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    Thursday, August 11, 2022

    College baseball showcases for 13-year-olds?

    It has become reflexive now in everyday conversation to say something like “that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my life.”

    It’s a lie, of course. Because five minutes later, something else dumber comes along.

    So let’s leave it here: What follows is surely the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard … in the last five minutes.

    I was covering the Waterford Babe Ruth kids earlier this week the New England 13-year-old baseball championship game. That’s where I learned that Pittsfield (Mass.), the opponent, was missing two key players who were in Georgia at a “showcase.”

    For the uninitiated: A “showcase” offers the forum for college coaches (and sometimes professional scouts) a chance to evaluate prospective players.

    I can say this unequivocally: In 31 years around college coaches and pro scouts alike, I have never heard one say, “Wow! Look at that 5-foot-4, 112-pound eighth grader over there! We need him on our team NOW!”

    This is just another example of how we’re losing our way in (and out of) sports. Parents are being sold bills of goods. And won’t, don’t or can’t comprehend it through wishful thinking, alarming unawareness or uncontrolled ego.

    The idea that two kids self-indulgently left their teammates with a World Series berth on the line is odious enough. But two 13-year-olds, whose bodies and minds aren’t close to developing the skills necessary for college or professional consideration is, well, the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard … in the last five minutes.

    Straight up: Thirteen-year-olds are all but incapable of doing anything at sophisticated levels. I have a 12-year-old. Awesome kid. But he’s just a kid, save perhaps when he masters a few electronic devices in the house that has dad cursing and confused. Otherwise, he’s a regular kid.

    And yet here we are, in an environment where parents of 13-year-olds are starry eyed.

    “The showcase business has long been profiting off parents who so badly want to do what’s best for their sons’ futures but don’t have a grasp on how to navigate the recruiting process,” according to keepplayingbaseball.org, a nonprofit organization providing free sources of information for high school baseball players who want to play baseball in college at any level, with or without athletic scholarships.

    “Let us be crystal clear that players can, and do, get recruited at showcases. To say otherwise would be a lie. It’s also true that there are trustworthy companies who provide exposure to college coaches at a fair value. But make no mistake about it, there are others that make money by stoking parents’ fears and perpetuating myths including the idea that any exposure is good exposure, rather than providing the services parents think they are paying for.”

    Here is the example the website uses:

    “John is a sophomore and he goes to ‘Big Exposure Showcase West’ that costs his parents more than $500. He clearly doesn’t have the physicality or maturity to be recruited yet, which is what Big Exposure wants. So the Big Exposure staff tells him that in their evaluation, ‘You have good skills, but need more time to develop and mature. It’s possible that with some gains in the weight room you could be a D1 player. There is plenty of time, so come back next year when you are bigger and stronger.’

    “This evaluation only states the obvious. Most kids aren’t ready to be recruited as sophomores and many aren’t ready even as juniors, so there is no value to the evaluation, which is meant to lure John back again the following year.”

    You’ll note the aforementioned example uses a high school sophomore. Not a 13-year-old. But this is the game. Convince parents that showcases are the only places to be seen, as if the showcase itself is the biggest factor in the kid’s recruitment. Au contraire. The biggest factor in the kid’s recruitment is, as keepplayingbaseball.org says, “Any way that college coaches can see your son WHEN he has a recruitable skillset. Recruitment results from a combination of preparedness, having a recruitable skillset, and exposure.”

    And yet the Snake Oil Salesmen have never been more prevalent and profitable.

    I know, I know. I’m old, curmudgeonly and idealistic, thinking that playing for your town and with your friends has any allure. Sure doesn’t compare to “my kid went to Georgia for a college showcase.” Except that playing for your town, gosh golly whiz, seems to inspire loyalty and esprit de corps that’s far more valuable than self-indulgence.

    A 13-year-old at a college baseball showcase.

    Bet it’ll be a good 15 minutes until something else dumber comes along.

    This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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