Hope is a dangerous thing.
We as fans – and as fathers – often fall victim to the curse of “hope”. We hope that our team will win the World Series; we hope that we get that raise or sign that client; we hope that our kids grow up healthy and happy. And somewhere, in the deep recesses of our dreams – in places that we don’t talk about at cocktail parties – we hope our young son will one day play big league baseball. Hope. It’s a dangerous thing.
When I was 12 years old, I went over to a friend’s house to take batting practice. You read that right, in 1984, he had a batting cage in his backyard. And he swung a wood bat. His dad had hope – maybe/probably too much hope. He pushed and prodded, yelled and screamed, and made his son take batting practice with a broken wood bat to punish him for a late swing and bad mechanics at the plate.
Red told us that “hope can drive a man insane.” So how was that father-of-the-year-candidate rewarded? Third pick overall, a 14-year Major League career, 2 All-Star Game appearances; a Gold Glove; a 30-HR year and a season hitting .300. Oh, and over $50M in lifetime earnings. Dad may have been insane, but he wasn’t crazy.
You want crazy, here is crazy:
Each year, more than 2,500,000 kids play Little League baseball. And that is just in the United States. Add to that over 500,000 kids playing Pony Baseball. And we simply cannot account for the tens (hundreds?) of thousands playing with rocks and sticks in far-away places and on far-away islands. In short, a lot of youngsters lace up (or, more accurately, have their dad lace up) their cleats each Spring.
In any given year, there are 1280 Major League baseball players. If we assume that the only universe of players is from Little League and Pony baseball (which is a horrible assumption, but one we will use for illustration purposes only), that means that, on average, 4 out of every 10,000 Little League/Pony players will make it the big leagues.
“Well,” you say, “my goal is just to have my son play ‘professional’ baseball.” Okay, let’s take a look at that: There are approximately 242 teams in the Minor Leagues, with each having 25 players on their roster. Not accounting for movement within teams, you have approximately 6000 Minor League players. That means that 20 out of every 10,000 Little League/Pony players might play professional baseball.
So, if your Little League, like ours, has roughly 700 players in a given season, 1-2 kids in entire league (Wee Ball through Majors) may play “professional” baseball at some point in their life. Purely on a statistical basis, you would need to run through all 700 players, nearly 4 times, before you found a Major Leaguer in the mix. High hopes indeed.
But then, one morning, you pick up the newspaper or you fire open your web browser – or, if you are like me, you get alerts from MLB and ESPN – and you see that a local boy just 7 years out of high school, has signed a contract worth nearly a third of a billion dollars. That is Monty Burns money.
And you think to yourself…maybe?!
As we look ahead to yet another Little League or Pony season, as we yell at our kids from the dugout or the stands, as we lament their failings and overly praise their successes, always remember the Wisdom of Red:
Hope is a dangerous thing!
PLAY BALL (and eat turkey)!!