To go to university or play professional baseball?

Dear Mr. Beede, please make the smart choice.


I’m sorry, but when deciding between school and a lucrative signing bonus and the chance to realize what I can only assume is every young baseball player’s dream, is it even an option???

I am continually baffled, year in, and year out, by players who refuse to sign, instead chosing to go back to school and give the draft another go next season.

Listen, I understand the value of education and that is not at all what this rant is about. I am not saying baseball players are dumb for wanting to pursue/continue post-secondary education, but here’s the thing  … universities will always be there. You can go back to school anytime, whether it’s during the offseason, or after your career if professional baseball works out (or if it doesn’t). You’ll also have more than enough money to pay for school from your signing bonus. School will be there. It doesn’t exactly work the other way around – professional baseball will not always be there.

I understand that in many cases going back to school and re-entering the draft works out well, as players can go and have a great college career, improve their place in the draft and earn more money. But what if it doesn’t? As much as these young ballplayers like to think they are Superman and will never get injured, these sorts of things happen, just ask this guy.

So what if you turn down a $1-million+ signing bonus this year and then go out there and injure your arm? Well, there’s a good men’s beer league somewhere looking for you, I’m sure, and they don’t pay quite as well as the MLB.

Or, what if you do in fact go back to school but don’t have a good transition to college baseball and you lose favour in the eyes of scouts and fall even further in the draft? Pretty cruel version of real-life Deal or No Deal, huh?

Of course, this whole thought processes is brought about by the news of the Jays taking high schooler Tyler Beede with the 21st overall pick in this year’s draft. It has been said that the flame-throwing righty has a strong commitment to attending Vanderbilt University, but thankfully it seems he at least has partially the same mindset I seem to, that signing is too good a financial opportunity to pass up, and it’s just a matter of the numbers sorting themselves out. 

It’s hard for us non world-class athletes to fathom, but I pretty much put this in terms like this. What if someone told you that today, right this minute, you could win the lottery. Or, if you wait a year or two, you will probably win an even bigger lottery. It’s not guaranteed that you will win it, but there’s a pretty good chance. I don’t see anyone – except perhaps the most greedy – who would pass up on the lottery win today for the chance at a bigger one later, so why is it so commonplace in baseball?

That being said, I’ve never been able to throw 95+ MPH or hit a ball 500 feet, so perhaps my vantage point is a little bit skewed. Hell, I’d play baseball for minimum wage if I could find someone to pay me that much even.

About the only circumstance I could see where deciding to go back to school and not signing would be the best choice would be if you are a low rounder whose slot bonus wouldn’t be more than what you might be making on a full-ride scholarship with a school. In that case, sure, take the chance to have a good college career and earn a higher position in the draft. Still though, if that doesn’t work out, there will always be the “what if” that I think would be exceedingly difficult to deal with.

I just can’t fathom passing up a seven-figure signing bonus (or six figure, for that matter) to go back to school, when there’s no guarantee that money (or better) will be there for you next time around. I know it’s a calculated risk, but it’s just not one any sane person should be willing to take, in my opinion.

If you really are going to be MLB’s next big superstar, you will be rolling in money whether or not you go back to school, so it’s really a moot point. However, for the many, many, many ballplayers who never make it out of the minors and never become superstars, the signing bonus is likely the biggest and best payday they’ll ever get. I just can’t comprehend why so many are willing to pass it up. Is it greed from their agents? From their parents? From themselves? An inflated sense of their own self worth? Really, I’m curious to know, so if you happen to be a top-ranked MLB draft pick, please weigh in. Or, you know, if you happen to be a Jays fan reading from the comfort of your couch, I’d be interested in your opinion, too. 

Finally, on the topic of Mr. Beede, here’s a brief interview with him, that appears to have been posted in 2009.

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3 thoughts on “To go to university or play professional baseball?

  1. Good example of reasons why he should sign? Look at James Paxton a couple of years ago. He wouldn’t accept what the Jays offered him. Got drafted in a lower round by Seattle the following year since he wasn’t able to pitch in college due NCAA ruling that he was no longer eligible since Boras negotiated for him and had to pitch in an independent league. He still took a year to finally sign with the Mariners for less than a million dollars. He’s set back his development a couple of years for a couple of hundred thousands.

    Another example would be Jake Eliopoulos from the same Jays draft class as Paxton. He was picked by the Jays 68th overall. Didn’t sign went back in the draft. Got drafted in a much lower round (15th round, 472nd overall) by the Dodgers and still didn’t sign (as far as I know).

    This year’s top pick, Gerrit Cole, is an example of things working out for the better. He was drafted in the first round, 28th overall in 2008 by the Yankees. He didn’t sign and went to college.

    These kids are playing a huge game of chicken. It doesn’t work out very often. It’d be interesting to see how many kids opt not to sign and go back into the draft and how it works out on average.

  2. Pingback: Dear Tyler Beede … | Infield fly

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