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  1. I loved this piece. If you want a target to shoot for in getting your submission approved, use this.

    Comment by Dave Cameron — June 2, 2010 @ 10:35 am

  2. This is a great article. Thanks for writing it!

    Comment by Erik — June 2, 2010 @ 10:42 am

  3. Agreed. Very fine piece.

    Comment by Owen — June 2, 2010 @ 10:46 am

  4. Great post. I know I’ve wondered more than once why the Royals (or some other team) doesn’t try this, even if it “only” has the effect of some positive community involvement/PR.

    Comment by Matt Klaassen — June 2, 2010 @ 10:50 am

  5. Thanks for the positive comments. And thanks to Hofstra’s Richard J. Puerzer who wrote a fantastic research paper for SABR in 2004 on the establishment of the Academy and is where I got some of my info. It wasn’t until I read that paper that I realized what a success the Academy had been.

    Comment by Jamesian — June 2, 2010 @ 11:27 am

  6. Isn’t this somewhat in the same vein as the Million Dollar Arm contest? I think there were 35,000+ people who tried out in India, with Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel being the two that were signed by the Pirates.

    I’m sure it will be another five years before we can judge their success, but it’s certainly a novel idea that a fellow floundering organization has adopted in some form.

    Comment by Matt Harms — June 2, 2010 @ 11:59 am

  7. Yes, the Million Dollar Arm contest is a kind of an example. That wasn’t done for MLB though I don’t believe and neither guy cracked 90 mph..

    Neither of those guys could get a tryout until the Pirates finally gave them a try. But neither really got much of a look it seems. They didn’t do too bad. Singh was 1-2 with a 5.84 ERA in 12.1 innings. Patel was 1-0 with a 1.42 ERA in 6.1 innings. Combined they had a 4.33 ERA which is better than you would expect.

    Of course, these two guys would not be much of a test case as you are going to expect maybe 1 guy in 50 to ultimately succeed.

    Comment by Jamesian — June 2, 2010 @ 12:18 pm

  8. Nice article. I particularly like the point about having to fight the American tendency for athletes to focus on one sport from a young age. Baseball suffers versus basketball, particularly in urban areas, because of the required cost of land and equipment to play. This is also one reason (of the many) why African American participation in the game has dropped.

    Baseball’s vast resources could be used to lower the cost to play baseball at the middle school and high school level. Team academies would serve as community investments (good PR) and scouting farms (good investment).

    Comment by nmirra — June 2, 2010 @ 12:23 pm

  9. A question I just thought of: can MLB teams even set up domestic academies? Aren’t all US born players first subject to the amateur draft before being able to be signed as free agents?

    Comment by Matt Harms — June 2, 2010 @ 12:37 pm

  10. I don’t know the specifics. But who is going to draft a guy that never played baseball? I don’t see any way that would be a problem. Every guy that is signed will have been neglected in the baseball draft out of high school and will not be playing college baseball. And once he is signed, he is a professional.

    Comment by Jamesian — June 2, 2010 @ 12:57 pm

  11. Very interesting, great read.

    Comment by t ball — June 2, 2010 @ 2:31 pm

  12. This article was enjoyable on several levels. It’s extremely well written; plus I’d think it’d appeal to both stat-minded and more traditional audiences. It’s also outside the norm of what’s usually on FanGraphs, at least based on the past year or so that I’ve been following this site. All in all it was a “great read” – thank you for writing it!

    Also, thank you to FanGraphs for all the great creative work you’ve been doing – whether it’s the interesting posts, this community blog, or great stuff like the customizable stats.

    Comment by Westside guy — June 2, 2010 @ 3:11 pm

  13. Great stuff. While not quite comparable to the Latin academies (because the Latin ones are actually getting the best baseball players, not just the best athletes), the concept of the baseball academy fascinates me. I would love to see one established in Africa. The speed and athleticism displayed by African athletes (I’m thinking of the soccer players) could translate well to a baseball outfield and on the basepaths.

    I don’t see why it would be disallowed. Like Jamesian said, none of these guys will have been drafted, so if they really wanted to a team could jsut draft all of these guys at the tail end of the draft, as only a fraction of players drafted from rounds 30 onwards even make the majors. They might not even need to do that, as I imagine teams can sign undrafted free agents, just like any other sport.

    Comment by RyanC — June 2, 2010 @ 9:49 pm

  14. Yeah, thank you!

    Comment by Reanna Loertscher — June 3, 2010 @ 8:21 am

  15. Great piece! Thanks for the link to my site.

    Matt – from what I understand, if you are draft eligible, and you go undrafted, you are free to sign with anyone UNLESS you sign to play for a college. So I don’t think that would be an issue.

    Seems way overdue for the Royals to at least try some sort of academy. I also think they should try my idea of a “knuckleball academy” where you take a couple of guys whose pro careers look like they’re done, have them work under Charlie Hough or Tom Candiotti, and learn the knuckleball. Having such a guy to eat up dead innings would be a huge plus for a small market team.

    Again, great piece!

    Comment by RoyalsRetro — June 3, 2010 @ 9:40 am

  16. Take it from someone that was there…the academy was not a failure…it gave young men like myself a chance to live a dream…The concept was an excellent one. As we all know their are the diamonds in the rough that get over looked. This type of opportunity provided me and the other 42 guys I was with in the first class that opportunity to continue our dreams….thanks Mr. Kauffman for the chance you gave me….

