On the way to his son’s baseball game on Long Island, sports writer J.R. Gamble tells me that his son, J.C., is quite a ball player.
“I have a lot of clips and highlights that I show people of him doing amazing things — jumping over catches, hitting balls right-handed, hitting balls left-handed,” Gamble says.
Part of the reason his son is so good at baseball, Gamble explains, is that he started at an early age — a very early age.
“When he was about 14 months, I put a golf ball in his hand to let him know how a baseball would feel when he got older,” Gamble says. By age 2, J.C., was hitting and throwing the ball. By age 3, he was playing organized T-ball.
Since then, Gamble says, he has spent quite a bit of money on baseball for J.C. — bats and gloves, league fees, hotels, gas and more — and it seems a good investment. Several people have told Gamble that his son looks like he’s good enough to play professionally one day. School will remain J.C.’s top priority, Gamble says. But he has high hopes for his son’s baseball career, too.
“I’d love it if he went pro,” Gamble says. “I’d quit whatever I’m doing and just go be at every game.”
Those big dreams aren’t all that unusual. According to a recent poll from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 26 percent of U.S. parents whose children in high school play sports hope their child will become a professional athlete one day. Among families with household incomes of less than $50,000 annually, the number is 39 percent.
Illustration: Chris Silas Neal for NPR
This article prompts a question: how many kids who play early get into the majors vs. kids who do not play early? In other words is there any correlation to starting young vs. not?
One good article indicates that specializing before 18 is not called for but I can’t find anything (in 2 minutes of searching) that backs this up.