Even some of baseball’s elite minds have a divide about if it’s better to specialize or play multiple sports.
Former first-round picks and Mets managers Bobby Valentine and Jerry Manuel along with 14-year major leaguer Eric Karros held a discussion before the National Youth Baseball Championships with Steel Sports Academy at Yaphank’s Baseball Heaven on Friday morning in front of an audience of youth players, coaches and parents.
Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda also was presented with a wall collection in the complex’s café in his honor.
The distinguished panelists discussed how they began playing baseball, their role models, how the trio coach youth baseball now and the changing game.
On the topic of baseball specialization, both Valentine and Karros recall hearing college coaches preach about targeting multi-sport athletes. But when it came to signing kids out of high school, the coaches often went with baseball-specific players.
“There’s one thing you might want but the reality of the situation is that we are specializing,” said Valentine, who managed in MLB for 16 years including 1996-2002 with the Mets. “And it is what it is.”
Valentine, a three-sport standout in high school, said he thinks youth players would benefit from playing multiple sports. Karros echoed those thoughts saying it’s better to play multiple sports.
“Ideally that would be what I would suggest nowadays,” said Karros, who hit 284 career home runs and won the 1992 Rookie of the Year. “But it just doesn’t happen anymore.”
Manuel said he’s “not a fan” of year-round baseball, referencing how it takes a toll on pitchers that could lead to injury.
Karros, Valentine and Manuel help coach and run youth baseball organizations. They see the changes in specialization compared with when they played.
“I don’t think that it’s less popular, I just think it’s become more specialized,” Manuel said, “and with that being said, I think you are going to lose people here and there. But I think you are going to get a better game in the long run if you have better people teaching.”
For Lasorda, he loves interacting with youth players and teaching about lessons on and off the baseball diamond. He harps on respect in all facets of life – something he’d like to see more of from today’s youth.
After presented with his honorary collection, which includes baseball cards, videos, pictures, jerseys and clippings from championships, Lasorda was thinking about what it means for others seeing it at the Baseball Heaven complex.
“When you get something like this, it’s not just for a month or two months, it’s forever,” said Lasorda, a 1997 Hall of Fame inductee after a 21-year managerial career that included two championships. “And I’m so proud of it and happy that I can do something for somebody else and I want a lot of youngsters to look at it and try to learn something from it and that would be very, very good for me.”