Keown: Andrew McCutchen in the country of baseball

From Tim Keown at The Undefeated on June 28, 2016:

Local baseball, town baseball, rec baseball – all have become pejoratives, ways for kids and parents to draw a distinction between those who are committed to the sport and those who are not. Over the past 20 years, youth baseball in America has become an endless flow of kids with $300 bats slung into $100 bat bags carrying $100 shoes walking into weekend tournaments that charge roughly $100 a kid to play and $10 a head to watch. They line up to get their bags inspected at the gate – only water is permissible inside many complexes – by teenagers operating with the same laconic sense of duty as TSA agents. “Has it gotten worse since I was in it?” Andrew McCutchen asked. “I’m sure. Look at the world we live in. The world has changed, so of course that’s going to change with it.” As youth baseball has taken on the look and feel of a corporate outing for pre-adolescents, the percentage of African-Americans in Major League Baseball has decreased 70 percent since 1981.

“We have created such a disastrous youth baseball climate,” said Chris Sperry, who spent 18 years as head coach at the University of Portland. “I regret it so much. We’re stuck with this until everybody gets united and says we’re tired of people making money on this deal and not getting anything out of it from a baseball standpoint.”

Jared Horn, a right-handed pitcher from Napa, California, was projected to be drafted in the top two rounds of the June draft until his “number” – the bonus the family set to buy him out of his commitment to Cal Berkeley – was deemed to be higher than big-league teams were comfortable paying. Horn is an outlier; he played summer baseball with his friends on a local American Legion team that traveled to a handful of regional tournaments. He was a three-year starter as quarterback of his Vintage High football team. He throws 97 but never attended a showcase. A recent Baseball America story on Horn, his emergence was portrayed like a unicorn sighting. He’s never even had his own private pitching coach. It’s as if Horn is either Lewis, Clark or Amish.

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Originally published: June 29, 2016. Last Updated: June 29, 2016.