Fall 2014 recap

fall14Publisher Keith Madison wants us to enjoy the ride. Don’t miss his take on what every player needs.

We heard what our readers would do if they called the shots in our Fall 2014 From the Bleachers. Our 3 up, 3 down section covered what baseball’s past three commissioners have done in office.

Coaches Corner featured Top Coach Podcast‘s Jack Warren.

We know that recruiting is a two-way street, and coaches from across the country chimed in on how to get recruited.

New Mexico State head coach Brian Green was the subject of an excellent Inside Interview.

Read why Eddie Comeaux thinks that Little League World Series players should be compensated, and check out Louisville Slugger’s 2015 performance bats.

The ultimate walk-off was registered towards the end of the 2014 season. Did you miss it?

Drs. Michael Ciccotti and Ben Kibler address the arm injury epidemic in Part 1 of our Arm care double feature.

Also don’t miss three resolutions we should all try, Chris Burke’s Frame by Frame breakdown of Giancarlo’s Ground Force, how to love the game more by playing it less, and the ABCA offering clinic videos to all.

Keep your internet browsers pointed this way for all the Winter 2015 articles coming soon!



Little League World Series: Why Players Should Be Compensated

"Quick Pitch" with Eddie Comeaux

“Quick Pitch” with Eddie Comeaux

In August, I tuned in to watch the talented and sporadically entertaining players in the Little League World Series (LLWS) held in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania. There were some exciting and intense moments for viewers, from an acrobatic diving catch on the warning track by Alex Barker to Pierce Jones’ three home-run game and the dominant and historic performances of star pitcher Mo’ne Davis who threw two consecutive complete game shutouts.

Just another day at the ballpark for these gifted youngsters, right? Not quite. Continue reading

NLRB Rules in Favor of Northwestern U Football Players: Implications for Other Sports and Title IX

"Quick Pitch" with Eddie Comeaux

“Quick Pitch” with Eddie Comeaux

The recent surprise ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found that Northwestern University scholarship football players were employees of the university and had the right to form a labor union and to bargain collectively. As part of its supporting evidence for its ruling, the NLRB highlighted the amount of time athletes spend on sport-related activities and the incredible control and power that coaches have over scholarship athletes. The decision comes after several decades of pressures from advocates of college athletes for comprehensive reform of the NCAA’s amateur model.

Donald Remy, NCAA’s Chief Legal Officer, issued the following statement on the ruling: “While not a party to the proceeding, the NCAA is disappointed that the NLRB Region 13 determined the Northwestern football team may vote to be considered university employees. We strongly disagree with the notion that student-athletes are employees.”

Of course, the NCAA objected to the NLRB ruling considering it has spent several decades defending and propagating its self-serving amateurism principles. Continue reading

Less Violent Sports Aren’t Exempt: Evidence of Brain Trauma Disease CTE Found in Baseball

"Quick Pitch" with Eddie Comeaux

“Quick Pitch” with Eddie Comeaux

Over the past few decades, sport-related brain injuries have been generally linked to violent collision sports like football, field hockey, and boxing. But surprisingly, the risk for brain injuries is not limited to your typical contact sports. Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine recently found evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in former Major League Baseball player, Ryan Freel.

According to medical experts, CTE are most commonly found in individuals with a history of repetitive brain trauma or concussions caused either by a direct or indirect blow to the head or elsewhere on the body that is transmitted to the head.

Freel reported that he suffered at least 10 concussive injuries as a MLB player.
In CTE, abnormal proteins called tau accumulate in the brain that can lead, over time, to such symptoms as impaired memory and judgment, reduced motor function, confusion, depression, aggression, and suicidal behavior. Continue reading

Reclaiming the Game and Redirecting our Youth: Toward a Zero-Tolerance Policy on PEDs in MLB

"Quick Pitch" with Eddie Comeaux

“Quick Pitch” with Eddie Comeaux

Maybe it’s time to adopt a zero-tolerance policy on performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) and to implement more thorough drug testing procedures in Major League Baseball.

