Many have long argued that college athletes deserved to be paid outright (as opposed to just given scholarships) for their efforts on the field. Now it appears as if more Major League Baseball teams are willing to take the unorthodox position of paying players to go to college but stay off the field.
As reported by Terre Haute, Indiana CBS affiliate WTHI-10, during the New York Mets' contract negotiations with teenage draft pick A.J. Reed -- a former Terre Haute (Ind.) South baseball star -- the team offered to pay for Reed's college education while also offering him a professional contract. All he would have to do to fulfill his Mets obligations would be to play minor league baseball in the minor leagues during the summer and attend school the rest of the year.
Reed turned the final contract offer down to attend -- and play baseball for -- the University of Kentucky, but the Mets' approach may actually be developing into a rather standard negotiating tactic for teams which are convinced that a draft pick is determined to attend college.
While college football stars have long played and been paid for summer baseball (former University of Texas superstars Ricky Williams and Cedric Benson both had such minor league arrangements, to mention just two), the idea of paying for a prospects college education while hoping to get something from him afterward is still gaining traction.
To Prep Rally's knowledge, the most notable turning point in that evolution may have come when the Washington Nationals signed Massachusetts pitching prospect Jack McGeary, in 2007. Having selected the consensus first round pick in the sixth round after other teams backed off because of McGeary's commitment to Stanford, the Nats struck a deal with the star to let him attend school during the fall and winter trimesters, and then play baseball in the spring and summer.
The arrangement worked out for McGeary, pictured above, who graduated from Stanford after the school's 2011 winter term and is now working his way through the Nats system minor league system full time. Still, the pitcher -- who underwent Tommy John surgery in summer 2010 -- also sounded a word of warning to other prospects who might be tempted by such a unique deal in an interview with the Washington Post.
"Mentally, you want to be able to put everything into here. This is your job. It's just hard mentally. You're tired and you just want to relax a little bit. I'd say that was the hardest part. At the end of the day, you don't want to have to go back and write a paper on Socrates."
Given McGeary's prolific talent for both pitching and academics -- he graduated with a 3.5 GPA from one of the nation's most challenging high schools before majoring in Classics at Stanford -- perhaps Reed made the right choice to go all-in with college at the first chance.
Of course, that hardly means that the Mets and other teams won't try talking another teen into taking the same deal some time soon.
- Major League Baseball teams