In 1998, for my Master’s Thesis at San Diego State University, I chose to study the “Decision-Making Factors Governing High School Players’ Choice of a College or Professional Baseball Opportunity.” I wanted to know what factors were most important to high school seniors who were drafted and had to choose between signing or going to school as I had known many players who regretted their choices years after they made them. I revisit my research and discuss my findings with friends and colleagues each year as the First Year Player Draft draws near. Last month, as the Draft was taking place, I decided I would post my entire thesis in an effort to learn more from coaches, parents, and players who have recently been involved in this decision. I’ll be posting a new chapter every few days and will also include pages and pages of subject answers to open-ended questions, which are very interesting and shed lots of light on this process. I’m going to leave out the statistics, surveys, tables, and most appendices, but if you’d like a full electronic copy of my thesis, please just email me and I’ll be happy to send to you.
Warning…a few of these sections can be a bit dry, to say the least, but most of the reading is interesting stuff and I would be glad to discuss my past and current thoughts on the draft process either on the blog or offline. And please keep in mind that these data are 12-13 years old, so some of the dollar amounts need to be taken in context. I would encourage anyone and everyone who would like to offer feedback and stories so we can all learn more from each other. Chapter VI offers my conclusions, summary and recommendations for future research and applications.
Click Here for Chapter I, Introduction
Click Here for Chapter II, Review of Literature
Click Here for Chapter III, Methodology
Click Here for Chapter IV, Survey Results
Click Here for Chapter V, Discussion
I. Twenty-one factors were determined to be reliable and valid when considering a college or professional baseball career.
II. Twelve of those factors were similarly considered by college and professional players. Those factors were:
1. The signing bonus offered to the player.
2. Whether or not he told scouts he would be easy to sign.
3. Whether or not he told scouts he would be hard to sign.
4. Whether or not he told scouts he planned to attend college.
5. His high school grade point average.
6. His SAT scores.
7. His ACT scores.
8. Whether or not he plans on earning a degree.
9. The amount of influence his parents had on his decision.
10. The amount of influence college social opportunities had on his decision.
11. Whether or not he had a family member who played college or professional baseball.
12. Whether or not he wanted to play in a College World Series.
III. Nine factors discriminated between players who chose to play college baseball and those who chose to play professional baseball. Those factors were:
1. The round the player was drafted.
2. The round he expected to be drafted.
3. Whether or not his contract included money for college.
4. The differences between his contract demands and the organization’s offers.
5. Whether or not he was offered a scholarship, full or partial.
6. The highest level of education achieved by either of his parents.
7. The amount of influence college locations had on his decision.
8. Whether or not he wanted to play for Team USA.
9. Whether or not he wanted to play for a reputable school or coach.
IV. Three supplemental factors were discovered from inclusionary open-ended responses. These factors were not subjected to statistical analysis. The factors were:
- Opportunities to mature physically and mentally.
- Opportunities to pitch and play a field position.
- Risk of injuries.
Factors that might be influential in the decision-making process of high school athletes of choosing between a college and professional baseball career were located. Two survey forms, one for those who elected to play college baseball and the other for professional baseball players, were constructed. Initial forms of the surveys were content validated by college coaches and professional scouts. Reliability of the college player assessment tool was assessed on a college player subsample (N = 16). A final item pool comprised the actual surveys. A chi-square analysis was performed to locate item differences or similarities between a sample of college players (N = 36) and professional players (N = 32). Nine factors differentiated the two groups. Open-ended responses also provided supplementary explanations for the phenomena associated with the decision of where to play post-high school baseball.
Recommendations for Future Research
A multivariate analysis (stepwise multiple discriminant analysis) was not performed due to losses in sample size. This resulted from cases being removed from consideration when one “Not applicable” response was given. No attempt was made to explain why players chose the items they did not answer. It was decided to examine differences on a univariate level, but the complexity of the topic deserves a multivariate assessment that takes all variables into account. In future studies an attempt to use multivariate as opposed to univariate analyses should be vigorously followed.
The study was limited to an assumption that a reliability analysis on a small sample of college players was generalizable to a similar survey for professional players. Someone with greater access to players and more resources may be able to assess reliabiliby for both tools rather than rely on this assumption. It would provide a more robust measure of reliability.
This study was restricted to feasibility and using convenient samples. Future studies might consider replicating the total study to show whether the survey instruments yield similar validity and reliability estimates and whether factors remain as being common or discriminating when comparing similar sample groups. Structuring samples to be representative of the general baseball populations and introducing more independent variables to survey tools (ie. Ethnicity; income) should also be considered.
It may be necessary to reconsider the items that were eliminated in both the validity and reliability steps of survey development. These items appeared to have reasonable face validity. It is possible that the items might be retained in future studies with item and/or response rewording or restructuring.
Future survey instruments may include current established tests concerned with social influences, educational abilities, and educational environment influences. If such items are found and included, they should be resubjected to validity and reliability assessments.
An interesting direction to take with these data would be to conduct a longitudinal study that measured differences in attitudes at different points in players’ careers in both settings. A large sample of high school players could be surveyed to determine initial attitudes toward a playing choice. They could be followed and surveyed again after the draft and after each year of their careers to see if and when their attitudes changed about their decisions. It would be interesting to examine this decision among junior college players who must decide whether to go to four-year schools or to sign professional contracts, and among juniors in college who must decide whether or not to return for their senior seasons when also drafted.
Recommendations for Practical Use
The factors located as being different between the groups offer important information to college coaches and professional organizations. College coaches would be well served to emphasize the opportunities for physical and mental growth offered in their environments. They should stress the social and competitive opportunities that college baseball affords its players. Finally, they should make clear the opportunity to complete a degree while playing their sport.
Professional organizations need to be aware that many of their players are interested in pursuing and earning college degrees and should offer them assistance in this matter as a standard part of any initial contract. This is especially true in cases in which teams include the promise of money for college with their bonus offers.
This thesis was the first formal investigation that examined this decision. It could serve as a foundation upon which more research on the topic could be based. It is this investigator’s intention for a senior class high school baseball player to consider in depth each selection factor reported here and to ask himself if there are other factors he must consider. The importance of this is not necessarily to use these factors to predict individual decisions, but to guarantee that any decisions will be based on many relevant and reliable factors. In choosing to do this, a greater number of players may produce better and more informed decisions that will subsequently lead to more satisfying chosen careers.
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Geoff Miller’s book, Intangibles: Big-League Stories and Strategies for Winning the Mental Game — in Baseball and in Life, was released in August, 2012. For more information and free sample chapters, please visit:
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