Most Viewed Stories
- Man who robbed Foothills bank sentenced to nearly 20 years in federal prison
- Police seek timeline of days leading up to woman's death
- Change of plea hearing delayed for ex-Yuma dancer
- New trial date set and plea agreement accepted in baseball bat murder case
- Man accused of trying to smuggle almost $1M worth of cocaine
Former Major Leaguers recall youth baseball days
On the eve of the Baseball Legends Cecil Fielder 2012 Elite World Series, Fielder sat down with four fellow former Major League Baseball players and recalled what his youth baseball experience was like.
“When we played, we did not even have an opportunity, or even think about having an opportunity, for our parents paying this type of money for us to play baseball,” Fielder said during the Baseball Legends Expo at the Quechan Casino Resort Wednesday. “There's no way. My momma would tell me to get the hell out of her face.”
Former Dodger center fielder Kenny Landreaux never traveled more than 25 minutes to play as a kid.
“I came out of Compton, Calif., playing high school baseball, Landreaux said, “and travel ball for us was playing against different, other surrounding cities.”
The booming business of youth baseball has also driven up prices of everything from equipment to league fees. Landreaux paid $7 to register for his little league, while the entry fee for this tournament is $995 per team.
The expenses have also led to kids shying away from playing multiple sports.
“In the past, I think we played different sports because it was free,” said Cleveland Indians minor league coach Ruben Niebla. “We played basketball because it was basketball season. When it's baseball season, pay the $7 like Kenny said.
“Now that it's become year-round, I think there's more money being invested because of the coaches, they need to spend their time out there. As you look at what baseball is now too, and what it's become in Major League Baseball, there's a lot of money to be won, so it's going to cost a little bit of money to reach those goals.”
One of the places all of that money is going is exposure for the players. This year's tournament's semifinals and championship games, scheduled for Monday, will be broadcast on ESPN3.com.
The players will also be given a chance to work out in front of MLB and college scouts.
“I'm always looking for the tools,” Garcia said. “Run, throw, hit, power. What we were talking about in regards to going to college or pro ball, what we really look at is the makeup of the child. Is he ready to go to the next level, will he take that?
“It picks up like that, it doesn't slow down. (Pro ball) is not a stepping-stone; you have to be ready, because now you're battling with a bunch of guys that are trying to take your position and you're trying to take theirs.”
Fielder and the other baseball minds agreed that because of the cost and the specialized nature of youth sports these days, there will probably not be another two-sport star like Bo Jackson or Deion Sanders.
“If a kid were to go and play basketball or football, and then go to baseball, he's already behind,” MLB scout Mike Garcia said. “And that's the toughest part on these kids.
“If they develop, and this is what they want to do and that's who they want to be, then go right at it. You got four years of high school to go right at it.”
Fielder recalled playing against Jackson and how special he was.
“That was the only dude that I could hear grunting coming to first base. Don't stick your arm out there, because you're going to be out for a while. Bo Jackson was an incredible dude, we'll never see another one like him.”
According to Fielder, the television coverage will be expanded next year to not only the 18U teams, but the younger divisions as well.
Tournament play starts at 10:30 p.m. today at the Ray Kroc Baseball Complex.