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August 19, 2014

Baseball Therapy

Becoming An Adult f/x

by Russell A. Carleton


Let’s play Family Feud. Name something that you need to be able to do on your own in order to be a functioning adult. I’ll wait while you write a few things down. Here, I’ll even give you a little room

1)
2)
3)
4)
5)

Your list probably includes mundane things like being able to do your own laundry or cook your own food. Maybe it contains bigger accomplishments like living on your own or holding down a real job. Maybe it’s managing your own money. Maybe it’s being able to have a stable relationship. But whatever you put down, take a look back over your list and think about how old you were when you were able to do each of those things. I’m guessing that there are two things to note about the answers. One is that you didn’t start doing all of those things at the exact same time. The other is that it’s not likely that the answer is “exactly on my 18th birthday.” Nothing magic happens on your 18th birthday.

The transition from adolescence to adulthood is a gradual one. For example, I knew how to cook a little bit when I went to college, but it took the summer that I wasn’t on the meal plan when I was 21 for me to be able to plan out and execute actual meals. I fed myself that summer. I moved into my first apartment (in another city!) when I was 22. But I opened my first bank account when I was 18 and met my wife when I was 19. Then again, my parents were still supporting me financially (at least a little bit) until I was 25. At what age did I finally become an adult?

That range of somewhere between 18 and 25 sounds about right. It doesn’t fit for everyone, and some people might be further along in their development, but it's at least a good guideline. Now let’s take a look at Jason Parkspreseason Top 101 prospects list, also known as the players who will determine the fates of all 30 teams. Take note of the ages of those players. Oh look! Smack dab in that 18 to 25 window!

We often encounter baseball players as little blobs of pixels that run around our TV screens or as characters in video games who politely swing when we tell them but don’t do much else. The reality is that players do not go into hibernation between the hours of 10 pm and 7 pm the next day. In fact, they’re busy doing other things, including developing as human beings. Consider the youngest members of a major-league family. There are plenty of players drafted directly out of high school (20 in the first round, including supplemental picks, in the most recent draft) and plenty more signed at the age of 16 internationally. While these players most certainly have great baseball talent, they are often being sent to live in minor league cities, potentially for the first time ever on their own, and potentially in a foreign country.

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13 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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johnwood427

Great work.

Aug 19, 2014 05:41 AM
rating: 3
 
ChicagoOriole

The problem with the sleep point is that (1) it is highly variable by individual, and (2) the amount that is right on average is still a matter of some significant scientific controversy. I've seen a recent study suggesting around 7 hours is optimal, for example, and it is known that excessive sleep, just like too little sleep, leads to grogginess. (As, of course, does grog.)

Also, the teams can't 'parent' them, or at least not more than once. The whole point of making them be adults is to force accountability, not micromanage. There is no position of on the staff of a rookie league club. They need to learn to find mentors to fill in what parents did not. Make THAT express to them.

Aug 19, 2014 07:37 AM
rating: 3
 
ChicagoOriole

The position is supposed to be "Team Dad." Dang lack of a preview function or edit function.

Aug 19, 2014 07:40 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff

I'd argue that the primary goal of parenting during this time is to "launch" the kids so that they can do things on their own. Some folks have parents, either their actual parents or some other mentor, who help them through this time, but not everyone does. It's not about micro-management. It's about structuring services to meet needs.

Aug 19, 2014 08:44 AM
 
boards

Good job, Russell.

Here's something I thought about while reading this. Do teams go outside the organization? I know they likely need to control the players' influences as much as possible but each minor-league community has a ready-made potential resource: it's most avid fans. Most minor-league teams have some type of booster club, I would imagine. I live in a minor-league city and several years ago I had a neighbor that was a season ticket holder (like myself) that would "adopt" one or two players every year. All they did was have them over for dinner every so often. I don't know what they discussed or if they truly tried to mentor these players. They did build relationships and I know they kept in touch with a few after they were promoted out of town.

Granted, I wouldn't want every booster doing this (frankly, most of them seem like groupies). Is this something that teams have as part of their programs-using host families from the local area? Our city has a rather large Spanish-speaking population so that would be an added dimension in assisting these young players.

Thanks for listening.

Aug 19, 2014 07:47 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff

Teams use a lot of different resources. Teams do hire outside professionals to come give talks on specific subjects and retain consultants (nutritionists were mentioned more than once to me... no surprise there)

Many teams have their players stay with host families and form relationships that way. I don't know how much training the host families get, but that's a place where teams might look to improve. How can we make sure that these host families aren't just "groupies" and could actually have some net benefit to the team?

Aug 19, 2014 08:31 AM
 
RedsManRick

Enjoyed the presentation over the weekend, Russell, as well as the article. As somebody who's spent the first 10 years of his career in nonprofit program evaluation and who would love to work in the game eventually, your presentation stirred up a lot of interesting ideas for me, especially related to the role of developmental evaluation.

Aug 19, 2014 08:38 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff

Thanks for the kind words. We totally should have nerded out on program evaluation shop talk! Next year!

Aug 19, 2014 08:45 AM
 
buddaley

Excellent job.

Although it is suggested in your stats on things like not using condoms et al, we might also think back to the kinds of stupid things (stupid as a catchall word for everything from illegal, unethical and/or vicious to foolish and/or insensitive, from things we said to things we did) any of us did at that age.

And perhaps consider whether we got away with it, and also what the effect might have been had our "indiscretion" been broadcast to millions of people.

It is not a question of excusing bad behavior, but of recognizing that we often need time to grow out of it.

Aug 19, 2014 09:46 AM
rating: 3
 
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff

Yeah, that's the other piece of it. There wasn't a beat reporter following me around when I was 19.

Aug 19, 2014 09:54 AM
 
nyyfaninlaaland

Good stuff, and likely a particular issue for kids in Caribbean programs. These kids get signed as young as 16, have an enormous range of further issues to deal with - nutrition, and PEDs are a much larger issue here for example looking at the skew of minor league suspensions - and have to learn a language, etc. I know many clubs have detailed programs in their complexes.

I always thought applying the same Rule 5 draft eligibility to Caribbean prospects as US draftees (while not counting DSL / VSL seasons as minors service time) was simply unfair to the clubs and / or players given the longer development lead time and added hurdles. Of course the players' interests could diverge - there should also be limits on how many seasons in these leagues go uncounted towards minors FA status.

But this is a separate issue - not trying to hijack the thread.

Aug 19, 2014 12:16 PM
rating: 0
 
Adrian

Good stuff, Russell. At work I've been exploring network/nodal analysis, using various centrality measures and examining things from a system/flow/connections perspective. Sounds like this is similar to some of what you're proposing in this article.

Aug 19, 2014 15:26 PM
rating: 1
 
Tarakas

Universities face much the same problem with 18-25 year olds and are increasingly devoting resources to it.

Aug 19, 2014 15:56 PM
rating: 2
 
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