Just concede that players are willing to take shortcuts to gain an athletic advantage that will set them apart from their competition although it may risk their health and their athletic careers. After all, the use of PEDs can push a player over the tipping point. That is, PEDs can be the difference between: a lackluster minor league career and a serviceable major league career; 25 and 50 homeruns; a promising or respectable player and a perennial all-star; and a $2 million player and a $10 million player with endorsements.

Ask Ryan Braun, Melky Cabrera, and Nelson Cruz about the benefits of PEDs.

After a recent MLB investigation into the Biogenesis of America scandal, it was determined that the aforementioned MLB players and several others used PEDs. They are serving 50-game suspensions at the very least for violating the league’s drug policy.

PEDs in Major League Baseball have been a topic of ongoing public discussion for decades now. Some of the league’s most glorified players have been implicated in PED use, including Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa. In 2007, the Mitchell Commission Report named 89 MLB players who allegedly used steroids and other PEDs.

These players have been part of a league-wide culture of rampant PED use, as MLB officials have turned a blind eye to the pink elephant in the room.

In fact, as a former player, I have even witnessed minor league coaches who used PEDs apparently to simply show off their chiseled physiques while relaying hand signs to batters and base-runners as third base coach.

Physical strength matters in coaching, right? OK- I’m getting off topic.

Beyond the proverbial dark cloud hanging over MLB, what messages are we sending America’s youth?

Studies have shown disturbing trends in PED use among teens. Roughly 6 percent of middle school athletes admitted to using PEDs, according to a 2012 University of Minnesota study. In a survey by Digital Citizens Alliance, over three-fourths of U.S. males between the ages of 14 and 25 reported that PED use in professional sports puts pressure on young athletes to use drugs as well.

Parents are even condoning PED use by their children in order to gain a competitive edge, which is a form of child abuse in itself. In a report by Amy Shipley of the Sun Sentinel, she found that many parents of South Florida high school athletes support their children’s use of PEDs.

Other studies reveal that college athletes often develop an ego identity based on how they perform in their sport. And their perceptions of intercollegiate athletics significantly affect their opinions about whether or not the use of PEDs is acceptable. In interviews with 20 athletes, coaches, and trainers, it was reported that college athletes were more likely to use PEDs if they believed the drug would help them to win or gain a competitive edge.

Moving forward, what should Major League Baseball do?

It would prudent for Major League Baseball and the players union to move with all deliberate speed to institute a zero-tolerance PED policy and comprehensive drug testing procedures that minimizes loopholes in order to reclaim the game, to change the culture, and to offer a serious counter-narrative to our youth that safety and integrity matter.

Let’s eliminate the temporary player suspensions for drug policy violations because the risk currently is well worth the reward. Forget the three strikes rule. Players testing positive for PEDs should be banned from the game for life.

No ifs, ands or buts!

Dr. Eddie Comeaux received his B.A. at Cal-Berkeley, where he also played baseball. In 1994, he was drafted by the Texas Rangers and spent four years playing professional baseball.

Dr. Comeaux is currently an Assistant Professor of Higher Education in the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Riverside, where his research interests include student engagement, intercollegiate athletics, and diversity competence and leadership in defined social systems.

Dr. Comeaux can be reached at eddie.comeaux@ucr.edu

MLB Model for Draft Eligibility: What Can NCAA, NBA, & NBPA Learn?

"Quick Pitch" with Eddie Comeaux

“Quick Pitch” with Eddie Comeaux

In April, I convened and moderated a panel discussion on the changing NCAA policy landscape and college athletes’ rights during the American Educational Research Association’s Annual Meeting in San Francisco.  We actively engaged in a number of hot button topics including additional compensation and medical benefits for athletes, one-year renewal versus multi-year athletic scholarships, O’Bannon Class Action Complaint, and brain trauma in college football. This exchange of ideas ultimately led us to consider additional research and advocacy work to improve the well-being (e.g., academic, legal, and financial) of college student-athletes.

