The Grandstand: Baseball and the importance of education

There's a lot of buzz right now about Bryce Harper, who Sports Illustrated just called baseball's version of LeBron James. Most of the hype isn't just based on his talent, but also about him possibly entering the MLB draft next year without graduating high school. He and his parents have said that he wants to get his GED and enroll in a community college in the fall so he can be drafted in two years early in 2010.

Of course, this brings up a big debate and a lot of questions. Should he be able to do this? Is this right? Should he finish school?

First off, education is very important to me and has always been very important to my family. An article in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday stated that there were only 26 people in the Major Leagues with a degree from a four-year college (managers and players combined). I am proud to say I am one of those 26. I feel that there is always a need of having achieved a high level of education in order to accomplish certain important things in your life. With that being said, there are certain things that can also be accomplished without higher levels of education. When it comes to sports I feel that certain people have the ability and talent to compete at much higher levels than where they are now. You see it in golf, tennis, and even basketball just to name a few. You even see it in baseball outside of the United States. Kids at the age of 16 can be signed from other countries such as in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. When it comes to the United States, the rules state he must be at least 16 and have completed high school.

A lot of people will say Harper needs at least his high school diploma so if this doesn't work he can fall back on his education. That's very true. I feel that a high school education is important, but what can a person really get done in today's society with just a high school diploma? My foundation deals with trying to show kids the importance of school and studying what you love, and taking it to its as far as you can. If you want to work in music, for example, then attend a performing arts high school, graduate and look to pursue your education in college to become a producer. That is one way of doing it but it isn't the only way.

I have a lot of friends who haven't graduated college and have great careers, and honestly the high school diploma didn't help them get to where they are today. For some people school is a must and, for others, school really isn't that important. Bryce Harper has said he is bored with where he is today in his life. When kids who are seen as brain prodigies say this, we push them ahead a grade or two and then we get the 9-10 year-old kids who are graduating college.

With baseball, this is a very similar situation. This kid has proven that he can dominate his current level of talent. Why shouldn't he be allowed to take his ability to the next level as long as he meets all of the requirements?

Scouts are saying he is good, magazines are giving him covers, and he has the chance to make himself and his family a lot of money in the process. My mom told me when I was drafted by the Tigers in 2002, that "we [mom and dad] sent you to school so you can get and education and provide for yourself as you get older. Baseball is giving you the chance to do that right now and we know you will get your education." After hearing that, I decided to sign — but I still was able to get my degree from the University of Illinois-Chicago. Bryce Harper, if everything goes according to plan, will have his GED, a year of college, and possibly be drafted in the first round, which would basically assure him of making a million dollars. If he never makes it past Double-A baseball in his career, would finishing those final two years of high school had done him any better?

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While I'm speaking of my foundation and education, today we announced my next fundraiser. On July 23, I will be hosting a wine tasting and bachelor auction in Birmingham, Mich. The tasting will feature over 300 wines from around the world. The bachelor auction will include myself, Edwin Jackson(notes) and Ryan Perry(notes). The highest bidder for each bachelor gets a private dinner with us. All the while, we will be raising money for Michigan's inner-city schools. You can buy tickets at I hope to see a lot of you there.

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Curtis Granderson plays center field for the Detroit Tigers and his blog will appear regularly on Yahoo! Sports' Big League Stew during the 2009 season. Make sure to check out and support his Grand Kids Foundation.

Previous Posts: Breaking up a no-no (June 8)Tip of the cap to Luke Scott(notes) (June 1) • Hanging with Hammer (May 22) • Sweet home, Chicago (May 14)The catch in Cleveland (May 11) • Impressive ballpark amenities (April 29)Handling A 10-Game Road Trip • (April 22) Cautious About Identity Theft (April 14)Season's High Hopes (April 6)

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