DREAM BIG AND HAVE A BACKUP PLAN
Dream on. Dream until your dreams come true.
Dreams are what make life worth living, and everybody should have them. Dreams provide us with hope and direction; they can motivate us to higher achievement, teach us to work hard, and avoid people and activities that are bad for us. Dreaming, in my opinion, is a very, very good thing.
The dream of playing baseball in college and then signing a professional contract is one that I know extremely well. I pursued that dream successfully as a young man and I’ve spent the last twenty years of my life recruiting and coaching other young men for whom the dream is a driving force. I’ve become intimately familiar with the physical tools needed for success, and I am close to the professional scouting community that evaluates those tools and ultimately decides which players get an opportunity.
After playing successfully in college, I received a signing bonus of $1,500 from the Los Angeles Dodgers and earned $700 a month to play, sparingly, as a professional. From this experience, I learned that a player must make it to the majors before he actually sees a respectable wage. Shockingly, little has changed in twenty-five years with regard to Minor League compensation. Despite poor pay and the fact that the Dodgers released me after just one season, I remain part of an elite group — only 8.6% of college players and 0.6% of high school players get the opportunity to wear a professional uniform.
My failure to make it to the majors ultimately led to another dream: a college coaching career that spanned three decades. Among the hundreds of players I coached in that time, several went on to play professionally, but only seven actually reached the Major Leagues for any length of time. Most had careers similar to my own.
Clearly, the dream is a difficult one to realize. In fact, less than 7% of the 480,000 high school baseball players in America will even play in college, let alone the pros. So, should you give up on the dream? Absolutely not! And here’s why. First, everyone who has played in the majors was facing the same odds — somebody’s got to make it, right? Second, the high school numbers are a bit skewed: not all 480,000 high school players want to play in college. High school baseball teams are full of football and basketball players, and players with limited skills, who have no intention of trying to play college baseball. And third, working towards a goal, whether or not it is achieved, requires sweat and struggle and sacrifice — the elements of the pursuit wherein the real reward lays.
My parents knew fencing wasn’t going to pay the bills. They encouraged me to get the best possible education so I’d have plenty of options when my athletic career was over.
— Sada Jacobson, 2-Time Olympic Medal Winning Fencer, Yale ’06, Michigan Law School ‘11
Someone once said that baseball is a game of failure coached by negative people and played in a hostile environment. Wow! Is there a better training ground for real life? Think about it: the best players fail seven out of ten times; coaches and parents are screaming at you; and opponents and fans pepper you with everything from insults to beer bottles. The game is tough, a grind that is played every day; so is life. Baseball, then, is not an extracurricular activity, but a vital co-curricular aspect of your education.
While I am a strong advocate for having and pursuing dreams, I am simply too close to the game not to understand the importance of having a backup plan — a vocation of your choosing that allows for a lifetime of happiness and productivity. Nearly all of my players have gone on to success in fields other than athletics. Some have stayed involved in the game as teachers and coaches; some are in law, law enforcement, and fire fighting; others are in business and medicine and politics; and one is a country singer in Nashville, Tennessee! After baseball, all have had the opportunity to work at something that feeds their passion each day. In other words, they took what they learned from their athletic experience, applied it to new dreams of family, work, and community, and ultimately reached their own “big league.”
God didn’t make us all to be Major League baseball players. At Baseball/Life, our goal is to help you navigate a path that leads you to your big league, whatever that may be. We want to inspire you to chase your baseball dreams, earn the best grades possible, and find the right academic and athletic fit that pays dividends not only for the four years you are in college, but for a lifetime.