An area that we appeared to gloss over although it has received considerable public attention in recent years is the ardent debate over draft eligibility of college basketball players. Currently, for players who are not considered “international players,” the NBA requires a one-year wait after high school and likewise incoming players must be at least 19 years of age during the calendar year of the draft.

Meanwhile, many stakeholders in the affairs college athletics have echoed the need for the NBA to adopt the MLB draft rule that allows high school graduates either to enter the draft or commit to a four-year college where they are not draft eligible for three years or until age 21.

With increased deregulatory measures in recent years, there is no better time than now to consider alternative rules for NBA draft eligibility. And the fact that NCAA President Mark Emmert publicly expressed his interest in the MLB draft rule for college basketball only reinforces the need for change.

The current NBA draft eligibility policy does absolutely nothing to improve the discouraging graduation rates of Division I men’s basketball players, which is another agonizing reminder why change must come swiftly.

Roughly 20 percent of current players in the NBA have a college degree.

The NBA draft eligibility policy is indeed a business decision, and as such it does not complement the academic obligations and goals of student-athletes generally.

In light of the current draft eligibility policy for college baseball players, the proposal below outlines in broad strokes an alternative policy for the NBA to close the ever widening gap between athletics and education.

  • Communication between the NCAA, NBA, and NBPA. The first step in any improvement of the NBA draft process would require meaningful communication from three entities: NCAA, NBA, and NBPA.
  • Allow high school graduates to enter the NBA draft. High school players should be eligible to enter the NBA draft only after graduation, and if they have not attended college.
  • Change draft eligible requirements to 4years.  Once high school graduates have committed to a four-year college or university, they are not draft eligible for four years. According to the NCAA’s recent graduation rates report for the entering class of 2005-06, there is a slight difference between Division I men’s basketball and baseball student-athletes, 74.1% and 75.1%, respectively.  Men’s basketball and baseball have the worst graduation rates as compared to other team sports. Both team sports can certainly benefit from 4-years in college to increase the likelihood of degree attainment.
  • Degree completion program.  The NCAA, NBA, and NBPA should develop and implement a player development program to assist drafted athletes with college degree completion. The NBA team would be responsible for the athlete’s remaining college tuition and fees.
  • Longitudinal assessment and evaluation of the draft eligibility policy. An important step in any effective policy initiative is the implementation of a comprehensive assessment and evaluation tool. In doing so, stakeholders can identify strengths and problem areas as well as increase their own and others’ awareness about the draft eligibility policy.

Let’s hope that changes to the current NBA draft eligibility policy can become a reality in the near future. It is in the best interest of the student-athlete and all three entities involved that a sensible dialogue begins through the lens of the MLB draft model.

Dr. Eddie Comeaux received his B.A. at Cal-Berkeley, where he also played baseball. In 1994, he was drafted by the Texas Rangers and spent four years playing professional baseball.

Dr. Comeaux is currently an Assistant Professor of Higher Education in the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Riverside, where his research interests include student engagement, intercollegiate athletics, and diversity competence and leadership in defined social systems.

Dr. Comeaux can be reached at eddie.comeaux@ucr.edu

Continuing Education of Pro Baseball Players: A (College) Degree of Difficulty

"Quick Pitch" with Eddie Comeaux

“Quick Pitch” with Eddie Comeaux

Major and Minor League Baseball spring training has arrived. And players reported to their affiliates located in either Arizona or Florida after spending the off-season in myriad ways. Some players tried their hand at a new hobby, traveled unchartered territories, played winter baseball games, or engaged in unprecedented rounds of golf while others worked odd jobs, rested and rehabbed nagging injuries, or added muscle to a fragile physique.

What is all too often missing during the winter months is a return to the classroom.

According to a FOXSports.com survey of MLB teams, of the players that appeared in at least one game during the 2012 season, only 4.3 percent of players earned a four-year college degree. Further, in a study of professional baseball players, Knott (2010) reported that college graduation rates for MLB players is considerably less than their counterparts in the National Football League, National Basketball Association, and National Hockey League. Continue reading