This week, Major League Baseball is conducting its annual amateur player draft. Thirty major league teams will pick the best high school and college baseball players in the country to be new players in the minor leagues.
Being picked in the MLB draft does not guarantee that the player will be a star in the big leagues. From 1988 to 1999, just more than half of the first-round picks ever made it into the major leagues. From 1991 to 2001, less than half of the high school players picked in the first round made the majors. And only half of them became regular players.
It's the same with the drafts in other sports. The Washington Wizards made Kwame Brown the first pick in the National Basketball Association draft, but he has not become a star. In 1998, the San Diego Chargers picked quarterback Ryan Leaf second in the National Football League draft, right behind Peyton Manning. Now, Leaf is out of the NFL.
So, what does this mean for kids? True, only a handful of today's kids will ever be drafted to play professional sports. But lots of kids, at younger and younger ages, have to try out for teams where a coach picks the players he or she wants and "cuts" the others. There are summer all-star baseball teams, travel soccer teams and Beltway basketball leagues. I don't think it is right to cut 8- and 9-year-old kids from a team. But it is happening more and more.
Of course, the kids who don't make the cut are disappointed. Some even stop playing because they don't think they are good enough.
Maybe those kids should think about the baseball draft. Remember, scouts and general managers who devote their professional lives to judging baseball players are wrong about the top players about half the time. So what chance does a part-time coach have at guessing which third- and fourth-graders will be the best players in high school and beyond? Not much.
It's crazy. Coaches of kids' teams are nice people, but they have no idea which kids are going to grow up to be the biggest and fastest athletes. Or who is going to get injured. Or who loves the sport so much that she will practice hour after hour. Or who might ditch sports altogether to join a rock band or the theater group at school.
So, if you get cut from a team, don't give up. If you love a sport, find another team and keep playing. Remember that the so-called experts were wrong about Kwame Brown and Ryan Leaf. Then there's the case of Mets catcher Mike Piazza. He was picked in the 62nd round of the 1988 MLB draft, after nearly 1,400 other players, and may end up in the Hall of Fame.
The coaches were wrong about Mike Piazza -- and they may be wrong about you, too.
Fred Bowen writes KidsPost's sports column and is the author of sports novels for kids.