You see, you spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball, and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time. ~Jim Bouton
America’s pastime, beloved by many, played by youth more than any other sport. In many people’s opinion, including my own, it is the greatest game ever to be played. The level of intensity and love of the sport in the MLB can’t be matched. Well, at least it used to be that way.
If you compare a game from 1985 to a game from to today you will see a drastic difference. I’m not talking about the quality of the television, but the intensity and quality of the players. Back then the players cared about playing the game, winning for their team and pleasing their fans. Some players today have the same morals regarding playing the game, but the majority of the players only care about making money. They go into games like it’s a job.
Baseball is not a job. They don’t say work ball at the beginning of games, they say play ball. It is an amazing game that has been corrupted like so many other things by money. Even for a baseball obsessed man like me, it is a bit boring to watch the monotonous way the players walk into the batter’s box, do what they have to do, then walk back to the dugout and receive their multi-million dollar checks. I’m glad when I get to see the rookies who are playing for the love of the game try their hardest to impress the fans and upper management. But as they get older and better, they will switch their priorities to make money the most important thing.
Contrary to what I may have impressed on you earlier in this article I am not blaming money for the eventual death of baseball. I am blaming something that happens way before they go to the major leagues, whether in junior high, middle school or even elementary school.
I blame parents.
Today’s culture has given parents the idea that if you see a hint of talent in your son or daughter you need to push your kid as far as you can to make sure he succeeds in life. Parents then do what they think is best for the child’s future in paying thousands of dollars a year so that the kid can have the best batting gloves and best bats.
Then they sign the kids up for travel teams that take a kid away from home for most of the summer and weekends, ruining a kid’s growing up experience. Kids playing year round baseball end up flaming out of the sport when it becomes too hard for a kid to handle. They quit, running their chance at the majors. That takes out about a 1/3 of future major leaguers.
Then you have the kids that don’t quit. The ones that either stay on because they don’t want to disappoint their parents, or because they love the game. They play on those expensive travel teams until high school. They are the studs on the high school team posting amazing numbers that gets them a scholarship to play baseball in college. Things start to go wrong about here. Their arms start hurting for no reason, or they start to finally lose interest,
Playing one sport year round as a kid will become very boring to a child, and will drive them from the sport. For the ones that stay with baseball through college, they start to develop problems. Problems started by over-competitive coaches that force them to learn to throw curveballs at age 10 or else they’re off the team. Slowly but surely they aren’t able to throw like they were able to in high school, so by the time scouts come looking at them, they aren’t able to impress like they used to and are not drafted and are most likely not ready to do anything else with their life because their main focus has been baseball.
If they are fortunate to make it to the majors only a select few will end up not having career shortening surgeries or even career ending injuries. You don’t see that as much as you will because most of the players today grew up in the 80’s or 90’s when the travel teams weren’t as huge as they were today. When the generation that played in the 2000s grows up you will not see many American baseball players playing well in the majors.
The American players that are left will be pitiful to watch however. Since they have been on expensive teams and given the best equipment they have become spoiled. They won't take a meager 2 million dollars for playing as a rookie, because their parents have failed in raising them to appreciate things more valuable than money. They may hold out until they get the money they believe they deserve, or they might never get to play if the team has enough sense not to sign a spoiled brat who keeps demanding more money. There will be maybe 10 American players in the league.
When we reach that point we will be left with only the Latin American players. There are a multitude of highly skilled players south of the border and in the Caribbean, but not enough to have full rosters for 30 teams. Teams will either start to fold and the league will dwindle, or they will call up players who are not skilled enough to be in the majors, but the teams are desperate enough to sign them.
When teams like Kansas City and Pittsburgh start folding the league will lose money and then bigger market teams like San Diego and Texas will fold. It will keep doing that until there are so few teams that fans lose interest. The league will eventually cease to exist in the next 50 years.
This problem can be fixed by not pushing kids too far, and then we will see baseball forever in the amazing glory it deserves. However failure to remedy this problem may result in the demise of the thing I have been in love with ever since I was taken to Kauffman Stadium as a 3 year old.