Area Scouting, the Home Visit and the Phillies/Wetzler Affair

It was only a matter of time. The team turned out to the Phillies, but it could have been anyone, and the player turned to be Oregon State LHP Ben Wetzler, though it too could have been anyone. The disconnect between the NCAA rules and the reality governing the mating ritual between major league clubs and amateur prospects ensured that it would eventually come to this, with a player’s eligibility being compromised for doing what the vast majority of players in his position have done without incident, in the simple course of doing business.

Depending on one’s home base, an area scout can basically set his calendar a year in advance. I was based in the Northeast in my area scouting days, so we’ll use my calendar as a frame of reference. Just days after the annual Rule 4 draft, an initial follow list of top prospects for the next year’s draft is filed. Throughout the summer, while mixing in high school prospect showcases, college summer wood bat league games, coverage of minor league teams and tryout camps, you begin to visit the homes of the top prospects in your area, starting the process of getting to know the prospect and his family. Once school resumes, college scout day workouts begin, while the home visits with prospects continue. In the winter, it’s too cold to play, but you attend some indoor player workouts, while the home visits go on.

Once the spring season begins, a cold-weather scout will often head south to watch their snow-birding college prospects, but once the weather warms, you head back north to watch the prospects play, and to continue to meet with prospects and their families, following up with the kids who have been prospects all along, and getting to know the ones who are just beginning to make their mark.

In these visits, medical information may be collected, the prospects may be given psychological and vision tests, but by and large, there is conversation. Conversation about professional baseball, the lifestyle, the minor leagues, the spring training facility, you name it. Over time you learn what makes each player tick, get a feel for who the ultimate decision-maker in the family is, and try to develop the relationship to the point that a level of trust is in place for when the important, financially-based questions begin to be asked late in the spring prior to the draft.

Suffice it to stay, this relationship-building process is a very significant component of an area scout’s job, both in terms of importance and quantity of time spent. Why is so much time spent in this regard? To avoid exactly what happened in the Phillies/Ben Wetzler situation.

Put yourself in the shoes of a high school or college prospect or of their mother or father. The player has always been the star of the team, the first one picked, and has on many occasions been pursued diligently by third parties long before the area scout walked in the door. The traveling teams, the colleges, the agents/advisors in some cases, have all come calling. The player and his family, quite likely, have little sense as to where the player’s talent fits in within the context of the entire country, and unless their last name is Upton, Cecchini or Frazier, likely have little idea regarding the nuances of the major league draft. The family gets one shot at it, and for the player’s sake, they have to do everything within their power to get it right.

The area scout, who at the entry level doesn’t earn much of a salary, is the club employee responsible for developing that relationship, being the human embodiment of his major league franchise to the player and his family, and their resource for guidance throughout the draft process. The objective is not necessarily to improve the player’s chances of signing with the area scout’s club – in fact, that possibility is out of his hands, as he could do everything right and still have a one in thirty shot of getting an opportunity to sign the player, with the trigger being pulled several layers of responsibility above him. More than anything, the area scout’s responsibility to eliminate the grey area – black or white are both fine.

If at the end of the process, a high school prospect has been educated regarding the realities of the draft and pro baseball, and the inherent differences between the pro and college experiences – for better and for worse – and makes a clear decision prior to the draft, this benefits the club, even is the decision is in favor of college baseball. The club in most cases will simply use their pick on someone else, and avoid the severe consequence of a wasted draft pick. Ideally, money should not be the sole or even primary driver of a player’s decision. In the real world, however, everyone has their price. This is where the whole thing gets dicey.

