High school or college? Regardless…

One criticism that came early in the workshopping of what turned into Approaching Twi-Night was the fact that several of the players went to college. “Everyone knows that baseball guys go straight from high school,” was a typical comment (not an exact quote, mind you; this was something like 18 years ago). “Athletes wouldn’t use this kind of sophisticated language” was another. (This was in regard to descriptions in some of the alternating chapters that don’t use quotation marks for dialogue and call the main character “John” instead of “Ditch.”) So, uh, athletes are dumb? Pardon me for breaking the (undeserved, insulting) stereotype.

Related to these criticisms was the big one, “We know you aren’t a minor league baseball player.” Meaning that my story’s premise was unbelievable, simply because I didn’t have first-hand experience of professional baseball. Um. So. Every mystery novel has to be written by a police detective? Every science fiction novel has to be written by a scientist? I think it’s called “research.” But anyways, leaving aside the authenticity of the author’s background for a while (I’ll have to get back to that in a future blog post…), I was convinced that my having several of Ditch’s teammates having gone to college was correct. And it was. As the pre-season exhibition games between MLB teams and college teams begin this Sunday, you can take a quick trip down nostalgia lane at some of the big names in the majors who played college ball. The list is pretty impressive. Not all inclusive, of course: there are many paths to the pros, and college is just one of them. High school to the pros is obviously fairly common. Some of the international signings from Central and South America may even include technically underage players (on the sly, of course, but no doubt several under 18s slip in). Who’s on the current former college player list?

  • Buster Posey
  • David Price
  • Chase Utley
  • Matt Harvey
  • Stephen Strasburg
  • Max Scherzer
  • Pedro Alvarez
  • R. A. Dickey
  • Bryce Harper
  • Evan Longoria
  • Jeff Samardzija (ND! Props to my peeps)

Of course, this is just a short list from the photos on the mlb.com web site. You can easily find more names. The college teams are so good that they are allowed to play exhibition games against the top level pros…and occasionally win, too. Yeah, yeah, just exhibition games. But players from college are so good that it’s better to think of some college leagues as low level minor leagues. Maybe even intermediate level, depending on the team. The current draft rules state that high school players who are no longer eligible to play high school ball (i.e., have played 4 years already), junior college and college players are eligible for the draft. The rules are fairly complicated, but it seems that a not-inconsequential number of undergraduate college players turn pro without completing their degrees. I hypothesized (not having this experience personally, of course) that many such players who decide to enter the draft would eventually go back to school to complete their degrees at a later date. This is, after all, what Michael Jordan and many other star athletes did.

So, I had several characters, including the protagonist, do this. And it weighs on their conscience. What happens if you opt for the draft, go pro, and then realize that ultimately you will never make it to the big leagues? This is a starting point for Ditch’s sense of personal failure and self-doubt which permeates the story. By the way, NBC Hardball recently reported that the so-called “Rule 4” draft for high school, junior college, and college players may be moved from June 15 to July 1, starting in 2016, to allow college players to participate in the College World Series. This would make it extremely difficult, if not nearly impossible, to have newly drafted amateur players join a short-season Class A team (like they do in my story). Fortunately, the action in Approaching Twi-Night takes place in 1995. Otherwise, I might have a hard time with authenticity! (Yeah, yeah…)

2 thoughts on “High school or college? Regardless…

  1. One of my seminar students here in Japan did his thesis on professional baseball, and the data he collected showed that nearly all pro Japanese players went to 4-year colleges, with the exception of pitchers, who were nearly all recruited after high school.

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    • Really? I was under the impression that most Japanese players went straight from high school to the pros (maybe this again is the influence of the J-media, especially the Tanaka vs the “Handkerchief Prince” story). I’d love to read your student’s thesis!

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