Recently there has been a buzz about Bryce Harper. Some of us saw him on Sports Illustrated, Julia wrote a nice bit about him for Julia’s Rants, a youtube video of him hitting a homerun out of Tropicana Field is up to 225,000 views. Everyone knows that he is a phenom, who can do play pretty much any position, can throw upper 90s heat, hit a ball 600+ feet and is a good defensive catcher on top of all that.
Under all this buzz about his talent, there is obviously the huge doubt that he won’t be able to live up to his potential. This guy was like Harper in a lot of ways
It’s a young Billy Beane. Read “Moneyball,” by Michael Lewis for more on Beane. This guy was a lot like him too
It’s Lebron James, back in high school. See, I would use a picture of Lebron in college…but, uh, he didn’t really go to college. Beane didn’t either. He was supposed to be a top 3 draft pick, but was instead picked by the Mets at #23 because of fears that he would not sign and would instead go to Stanford. Billy Beane and Lebron James are like Bryce Harper because both were young, highly scouted stars. And both are like him because they both skipped college and took a direct path to the bigs, exactly what Harper plans to do (well, it’s a little more complicated, but that’s the idea).
Billy Beane was the 23rd pick in the draft because college scares sports people. GMs and scouts are quick to note that “this guy has already committed to Duke, he won’t sign.” College scares them; just the possibility of it makes them afraid of not being able to sign the young superstars they want. So they pass on the guys who are still indecisive. Some real talent can get lost from the top rounds because of that fear of college. And college scares phenoms like Bryce Harper because to them it means more years of being watched, more time to wait when they feel they’re already ready for the bigs. If they’re not confident, it means more opportunities to fail.
Hold on, though. How much does it actually make sense to go to college as a young athlete who is ready for the pro level right now? The college experience is a whole lot different for these soon-to-be-pro athletes anyways. I am still a ways away from having to even worry about college, let alone attend it so all I can offer to this is what I’ve heard. The resounding opinion is that college is one of the most important times in your life, a huge coming of age experience and something necessary to prepare you for life. I’ve also heard that college is a great time to make long-lasting friendships that you’ll always value. I’m sure that would be different for a star athlete in college. How would you know who is going to be a true friend and who’s just some guy you’ll never see again who’s crazed by your popularity and stardom. Normal people can stay a little under the radar and make some real friendships without having to worry about that.
I’ve also heard that college teaches you a work ethic that will last throughout your jobs and other work in life. If you’re a normal guy in college you have to really buckle down and focus on your work (maybe you big party-ers didn’t do that so much) and no one is going to give you a break. Well, for an athlete things could be different. Sometimes a teacher might give you a break and push up your grade a notch, just because “the team needs you this Saturday.” Then if you turn into the next failed phenom, where’s that work ethic you were supposed to learn in college? I know that kind of stuff is against the rules, but it could happen (watch an episode of Friday Night Lights, they do that stuff all the time).
Of course all of this stuff is generalizations, and much of it is exagerated. I wonder what people do think on this issue though. Many of us condemn skipping college for the majors, but how useful is the college experience for an athlete? There would still be many obvious benefits, that is true. But some things, like those I mentioned, would be very different for an athlete in college and could end up haunting them if they failed in the bigs.
Thanks for reading.