Every spring, a hard-working area scout doing his job appropriately will come across one or more “pop-up” prospects. Never heard of him before, got a tip, and lo and behold, kid is throwing 92 with a functional breaking ball. Right now I’m thinking of a specific high school prospect from my area a decade ago who fit that profile, and reached the big leagues last season. There are several stages that families of such prospects tend to go through: 1) Thrilled to get attention from a scout; 2) Very receptive to information about draft and pro ball, solid sum of money plus college scholarship money that doesn’t go away sounds good to them; 3) Local “expert” from their area enters picture, pumps up family’s financial expectations beyond reason, and 4) Family has to make a final call regarding their financial requirements for the draft. If all goes well, the final result is black or white, and not grey, and there are no regrets.

Problems arise when a team thinks it has a final answer regarding the player’s financial requirements, only for them to change after the player is drafted. Today, teams have an assigned draft pool, and each and every player is drafted with a specific signing amount in mind, making the entire relationship-building process more important than ever. I am not here to pass judgment upon the Philadelphia Phillies, or upon Ben Wetzler and/or his advisor. Most likely, the Phillies thought Wetzler would sign for a certain amount, and the player changed his mind. That’s his prerogative, but at the same time, the club had invested not only a valuable 5th round pick in the player, but also a great deal of time and effort in scouting and developing a relationship with the player so that the eventual result would not occur. Most clubs in this position lick their wounds and move on. At this stage, however, the Phils took the seemingly draconian step of reporting the player to the NCAA for improper use of an advisor. No matter the details of the negotiation process in this specific case, the Phillies have clearly made no friends in the agent/advisor community, and repercussions could well be felt in drafted player negotiations going forward.

The obvious elephant in the room is this – almost every player in every year’s draft has an advisor in this day and age. The top prospects not only have representatives of 30 teams traipse into their living rooms, they also have a handful of agents doing the same exact thing. Without going into great detail, if the letter of the current NCAA law was to be enforced with regard to the actual role of agents/advisors in the signing process, let’s just say that quite a few more players’ NCAA eligibility would be compromised. It only makes sense – for most players/families, this is one of the largest financial and life decisions they will ever make. Retention of a legal/financial professional’s assistance would seem to be the normal course of business, at least at the top of the draft.

Some of my fondest memories of area scouting are of the relationships developed with players and their families, and not only with the ones you were lucky enough to have drafted and eventually sign. It is a great feeling to walk into a ballpark with scouts present from all 30 clubs, and to have the prospect single you out for a personal welcome just after he finishes throwing his bullpen. It feels great to be invited to a draftee’s wedding, years after you meet him. The relationships developed often pay real baseball dividends as well.

Like the time a New York City high school catcher who played in the city championship game the day after being drafted. I watched advisors literally chase his mother around the ballpark handing her business cards. She came directly to me and said, “Come to my house tomorrow, let’s get this done”. The family had been educated regarding the draft, the rounds, the dollars, and had developed a trust in me. We got the deal done the next day.

Or the time a draft-and-follow New Jersey pitcher had a final decision to make. His car was packed for his trip to college, taking with it any chances of him signing a pro contract. I was welcomed into the home one final time, and after we talked into the wee hours of the morning, the player’s best friend gave him life advice in words that I never could have. The player signed.

Or the time another New Jersey pitcher was the first player to agree to terms in his draft year. We had determined exactly how much it would take to sign the player in advance, but just as we were ready to select him, I received a call from the player’s father. Another team had called during the draft, offering more. I responded that our money was real, that we were moments from selecting him, and called upon the trust that had been developed between us. We drafted him, and he immediately signed.

Or the time I had dinner at a chain restaurant with an outfield prospect, his mother and grandmother. After discussing terms for a period of time, and making little progress, they asked me to step out for a moment. I came back a few minutes later, and he immediately agreed to terms. Only later did I find out that the grandmother had basically read him the riot act, and he listened. God bless her.

Stories like this happen in every draft – some, unlike those referenced above, involve contact with advisors. Relationships and levels of trust are built, enabling players to embark upon their professional dream. I consider many of the players and families – and agents – with whom I have interacted friends, and maintain ongoing relationships with them. As in any professional pursuit, interpersonal relationships are the engine that makes things work.

