Have you considered going pro out of high school? With the MLB draft coming up very soon, some talented high school baseball players will have to choose whether to go pro right away, or wait – go to college and hope to get drafted as a college junior or senior.
This can be a difficult decision, with many factors to consider. In this article we include advice straight from the pro players who have been in those shoes, and after that, some important things to think about.
David McCarty, drafted in 1st round
David McCarty is a 1st baseman/outfielder who spent 11 years in the Major Leagues. He was drafted in the 1st round by the Minnesota Twins (3rd overall) and went on to also play for the Giants, Mariners, Royals , Rays, Oakland A’s and finally 3 years with the Boston Red Sox before retiring. David is very happy that he attended college before playing professional baseball.
David McCarty. “I was not drafted out of high school because I was committed to attending Stanford. I was drafted out of Stanford and played professionally for 15 years.
My advice is to go to college unless you get life changing money (several million dollars). By going to college first a player gets his education, the college experience, and misses out on many of the low A and Rookie Ball experiences such as long bus rides to small towns, bad food from the concession stand after games, and bad fields. Many high picks out of college will go to High A ball or even AA with the chance for rapid advancement.
Also, the signing bonus money will still be there after a player’s junior year in college if they are drafted in a decent spot.”
Lance Marks, Atlanta Braves
Lance Marks. “I was drafted in the 3rd round out of high school back in ’90 (before the funny money was thrown around). I had signed a letter of intent to Pepperdine, but opted to sign with the Braves, as I felt I was ready to move on to wood bats and pursue my lifelong dream.
I played 5 years in the Braves organization, but vision issues forced me out of the game. I made sure that my college would be paid for as part of my signing bonus. The only thing I would have changed, would be to make sure I received all of the allotted money per-semester/quarter upon attending school, instead of having to submit itemized receipts for reimbursement (if you don’t spend it, you lose it).
I got my degree after finishing my baseball career, and have no regrets about it. If I’d had my vision problems in college, I may never have had the opportunity to play pro ball. I think everyone’s situation is different, so there’s not one set path. Although college is the right path for most, it was not my favorite brand of baseball at the time.”
Bill Sandillo, Cincinatti Reds
Bill Sandillo’s pro playing career was ended prematurely by injury, giving him an appreciation for the value of having a college degree. He went on to a very successful off-field career in baseball as a coach, in the front office, and now as CEO of Predator USA and the founder of the National Coaches Certification Association.
Bill Sandillo. “…sometimes college is a good choice. I got hurt in college but before my junior year I was projected [to be drafted as a]10-14 rounder. After I got hurt, no one would draft me no matter what kind of year I had… I did get signed after my senior year and was given $500 and a plan ride to cedar rapids single A.
Overall I spent 15 years in Pro baseball and had the chance to meet David McCarty (see comment above) in AAA Scottsdale as I was the liason with the Giants and worked in the front office. David’s advice to go to college unless you get life changing money (several million dollars) is exactly correct.
In college you do take the risk of getting hurt (Like Me) but having an education is the best no matter what because as long as you think you can play there’s always going to be a life after baseball that you have to prepare for.”
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Things to think about:
Possibility of injury. This was probably your first thought when asked the question of going in the MLB draft out of high school. “If I wait, I might get injured in college and not have another shot at the MLB draft.”
This is a legitimate concern. If you were offered life-changing money out of high school as a high round draft pick (like two commas in your bonus check – Cha Ching!), then I think most baseball players past and present would say GO FOR IT.
However, if that is NOT you, then you should consider this next point…
Signing bonus vs College Scholarship. Are you being offered a $10,000 (one time) signing bonus to turn down a $30,000 (per year) college scholarship? Enough said.
If you sign out of high school, have they agreed to pay for your college later?
If the answer is yes, then saying no to a full-ride scholarship isn’t so painful. If the answer is no, consider that your professional career could be ended early by injury or other unforeseen circumstance, and you may regret turning down that baseball college scholarship.
Food for thought – Many players don’t take advantage of college money in their contract because they are left in a life scenario where they have a family and can’t take the time off of working to go back to school. Most tuition offers will expire a few years after retirement.
Draft round. Will you get a drafted in a higher round if you wait? In a couple years, you might be stronger (most baseball players don’t hit their peak in high school) and have even better statistics. Obviously you can’t predict the future, but if you were drafted in the 49th round out of high school, then perhaps you’ll do better to wait.
Why does it matter? As a high round draft pick. you will have more opportunity to play, advance through the minor leagues faster, and in general be given the benefit-of-the-doubt through your first few slumps. A low round draft pick has more of an uphill battle from the start. Sorry to say, but baseball can be a very political game this way.
Quality of life. Older players drafted out of college MIGHT skip the lowest levels and jump up quickly to A or AA teams. This means that your “development” years were spent at college instead of Rookie level teams.
If that doesn’t mean much to you, then let me put it this way… Would you rather live in a podunk town with a host family (or 5 roomates) working 7 days a week earning $350 a week? Or would you rather spend a couple years in college with your friends having fun and have a degree to show for it?
Basically, it all boils down to this – don’t get so caught up in the glamour of getting drafted that you don’t make an intelligent decision about your future. Are you being given a genuinely great offer and opportunity to go pro? Or is it worth your while to take that college scholarship and wait to be drafted out of college? The points above give some practical suggestions for evaluating your offer.
As always, play hard!
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