Sunday, June 9, 2013

MLB needs to show more respect to college game

Major League baseball does a huge disservice to the college game. While most major television networks and news outlets pretend college baseball doesn’t exist, you would think MLB would put a little more stock into a sport that supplies the superstars it will rely on for years to come.

But with NCAA baseball approaching its biggest event of the year, the College World Series in Omaha, MLB acts like they are two months into the offseason already. If they cared about the sport that feeds so much talent to their 30 teams, they wouldn’t hold the draft at the same time players are preparing for the biggest moments of their life.

Look no further than the effect on Adam Plutko at UCLA. Plutko was the Game 1 starter for the Bruins in the Super Regional against Cal State Fullerton. Two wins away from the ultimate goal of reaching Omaha, and Plutko shouldered the responsibility for taking the ball in the opener.

That is nerve racking enough for a college athlete. The postseason is a time where any athlete needs to be at their mental peak. But before Plutko would take the hill, he had another added pressure weighing on him – rounds 3-10 of the MLB draft.

As the all-time winningest pitcher for a school that has had some good ones (Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer to name a few) Plutko figured to hear his named called early on. He should have been with family and friends waiting to find out where he might be playing ball next. It is a time to celebrate.

But the call didn’t come on Friday. After two rounds on Thursday night, eight more passed on Friday and Plutko wasn’t selected. And after all that, he had to refocus and pitch. He responded and tossed a gem, UCLA won. But the emotions of the day took its toll on him in the postgame interview with ESPN, where he was nearly reduced to tears (really wish ESPN had this interview posted somewhere).

He was selected in the 11th round on Saturday by the Cleveland Indians, and there is no doubt they are getting a pitcher who won’t have a problem with mental focus.

But it should have never come to that. He should have never been in that situation to begin with and Plutko is not an isolated incident. Sixteen teams took the field this weekend, playing for one of the eight spots in Omaha. All 16 had players splitting their focus between their quest for a national championship and their professional futures.

On Saturday, Major League Baseball staged 30 more rounds of the draft. At the same time, all 16 teams were either playing or preparing to. Chances are most of those players drafted never got the chance to hear their name announced. They weren’t the first to know their professional destination – in fact thousands of people found out before them.

Most will tell you they weren’t thinking about it, and they just went out and played the game.  They shouldn’t have to make that choice. In all, 84 players who were drafted this weekend were participating in NCAA Super Regional play.

It is not fair to the players, their teammates or to the game of college baseball. The professionals should act like professionals and give the kids their moment on the field so they don’t have to worry about what is going on in 30 different board rooms across the country.