For most high school baseball players, the game they grew up enjoying is in the final inning.
Graduation and the Major League Draft separate the best of the bunch. Not many will get the chance to continue. On average, only one in 200 high school seniors will get the call on draft day.
In Florida, the chances are brighter.
"I think it's a good year in Florida," said R.J. Harrison, who is the Tampa Bay Rays' scouting director. "We are encouraged by the group of kids from Florida this year. We've spent a lot of time scouting in Florida. It's one of the areas in the country that is up or is at least up to the expectation."
Jesuit's Lance McCullers, Jr., the nation's Gatorade Player of the Year, is the only player from Tampa Bay who will be selected in the first round. That's about the norm.
So what's pushing the Bay area youth to play this game year round, some on multiple teams.
Is it the parents?
"Like every other parent when he started out with Little League, we encouraged him to do that," said Kim Valdes, an Alonso High parent. "After his first season with Little League he fell in love with it and never looked back."
"You see parents a little over the top," said Richard Martin, a Bloomingdale High parent. "You want to tell them no, just let them like naturally. Some do, and I've found that the ones that are pushed they just don't play it at all."
Not many of the kids that want to continue through college get the chance; roughly only six percent are offered scholarships.
"I want to play some college ball, get used to the college life," said Riverview High's Justin Rose. "We'll see what happens when it comes to the draft. I'm just trying to play the game that I love as long as I can and what happens happens."
"I think kids know about it," said Bloomingdale High's Richie Martin. "You can't let percentages or stats get into your mind because you can do anything you put your mind to."
Among the Bay area all-stars, only about a dozen will get drafted. Increasing the odds to make it to the majors doesn't mean playing more. Playing less and participating in other sports is what the Rays front office looks for.
"First of all, I think young kids should play other sports," said Harrison. "To me there is a burnout factor. The thing is when you are playing year round, that means someone is pitching year round. That's not good for developing young kids in my opinion."
So the Rays advice: Have fun, enjoy the game now, because the odds are it's not going to last forever.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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