Should Little League Baseball Players Be Paid?
If this sounds like a ridiculous question, that’s because it is. Of course Little League baseball players shouldn’t be paid. I mean, we’ve heard plenty of arguments for why college athletes should be paid in recent weeks, with most of those arguments centering around the fact that those athletes make hundreds of millions of dollars playing for colleges and universities around the country. But, Little League players? C’mon, what is this world coming to?
Except, here’s the thing: I think they actually should be paid. I got beat to the punch by Yahoo! Sports writer Dan Wetzel on this one—he just penned a great piece about this the other day—but I’m going to make my case anyway, because I was thinking exactly what Wetzel was last week when I watched the last few games of the Little League World Series on ESPN.
These days, Little League Baseball is big business. Maybe not all Little League Baseball, but the stuff that ESPN has been covering to death is definitely big business. As Wetzel points out in his piece, LLB made more than $20 million in 2009, including almost $6 million from the LLWS and another $3.7 in broadcast rights fees from ESPN. They’re essentially making millions of dollars every year thanks to thousands and thousands of pre-teen kids who work their tails off trying to get to the LLWS.
Of course, those kids don’t go completely unrewarded for their efforts. They get fresh uniforms, cross-country trips, and the adoration of millions of other pre-teens—not to mention to attention of their peers back in middle school—when they make it to the LLWS. But something feels very, very wrong about sitting down to watch a game that uses these kids to turn a profit. It’s billed as this innocent, life-changing experience for the kids—which, for the record, it is—but it’s also a competition that was created in order to make money, which leads me to think that the kids involved deserve to profit off it, too, since, you know, it’s them helping to make LLB and ESPN a steady revenue stream every August.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: What exactly do these kids deserve? A thousand bucks? Ten-thousand bucks? A cool mill? I’d say no to all of those amounts. But they do deserve something, and I’d propose that it come in the form of a college scholarship, a savings bond, or even just a donation to their Little League—or several local Little Leagues—back in their hometown. With all the money that LLB is generating these days, it’s the least they could do to give back to the kids who actually make all of that money possible.
Otherwise, there’s something about the current state of Little League Baseball that just doesn’t sit right with me. When I sit down to watch a bunch of 12-year-old kids playing baseball, it should feel good to do it. It shouldn’t feel like I’m sitting watching a bunch of kids play baseball, while some LLB executive counts all of the money coming in as a result of it.
Therefore, LLB has to find some way to compensate the kids who participate in the LLWS every year. Ironically enough, paying the kids who play might actually make it feel right again. It’s a little bit of a ridiculous concept, but so is collecting checks at the expense of young kids. They work hard to represent themselves, their leagues, and their hometowns and they deserve a little something in return for it. Heaven knows, Little League Baseball could afford it. So, why hasn’t it happened yet?