Something broke down in the Phillies/Wetzler case. Most likely, it was simply the case of a player changing his mind, which can and has happened to every club, with the club then taking a fairly drastic, risky measure to register their displeasure. The Phillies very well may have done everything perfectly in their evaluation and eventual drafting of Wetzler, and it wasn’t enough. Moving forward, it would certainly be in all parties’ best interest to recognize that the agent/advisor has a role in the signing process, and that this role should be more realistically spelled out in the NCAA regulations. Such a development will benefit all parties, but most of all the young, aspiring athlete in need of professional guidance that is occasionally beyond the reach of his parents and immediate family members.

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61 Responses to “Area Scouting, the Home Visit and the Phillies/Wetzler Affair”

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  1. Dan J. says:

    Terrific article. I enjoyed reading about the author’s experiences.

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  2. asdf says:

    This is fantastic. I have no idea how much you’re allowed to share from your experiences, but I’m sure all of us at FG would love to see inside the system that we love to criticize so much.

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  3. trochlis318 says:

    excellent article, really enjoyed it. Although you probably won’t say becuase you would have in the article but i am curious who the player you scouted was that made the majors last year.

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  4. Roger says:

    Love reading about the scouting experience.

    As for Wetzler and the Phillies, obviously something broke down, someone changed their mind. It’s unfortunate but it happens dozens of times each year. The petty revenge though is unprofessional and inexcusable.

    It seems everyone agrees the rule needs to change, except the NCAA. Heck, the courts even ruled against the NCAA. The NCAA had the result essentially voided through an out of court settlement prior to the penalty phase so that they could continue these illegal shenanigans. I hope Wetzler has a great lawyer and the courage to stick it to them.

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  5. MrMan says:

    Great article. Yet again demonstrates how far the “blog community” has passed the mainstream media in terms of excellent journalism. You could read a thousand ESPN articles and not learn as much as you learned from this single piece.

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  6. repper says:

    Ill echo the thoughts of previous posters, I love the insight into scouts minds and to hear the stories of the often neglected, but yet most important area, of developing ball players.

    I hope to see more articles in the future from you.

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  7. That Guy says:

    This all goes away once the NCAA does away with it’s stupid rule about the players receiving agent/lawyer advice.

    Fat chance of it happening, but it would the smart, fair thing to do.

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  8. Jake Squid says:

    Another fantastic post, Tony. I look forward to many more.

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  9. CB says:

    More, please. This is great.

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  10. JP says:

    What gets glossed over in this article, with all the wonderfulness of establishing trust, is that the sole beneficiary of this is the baseball club. The club wants to sign the player for the least amount of money they can. If a player changes his mind, or an agent helps him change his mind, the team can still sign him, but it will cost them more.

    The building of trust is really meant to solidify the price, for the benefit of the club.

    The NCAA should let all players in all sports hire agents (though not receive money from them), and allow the player to come back if they don’t sign with a team. THAT is what is in the best interest of the players. But neither the NCAA nor MLB nor the MLBPA are interested in what is best for the high school/college players.

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    • tz says:

      What about allowing college athletes to sign a “letter of intent” with an adviser/agent, which becomes a binding contract IF the athlete signs a pro contract?

      I think it would be a great way to ensure that all advisers/agents cultivate trusting relationships with young players the way that area scouts have to.

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    • marechal says:

      Exactly. This was my first thought reading the article. To me, “establishing trust” is basically a way of saying “getting the player to accept the price we are willing to pay”. In a negotiation, when one side has near complete information, it is likely to have the best outcome.

      Yet another reason why the Phillies’ pettiness is inexcusable.

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    • cass says:

      This article was definitely not written from a neutral point of view, that’s for sure. It’s interesting to see the perspective of someone who’s been involved in the process, but there was a lot of spin involved and it was clearly from a team perspective.

