Andrew McCutchen has some intriguing thoughts on low-income youth and baseball
Pittsburgh Pirates All-Star outfielder Andrew McCutchen has a very unique perspective about economically disadvantaged youth and baseball. That’s because he was one. McCutchen poured out his story in an article he authored titled “Left Out” in The Players Tribune, an intriguing media platform founded by Derek Jeter to allow the players to have a more direct voice to sports fans. In the article, McCutchen touched on how youth, like the players on the (recently stripped) United States Little League World Series Champion Jackie Robinson West team and how it touched him that kids in the city still played baseball (despite their rule-bending transgressions). He touched on his own story of how he overcame economic challenge to be able to travel and improve to the point of being the Most Valuable Player in the National League in 2013. He sees the same thing with regard to African Americans in baseball as a lot of other media analysis (from McCutchen/Tribune)
“There is only one other African American player, Josh Harrison, on the Pittsburgh Pirates with me. People have asked me why I think the numbers are declining overall. There’s a lot of talk about kids thinking that baseball is slow and boring, or that they’d rather sit at home and play video games. Maybe there’s some truth to that, but to me, there is a deeper problem going on that is affecting low-income kids of all races.” – Andrew McCutchen / Left Out
Throughout the article, the four-time All-Star explains how it takes money to fully develop the skills of even the most talented youth. Lots of money. And families with barely enough money to put food on the table aren’t able to finance travel teams, pay for equipment and coaching. He expands on how the path of least resistance (for him and others) was football. If you play in high school and are good, you get to a major college. From there, you will be on TV every Saturday for up to four years getting noticed for the NFL. In baseball, even the top players out of high school go to the low-level minors where they live off of a modest signing bonus for half a decade in many cases before they get to the big leagues. And in the big leagues, it takes three more years to make arbitration and get compensation commensurate with your playing ability. Mike Trout would just be reaching arbitration had the Angels not hedged their bet and signed him to a strong, but short of full-value deal in advance of arbitration. McCutchen as well is playing for a relatively modest $10M in 2015, and is signed through 2018 at less than $20M per season as he signed a deal pre-arbitration.
There is little doubt that major league baseball players are compensated higher than other major sports. And careers go much longer than football for sure, and in most cases hockey and basketball. So the reward is high. But too many of our most talented youth end up shunning baseball for one reason or another. Thoughtful and caring players like McCutchen want to fix that.
– David Whitlock
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