One thing I’ve always been a proponent of is making baseball more attractive and accessible to everyone. Whenever I announce baseball tryouts or conditioning drills at morning assembly, I always drop in a line about how baseball players are less likely to have their brains turned into chowder. It riles up the football coaches a bit, but I think there’s a lot of truth to my statement.
It would appear at least one former NFL star agrees with me:
“If I could go back, I wouldn’t,” [Antwaan Randle-El] said. “I would play baseball. I got drafted by the Cubs in the 14th round, but I didn’t play baseball because of my parents. They made me go to school. Don’t get me wrong, I love the game of football. But right now, I could still be playing baseball.”
I think Randle-El’s parents had the right idea making sure that he went to school, and as a highly-skilled player, he certainly made his millions. But based on everything I could find, Randle-El barely made more in his entire career than what Zack Greinke is about to make this season. Adding as much insult as one can throw at a millionaire to very real injuries, Randle-El is suffering way more aftermath from his playing career than it seems that most baseball players will have to experience:
I ask my wife things over and over again, and she’s like, “I just told you that.” I’ll ask her three times the night before and get up in the morning and forget. Stuff like that. I try to chalk it up as I’m busy, I’m doing a lot, but I have to be on my knees praying about it, asking God to allow me to not have these issues and live a long life. I want to see my kids raised up. I want to see my grandkids.
I have no idea how long the TV money is going to last (and as we all know, the Cubs are trying to make sure they get their hands on a good deal when they get their rights back after 2019), but right now, baseball is flush with money, has one of the strongest players unions in professional sports, and it doesn’t take a Will Smith movie to realize that you won’t get as banged up playing baseball (unless Chase Utley tries to kill you, but that’s another story). At the same time, what Randle-El said in his interview about school hits home, because baseball players simply don’t get as many scholarships, and unless they’re the best of the best, they likely won’t get the big draft bonuses and are a long shot from getting paid what Greinke, or even Scott Kazmir, just got paid. The sport of American football remains extremely popular and creates a much more enticing avenue to free education and a fast track to the pros than baseball does, so it will be a while before baseball can overtake football in popularity again, if ever. But cautionary tales like what we’ve been reading over the past few years may cause kids to choose a sport that won’t literally break them.