      I found the article rather condescending of prospects and their families, actually. All the talk about their unrealistic expectations versus the team trying to pay them a fair amount.

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      • utley's knees says:

        This was a well written article but the legal question arises when we realize Wetler is over 18 and should not be allowed to back out of an agreement if that is the case. I bet the US Armed Forces would not let him off the hook. Lastly, the NCAA has a huge double standard between Baseball and Basketball/Football players.

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        • Wass says:

          There was never an agreement. Baseball is not like football and basketball where you declare for the draft, renounce your amateur status, then move on to the pros. You can get drafted whether you are ready and willing to sign or not. In this case, the player got drafted and decided he’d rather go back to school than sign a contract. Perfectly reasonable choice, but the Phillies decided that was worth retaliation.

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    • adam smith says:

      Hey JP, don’t you think Agents, and Colleges, do the exact same thing as scouts? Of course they do. Trust is the foundation for business decisions. The greater the trust, the stronger the commitement. Colleges and agents will do their best to erode the trust built up between the player and their competition…and their competition isn’t just professional baseball teams. Agents build trust so that the prospect will choose them over other agents. Colleges build trust so that the prospect will choose them over other colleges and pro ball. It’s ironic that the only person who doesn’t have a direct gain in this is the local scout. He gets paid the same regardless. The player makes money, the agent makes money, the team makes money, the university makes money. The area scout either gets a pat on the back or a kick in the ass.

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      • Groucho Karl says:

        I think it misunderstands JP’s point to think he’s chastising scouts. As it relates to this article, scouts serve a role — a generally thankless one, to be sure — of trying to get players to commit to a certain price. The notion that a player is doing bad by the organization by changing their mind — because they’re breaking off a handshake agreement with that scout — is where things get icky. It certainly does leave a scout in a bind, but the system is set up to take advantage of inexperienced athletes to the benefit of experienced organizations whose revenues line the pockets of already-wealthy individuals.

        To put a stress on “trust” in this context is absurd. No athlete should “trust” a capitalist organization that exists solely to extract as much value from him as possible; similarly he should not make decisions based upon “being honest” to that same entity, regardless of how poorly-compensated the person who recruited him is.

        Whether scouts themselves would be wise to increase their bargaining power is something of another conversation. But it’s largely distinct from the notion that players should felt obligated to an uneducated commitment they made to an offer that’s meant to take more from them than it gives. And which, for many of them, is the only payment they’ll ever get for the primary life skill they’ve spent 18-22 years building.

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        • Groucho Karl says:

          *feel obligated to

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        • adam smith says:

          Groucho said
          “To put a stress on “trust” in this context is absurd. No athlete should “trust” a capitalist organization that exists solely to extract as much value from him as possible;”

          …are you refering to baseball teams, Agents, or Schools…because they all do the same thing. Agents aren’t doing what they are doing out of kindness or concern for the welfare of an individual…they are getting paid. Colleges aren’t recruiting a player because he is a wonderful person, they are recruiting a set of fungible skills, and they pay the going rate.

          Colleges and agencies are also capitalist orginizations. They will also try to exact as much value as possible from the players. Agents make a lot of money. College coaches make a lot of money. How do you think they get that money? Off the backs of players–the same way pro teams get their money off the backs of their players.

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  11. Slacker George says:

    In instances where the same exact scenario plays out: player and team come to soft agreement, team drafts player, player reneges and goes to college instead. Does team/scout badmouth player to other teams?

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    • Iron says:

      There would be little point since when you draft and fail to sign them, everyone knows what happened. And further, if you found something bad about the kid in the process, you’d think you’d sit on that info and hope your rival drafting ahead of you picks him in four years.

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  12. Groucho Karl says:

    I realize this isn’t explicitly what you’re saying — and I do think you’re getting at your truth and the truth of many people in your position — but I’m somewhat uneasy about the lack of big-picture context here.

