SOUTH HILLS – Pitchers and catchers report today in Bradenton, Fla. and the full squad is due in on Feb. 24th, though a number of players have already arrived in camp. Each year, when the Pirates’ full squad migrates to the Gulf coast, Clint Hurdle calls a team meeting.
Last year the message was about battling complacency, with Hurdle having a highlight video made that interwove the Sid Bream slide with the drought-ending, postseason clinching play at Wrigley Field in 2013, when Russell Martin hung on to the ball, raised it triumphantly above his head, and Nate Schierholtz was called out at home plate.
The iconic image of the Russell Martin Era
The video was to be the last time the Pirates basked in 2013 successes. But perhaps the most important such tone-setting team meeting, that led to that success, was called a year earlier, in February 2013, when Hurdle introduced quantitative analysts Dan Fox and Mike Fitzgerald, before the Pirates players and coaches in the Pirate City cafeteria. Hurdle asked that they be respected, trusted and listened to as valuable resources. Continue reading The communication gap
SOUTH HILLS – In his first weeks on the job, new baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has outlined a number of problem areas he would like to attack. But the most important one, I believe, is getting more young people — and a more diverse collection of young people — participating in baseball.
Perhaps baseball’s biggest problem is a socioeconomic one. Baseball, domestically, is turning into an upper-middle class game. The costs of travel teams, equipment, private instruction and showcase participation prices many families and athletes out of the sport. It’s an issue the industry is acutely aware of.
The financial gate to entry appears at the youth level and only becomes more restrictive at the college level. Unlike college football or basketball, the main feeder systems for the NFL and NBA, college baseball does not enjoy full scholarships. Instead, 11.7 scholarships are divided among a roster of 30 players. Partly as a result, college baseball is one of the least diverse sports in the country. The sport was 85.3 percent white in 2012. Continue reading Monday Mop-Up Duty: Baseball’s talent pool problem and what to do about it