Warm weather and baseball go together like chips and salsa. Whether you follow the majors or the minors, summer college ball or high schoolers at travel tournaments, there is a home field somewhere near you, probably right this very minute, hosting 9+ visitors wearing double-knits and ball caps. If that seems an exaggeration, consider this table guesstimating the number of games played per season at the various levels of play.
30 MLB Team x 162 games = 2430 MLB games played in the season
176 Milb teams x 70 or 140 games per season = over 7000
299 D1 teams x an average 50 games per season = 7500
250+ D2 x 54-ish = 6000
350+ D3 x 40-50 = 7500
300 NJCAA x 26 ish = 3000
205 NAIA x 50-60 = 5000
Doing the math: There are more than 40,000 games of baseball played in the US each year, not counting high school, travel ball or little league! Who says interest in baseball is fading!
One venue alone, the Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida, juggles 170 Milb games with nationally recognized high-school level tournaments and showcases organized by Perfect Game and USA Baseball. Another fun fact: PG's travel tournaments host over 3,000 games, in Atlanta alone, over a 3-week period in July.
Holy 4-seam fastball, Batman, I'm thinking that 40,000 games annually might be a rock-bottom estimate!
The baseball season never really ends in the US. And, while that is an upsetting fact to many a shoulder surgeon, America’s favorite pastime is a booming business, on many levels, and passion for the sport starts early. I’ve watched innumerable--sometimes interminable--innings both as a fan (Go Pads!) and as a Mom for many years. Tee Ball and Caps were hilarious. I still crack up at the thought of a dozen little boys, in the dugout, telling knock-knock jokes using their new toy, the athletic cup, as a sound effect. That particular group of boys my son started playing ball with thinned over time, particularly after the first High School JV/V rosters were announced. Of the Caps kids, only 3 continued playing at the college level: one in D1, one at D3, one in NAIA. The student-athlete path is rewarding, demanding, frustrating, expensive, confusing and so…
Pointers for parents of players considering college ball:
(Not necessarily in order of importance)
- Does the Division matter. At all levels, students work their tails off managing athletics and academics. Mandatory study halls notwithstanding, the ‘student’ is secondary to the ‘athlete’ at the top levels within each division, but that ratio is student-driven at the lower levels. The pressure to be an athlete first is fierce, at any level. Self-motivation is paramount. If you’re not pro material (and, you will know by your junior year), then don’t sweat the level. Sweat the choice of college.
- College choice. Enroll where you want to be a student first and athlete second. Statistics are cruel: you will most likely be injured, cut, redshirted, benched or your coach will leave or you may finally roll your eyes and say ‘enough of this’. But, you still need that bachelor’s degree. Choose your college well, Grasshopper, because...
- Transferring is a nightmare. Students absolutely lose in most transfer scenarios. Colleges totally rule. Thanks, NCAA.
- 11.7. Hah! The NCAA may permit 11.7 scholarships per team at the D-1 level, but the AD has to have the funds to distribute. Talent doesn't always get a scholy. There simply isn’t enough scholarship funding for most teams. A full-ride is as rare as a no-hitter.
- Player Development at college. So needed and desirable but not a sure thing. This is very coach dependent.
- Internships, real-work experience, study abroad…not a reality in many college sports. With two-a-days, travel, off-season work outs, summer ball, there’s just not enough time. NCAA regulations aren’t much help here (shocking!). If you want to be on the travel squad, you best be prepared. But, if your student isn't draft bound, as the NCAA website says, your student will be going 'pro in something other than sports'. A varsity athlete with a bachelor's degree is certainly employable!
- Encourage your high school student to study super-hard to qualify for merit aid. They can't take that away if you're injured or aren’t performing on the field. Best of all, that's money you don’t have to pay it back.
- Travel ball and/or college camps. Yes! But, be selective, do what you can afford. Watch, learn and ask questions.
- Paying for your son to play baseball in college. Most families do. See #4 and #6.
- Going into debt to have your son play baseball in college. Be very smart about this. I am, personally, very anti-debt.
Did you know that stars like Rickey Henderson or Pete Rose played well over 3,000 games in the MLB? Collegiate baseball players will have played around 400 official games from their high school through their college careers. Food for thought: A player, after their college graduation, may well have a different answer than their parent when asked, “Was it worth it?”