    You’re certainly not absolving the Phillies, but there feels to me to be some sympathy for the Phillies and the good ol’ process that is unpalatable. To be sure, local scouts (kind of like players) aren’t making bank, and I would bet that your experience was rewarding for you and kid/family alike. But the good ol’ process is a cog in the money-churning investment of a billionaire, where kids seeing this as just a nice dinner and a great opportunity is exactly what works in that investment’s favor. When they don’t think of it as hard-line negotiating with an extremely sophisticated member of a monopolistic joint venture — and instead just making a gentleman’s agreement with the nice man who is similarly poorly-compensated and asked to put a lot on the line for the “honor” to be part of this business — they get taken advantage of.

    It’s nice to have your perspective, which again is a valuable and insightful one; I thank you for it. But it is difficult to talk about this situation without the economic understanding in mind, and doing so feeds into the exact sort of romanticism that allows these organizations to pay local scouts and young kids so little. And be vindictive when they don’t get exactly what they want, relative impact of the behavior be damned.

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    • Gweg says:

      One thing I also noticed that was left out of this article was why didn’t Tony address the 6th round Philly pick who also got turned in for not signing. Seems odd they attacked two kids at the same time or maybe it was a money thing because they wanted to sign the kids for less than the actual round slot money and couldn’t get them to agree to that so they sent in the NCAA reps to go after the kids. That is what it looks like to me right now.

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  13. walt526 says:

    I’ll echo the universal praise for this article.

    My question is what happens to the individual who made the report to the NCAA, assuming it was a decision by a single area scout and not the organization. Within the industry, it’s probable that everyone with current and future hiring authority knows exactly who the likely culprit(s) is and it’s possibly a stain on his professional reputation that could very well end a career. What I don’t understand is why the Phillies haven’t identified the person and publicly denounced/terminate him. Does he enjoy some sort of whistleblower protection? I’m generally not a fan of organizations hanging someone to minimize the damage to the institutional reputation, but if this were the act of a single individual rather than something the Phillies senior management sanctioned, then it’s a justifiable action.

    My other question is how do agents ensure that they earn a commission on deals that they essentially negotiate prior to the draft? Presumably there isn’t a legally binding contract that an agent could rely on for a court to enforce, so what’s to stop a player and his family from cutting out the agent from a commission on the signing bonus? Is that just an accepted risk on the part of agents pursuing top prospects?

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    • Roger says:

      The Phillies did this not only to Wetzler, but to Jason Monda, their 6th rounder who didn’t sign, as well. That’s both of their picks that didn’t sign and were tied to the draft cap. Doesn’t sound like a single low level scout to me, but rather the sanctioned actions of senior management.

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      • walt526 says:

        But weren’t both players from the Pacific Northwest, in which case it could have been the same area scout who had the misfortune of getting burned by two different players in the same draft?

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        • Roger says:

          Yes, Oregon and Washington State, but as you said above, why would they protect him? They will lose the trust of amateur players over this as long as it appears to be a management decision. If I were a young player, I would refuse to talk numbers pre-draft with the Phillies to discourage them from drafting me and take my chances with the other 29 teams.

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        • larry says:

          “misfortune of getting burned by two different players in the same draft?”

          is just a nice way of saying didnt do his job. One of the people in this interaction is a professional adult and the other are kids. The responsibility is on the scout AND the organization to act in a prfessional manner. College kids are still kids.

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        • Bill says:

          College kids are not kids. Many are adults acting like kids, but that’s not the same thing. They should be very capable of making informed decisions. That being said, we’re talking about deals often worth large sums of money. Any adult without experience in this should get professional help when negotiating this kind of deal. They would be foolish not to.

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        • That Guy says:

          They aren’t allowed to get professional help in these negotiations – this is the source of the problem.