    Comment by Tommy Dugan — June 24, 2010 @ 4:51 pm

  17. The signing of Pat White this week reminded me of the Baseball Academy. He sort of seems like the quintessential athlete they would have wanted to target.

    White probably has a 70-75 speed tool, possibly 60+ arm tool, which could very well translate into above average range/D in CF if all goes well. The power will be suspect and I truly wonder how his hit tool will look (not to mention his plate discipline) after 5-6 years away from baseball.

    We will see what he can do though, will be interesting to watch as a WVU fan but I don’t think he will find much (if any) success.

    Comment by jfish26101 — September 10, 2010 @ 10:59 pm

  18. I don’t see how it would work, really. I think very few athletes would be major league caliber if they haven’t picked up a bat until they are 18 or 20 years old. This happens in basketball al the time. Some tall, athletic player ins drafted, Very rarely do they pan out. Seems like it would be better to encourage more youngsters to tak up the game.

    Comment by Dan Berman4 — May 25, 2011 @ 2:18 pm

  19. I’d point you to Frank White, UL Washington and Ron LeFlore. It’s already been done. If you want more up to date examples, think Alexi Ogando and John Lackey who both started pitching in their early 20s after being outfielders.

    Comment by Jamesian — May 25, 2011 @ 4:18 pm

  20. But doesn’t MLB already have the RBI program? It’s not a great success, but it seems to me that it’s an offshoot of the Royals academy. By the way, I re-watched Inning 4 of Baseball on Netflix the other day and never realized that the farm was invented by Branch Rickey when he joined the Cardinals, and that it was so enormous that they had something like 30 teams and hundreds of players. I think the Royals were really just trying to widen the net by going back to how the farm system began.

    Regarding the notion that MLB teams won’t sign guys who never played. I don’t think this is accurate at all. This happens with foreign born players all the time. Alexi Gomez was signed out of Brazil after a scout saw his althleticism playing volleyball, which is the second most popular sport there. Trust me, if he played any baseball at all in Brazil, it wasn’t competitive – there is next to zero interest in Brazil. But then every year we get athletes signing over-slot contracts out of the draft, and the Dominican kids signing at 16 have played a lot of ball, but most of them are so raw it’s hard not to call them merely athletes.

    Which brings me to what I think is the real problem. We as a society are uninterested in grass roots efforts in our own country. We’re segmented and we accept it. Inner city athletes play basketball, so we accept it and move on. I think it’s a real shame, but I also think it’s why something like the Royals academy had its time and place in this country, and just wouldn’t work now. There’s no willingness in leadership, or in the communities that might benefit to give it a go.

    Comment by Paul — August 2, 2011 @ 3:10 pm

  21. I don’t think the Pirates did anything like this recently. Look at them now. The Royals just need to wait, like Pittsburgh did.

    Comment by Kris — August 2, 2011 @ 8:49 pm

  22. First of all, you along with everyone else confuse the concept with getting more black players in baseball. That would probably be the end result but that is not the idea. The idea is to take great athletes and make them baseball players — whatever the race. Obviously, most of them would probably be black but that is irrelevant.

    This is about giving yourself an advantage over your competition by accessing the greatest athletes in America and converting them to baseball players. The concept is already proven. Most people, like yourself, can’t accept that this idea would work despite the successes which is why it will never be tried again.

    As for black players playing basketball, who really cares? Baseball is appropriately represented racially according to demographics with black players. It is clearly missing out on top athletes but it doesn’t have a shortage of talent. By finding a way to attract minority talent, a team could give itself a unique advantage.

    The RBI program is never going to work because young athletes are not interested in baseball and they aren’t going to be ever again in the same way they were before. Baseball and basketball have a permanent advantage over baseball which is more boring than the other sports for the average fan.

    In any case, the RBI program benefits all teams equally, therefore, it provides no real advantage to a particular team.

    Comment by Jamesian — August 3, 2011 @ 9:37 am

  23. The Academy was my idea that I sold to Mr. Ewing Kaufman ( Owner Kansas City Royals ) in 1969 at our first organizational meeting in Kansas City at the Continental Hotel . I suggested to Mr. Kaufman that he purchase a Junior College in Arizona or Florida and conduct a baseball school year round with major league players being the instructors. This was during the Viet Nam War and Teachers were exempt from service duty where major leaguers were missing ( 2 ) weeks of Army Resrve or Natonal Gauard Training. The Academy players would attend college in the morning and baseball in the afternoon and the major leaguers would instruct during the winter months. I conducted the first try-outs for this Academy in Miami and Jacksonville Florida and later in Toronto, Canada. Yes, the Academy was expensive because of all the frills steak for breakfast etc., weight programs and scouts charging expensives to the Academy. Thats one of the major reasons it was terminated

    Comment by Bill McKeon — December 6, 2011 @ 5:07 pm

  24. Thanks for the comment, Mr. McKeon. A great idea it was and we’ll happily give you the credit.

    Comment by Jamesian — December 7, 2011 @ 10:22 am

  25. Great write-up. Thanks for sharing it

    Comment by Justin — December 14, 2011 @ 5:26 pm

  26. This was really interesting, and written better than many articles written by paid fangraphs writers.

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