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Play Ball! A mind-shift in how we approach competitive sports with our kids

An interview with Larry Hardy.

Competitive sports (not just baseball) are a part of growing up in this part of the country. But what is the goal? Are we teaching our kids about teamwork, sportsmanship and a love of the game? Or are we in it to get our kids college scholarships and ultimately, signed to the big leagues? Larry Hardy is a former Major League Baseball (MLB) Pitcher, Ranger coach and local 76262 resident. He’s spent his entire career in baseball and continues to work for MLB observing the umpires. When Larry began his career he pitched for the San Diego Padres and the Houston Astros in the early 1970s and has seen a lot of changes over the years when it comes to baseball. As a professional MLB pitcher and coach, Larry knows just how fortunate he was to play at the big league level.

“I was lucky enough to get into the big leagues but not good enough to stay. It’s a very, very difficult profession to be in as far as being at the top.”

So what does it take for a kid to work their way up to the top in the first place? Some parents and coaches will tell you it takes time, effort and skill. Unfortunately, they fail to mention a whole lot of luck. Even if your child just happens to be a really excellent player, there’s no amount of money, championships or select teams that will guarantee your athlete is going to make it to the professional level.

Larry shared this eye-opening statistic, “Since the inception of professional baseball over 150 years ago, there have only been 20,000 to play Major League Baseball. On any given day during the MLB season, there are only 750 players worldwide. That’s a very elite and small group of people.” During a school year, a Division1 school only has a total of 11.7 baseball scholarships to give at any time. For example; if Johnny earns a scholarship for all four years, then the school only has 10.7 scholarships to give the next four years.

It’s a sobering idea to realize there’s a very slim chance that even the so-called best players never get an opportunity to play baseball professionally. So Larry brings up a very good question, “Why are we trying so hard to groom these kids for such a goal? Is it the kid’s goal?”

Maybe it’s time we shift the narrative from relying on that “slim chance” to just letting the kids play. When was the last time you noticed kids in the neighborhood playing a game of baseball, basketball or soccer just to play? When did we begin hyper- analyzing players’ stats as opposed to encouraging kids to work together and fostering a sense of accomplishment?

“I just wish that parents would understand how difficult the odds are of somebody getting beyond the high school level, much less to the MLB,” says Larry. “Yes, all players dream of making it to the big leagues, but make it less about the stats, the wristbands and make your time on the field more about the love of playing the game.”
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