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    • SABRphreak says:

      To answer the questions about agent involvement and compensation, according to my knowledge, it works something like this:

      Agent is only an informal “advisor” to the prospect until he signs a contract. That is permissible under NCAA rules. When the prospect signs, that person becomes his “agent” and is paid a commission. If the prospects signs but fires the “advisor” right before signing, then the agent may have a legal claim for commissions based upon the work performed (although perhaps not yet having a signed letter of representation) but this would rarely happen as (1) the prospect would likely want the agent present to review all final paperwork at signing (and to continue the benefits of that established relationship) and (2) the agent likely wouldn’t want to sue a former client over such an issue. The “advisor” can discuss the matter with the prospect but isn’t suppose to be part of the negotiations with the team. That is where the grey area exists and causes prospects to get into trouble. Have your “advisor” discuss the matter with you and teach you how to interact in the negotiation process (establishing your stance, dollars, and response to the team’s prosition and talking points) but don’t have your advisor talk directly to the team or be in the room with you whispering in your ear in front of the team. Perhaps the “advisors” were slopping in the handling of these clients, but the specifics have yet to be disclosed so it’s hard to say what truly happened.

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  14. Bill says:

    It’s time to stop thinking of high profile college athletes as “student athletes”. If someone has the talent to make millions of dollars if the dedicate themselves to there future profession, they damn sure shouldn’t be wasting time studying 14th century artists. They should be able to defer their college education to a time when and if they fail as a pro athlete and they shouldn’t be treated as amateurs.

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  15. Highball Wilson says:

    This is great. I would like to see more writing like this.

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  16. Brian says:

    I predict that we will see Ben Wetzler playing for a National League East foe of the Phillies and torching the Phillies every chance he gets cause that is how these things work.

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  17. TK says:

    What this article, to me, really highlights is how the players are being taken advantage of. The MLB team gets legal counsel in a system they in part created, the NCAA gets legal counsel in a system they in part created, the players get…to trust that a representative from one of those two entities will actually have their best interests at hand.

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  18. cs3 says:

    That Phillies management (or anyone else for that matter) has *not* outed any specific scout as the person who ratted out Wetzler to the NCAA tells me that it was a decision coming from the top of the Phillies organization.
    That 2 players from the same class did ot sign tells me they are an overall poorly run orginization from a scouting standpoint.

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    • DD says:

      Didn’t Amaro refer questions to Wolever, who declined comment? All signs seem to point to Wolever being the guy who contact and/or worked with the NCAA investigation.

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  19. cs3 says:

    *wish there was edit feature so typos could be fixed.

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  20. Stretchy says:

    The Phillies will pay for this for years to come OR they will be thanked for causing the NCAA to change their unfair rule!

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  21. Westside guy says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, Tony – thank you for writing it!

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  22. pft says:

    Nice article. Makes you wonder what the Phillies were thinking. Might understand a bit more if it was an earlier round, but 5th? Hope it scares future picks away from them and I hope this kid does not get penalized for breaking what seems to be a draconian rule.

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    • Frank says:

      Yeah, you have to wonder, we all know this was stupid on the Phillies’ part, but why worry about getting revenge over losing a 5th rounder, when it could affect your ability to scout/sign your future 1st rounder. The baseball draft is long, but the quality comes and goes by pretty much the end of the first round, why let it even bother you as an executive?

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    • Friends to All says:

      There’s not much point to doing it in rounds 1-3, since those are protected (you’ll get another one slot lower in the following year’s draft).

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  23. Ian says:

    Easily one of the best articles I’ve ever read on here. I love hearing about different aspects of the business side of baseball (even tip-of-the-iceberg type of accounts like this one).

    Thanks !!

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  24. Shankbone says:

    One of the best articles on fangraphs ever. Thank you.

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  25. baseballlifer says:

    It seems likely to me that the agent, knowing full well the ramifications of his actions, deliberately sat in on the meetings between the athletes and the Phillies. His purpose may have been to leverage a better bonus for the players or to force the Phillies to relinquish their claim so the kids could go back into the draft again next year, but he is at no risk professionally. The athletes gambled that the Phillies would cave in and keep quiet, but they apparently decided to call the agent (and player) on the maneuver. The Phillies lose 2 players from the same draft but they do call the bluff.

