question remains – Should this player be selected in the June Professional Baseball draft in the 1st round, should he go pro? Or, should he accept that 4 year scholarship to that legendary University that produces not only professional athletes, but incredible doctors, teachers, engineers, lawyers, and business men and women? Go Pro or Go to College?“
When kids grow up playing youth baseball, Wiffleball® in their neighbor’s yard, or sandlot ball on a Saturday night, they dream BIG about becoming a professional baseball player. They mimic home run swings, pitch like their heroes in the pros, call out Hall of Fame names when they make a spectacular play to rob a friend of a hit. Going through youth baseball, into interscholastic league play, maybe a showcase or travel team with top marks and big time potential, that dream starts to take shape. Scouts visit tournaments and home games to get a glimpse of talented youth baseball players. The reality of realizing your dream of becoming a professional baseball player, to get paid to play the game you love and have loved since you were physically able to play is closer than ever. And by the way, professional athletes get paid a ton of money to play baseball.
While kids are playing baseball, they are also attending school. Learning Shakespeare and how to make a volcano and solving trigonometric equations as well as develop physically, socially, emotionally, and perhaps time management with athletics. The education they receive is invaluable to their development as an adult. A degree is a turnkey to a job offer or a business venture or a secondary degree like education, law, medicine, and the arts. When students finish high school, some will elect to go into the work force and become professionals. Other students will apply for and perhaps attend a 2 year or 4 year college or university to earn a higher degree. Baseball players who have managed to balance life, sports, and education may elect to play baseball while earning their degree. Some will receive scholarships for part or all of the education expenses to play baseball at a college or university. ‘Baseball careers end’, said a friend of mine a few years ago at a North Kingstown Wickford Little League Opening Day Ceremony. That friend is Sean Maloney, who went to Georgetown, earned a degree + played baseball, was drafted in MLB, played several years as a professional baseball player, and is now a successful businessman.
Go Pro or Go to College? The results from this poll at least are the following. 40 votes were cast. 21 votes say “Go Pro” and 19 votes say “Go to College.” How do you tell a player, whose dream it has been since just about birth, that you should turn down a professional contract offer and go to school? How does a player accept a professional contract and turn down an opportunity of a full scholarship to a prestigious university rich in tradition? The answer to this question couldn’t be more layered, more personally driven, and more individual. Families have different structures, financial situations, and long term goals. As varied as fingerprints and snowflakes, the goals of a family living in the same state, the same city, the same village can be light years apart. When a child turns 18, they can make decisions such as turning pro or going to college if a parent or guardian is not available for counsel. It is a great debate and I appreciate everyone who participated.
And as a parent, to be honest, the “Go Pro or Go to College” situation is actually not a bad predicament to be in. If your child is that good at sports, music, the arts, theater, welding, carpentry, or software design and you are giving a chance to go to a 4 year college for free – wow that is a huge accomplishment for your family. And if your child is that good at baseball, can play the guitar like Eric Clapton, draw like Stan Lee, or sculpt the most amazing statues and you can turn professional at 18 – wow that is a huge accomplishment for your family.