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  26. Phil says:

    The Phillies better get things worked out soon. Opening Day is today, Spring Training.

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  27. LTG says:

    First, thank you for the excellent piece.

    In the opening you say that it was only a matter of time that this happen and that it is somewhat chancy that the Phillies did it first and not some other team. Given the long history of the de facto rule that players could use agents, I wonder why it was only a matter of time? Why couldn’t it have gone on forever?

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  28. chuckb says:

    Tremendous article. Thanks for sharing it.

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  29. Live and Learn says:

    What a great article – very informative and educational especially for parents going through the process. Here’s another side that may not be as prevalent but one I’ve encountered a few times in my experience as an Advisor. I’ve had Clubs agree on a number or “round” money, choose the Player with that understanding and then renege. The Seattle Mariners were renowned for such practice years ago. Its very frustrating as you might imagine and results in the Player resenting the organization whether he signs or not. There is little recourse against the Club without jeopardizing his NCAA eligibility. (Which is why you also don’t hear about it!) The point is that Players and their families aren’t the only ones who change their minds apparently. Sometimes its innocent, sometimes not.

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  30. mark saltman says:

    Very worthwhile reading- getting the actual story about the process is so much nicer than drawing conclusions without understand it. Would like to see more.

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  31. David says:

    Great article and very well written. What I am reading between the lines is that an area scout for the Phils in the Northwest developed trust in these two players, thought it was all wrapped up, was embarrassed when they both bailed and also felt betrayed, so got his personal revenge. The Phillies then had to make a decision either to throw that guy under the media bus for what he did, or stay relatively mute and potentially discipline him internally in a way that agents will understand.

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    • Friends to All says:

      Not commenting also has the added benefit of making a story go away faster, most of the time. If you apologize, you admit “guilt,” which is then mentioned every time your name gets brought up.

      If you no-comment your way through you’ll get mentioned when a similar situation arises, but the issue tends to drop out of the popular consciousness after a brief period.

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    • utley's knees says:

      David, very good observations in your post as the Phillies don’t have many good choices on how to react. If they complain too much the controversy lives on or stay mute to allow time to mend fences with agents and advisors. The most likely action will be to discipline or fire the rogue scout quietly and legally.

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  32. SABRphreak says:

    Why is the blame not directed toward the “advisor” whom should not have been negotiating with the team directly nor been present at the table with the team? The “advisor” should simply have advised the prospect how to handle the negotiations, what to say, the dollars to ask for, and the rebuttal to the team’s talking points. Once the “advisor” inserts himself into the negotiation process, then the prospect risks losing NCAA eligibility… shouldn’t they know this? Perhaps the Phillies only reported the prospects because their advisor negotiated for the prospects saying, “give us x dollars or else we go back to college for another year” at which point the team said, “that’s not a valid threat because your player is no longer eligible to play in college because you’re acting as their agent.” Thus such a dispute could have resulted in the reporting. If you’re a player with NCAA eligibility remaining and might not sign, you must protect that eligibility and should not blame the team for reporting your technical violation. The rules are the rules even if they’re crappy and sometimes grey. It also helps under the laws of several states if the “advisor” was a lawyer (as that gives you grounds to fight the NCAA in court if needed) since the NCAA is not supposed to impede your right to use counsel (as opposed to a non-attorney agent).

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  33. Joebrady says:

    I don’t often say this, but this was a great article. Very informative, well-written, and with a personal touch.

    And it underscores the unfairness of the whole process. In a lot of cases, this is the biggest decision a family will ever make, and one of the least informed decisions a family will ever make.

    If they are not allowed to use an advisor, then the NCAA should at least have a centralized office available to answer questions from some of these 17 year olds.

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