It’s opening day today in America for major league baseball, and there may be no one watching with more anticipation than Scott Dean Boras, the man who Forbes magazine calls the world’s most powerful sports agent, with 175 professional baseball players spread across the league’s 30 teams as clients, whose contracts will earn them a combined estimated $350 million this year alone. (For more on his background and fascinating career, see an earlier look at the Scott Boras story here.)
But what was Scott Boras doing just last week on March 30th? Giving kids from 32 high school baseball teams the break of their lives — along with the high school team from his hometown of Elk Grove, California, where he grew up on a dairy farm, about 30 miles from both Sacramento and Stockton — helping them shine in front of college coaches from around the country — and encouraging them to get a solid education.
Scott Boras is building the next generation — and setting an example for us all.
GIVING BACK AND GIVING KIDS A BREAK
The Boras Baseball Classic tournament was born when Boras wanted to reach back into the rural community that gave him and his family their beginning. His idea to help high school baseball teams in California compete in a state championship tournament has developed into the Boras Classic, which takes the top 32 baseball programs in the state – 16 teams in the southern part and 16 in the northern half of California – and pairs them off in a four-day, single-elimination tournament. And Boras’ alma mater, Elk Grove High, gets to be the host.
“The primary objective of the Boras Baseball Classic is to give back to youth baseball,” Boras told the Sacramento Bee. “We want to provide outstanding high school teams a chance to participate in an elite competition, while at the same time giving them a world-class venue to showcase their talent in front of collegiate-level coaches and professional scouts.”
Boras knows from his own experience that baseball offers a much-needed chance for some to get into college. Raised on a dairy farm, a baseball scholarship was Boras’ ticket out of this rural California town, into college — and, after several unexpected twists and turns, into a career that has paid off big time.
Despite the big dollars being thrown around in professional baseball and other sports, Boras knows only a small number of players actually get the large paychecks.
“Very few make it,” he says. “That’s why we feel education beyond high school, going collegiate, is very important because it gives the boys something to fall back on. It’s a tough world. I think everybody sees the glory of becoming a major leagle player but there’s only a select few that make it.”
JUST IN CASE THINGS DON’T WORK OUT…
His own career is a good example of how things don’t always turn out the way one might expect — and goes a long way toward explaining why he encourages young players to cover all the bases by getting a good education.
In college, Boras thrived, eventually becoming team captain while earning a degree in chemistry. A collision with a fellow-outfielder near the end of his college career marked the beginning of his knee problems, and a series of knee operations that ended his baseball career, when he was twenty-six, and still in the minor leagues.
Fortunately, Scott Boras didn’t rely on the luck of the draw, and had kept at his studies, doubling down on his education even while playing in the minor leagues, earning a doctorate in industrial pharmacology and, after leaving baseball, a law degree from the University of the Pacific.
As he told the New Yorker magazine in 2007, he’d had a revelation, one spring morning late in his baseball career, as he watched forty-five players react to being cut, all at once. “I saw, in the parking lot, wives crying, even players crying,” he said. “I never expected that. I was blind to it when I came in. No one ever discloses to the players what’s going to happen to ninety-nine per cent of them, because less than one per cent of the players are going to have a six-year major-league career. And maybe as many as only three or four per cent are going to have a three-year career. And so the answer is that this is not a career — this is a trapdoor.”
Scott Boras knows he has done quite nicely, for a former minor league infielder who recognized his limitations as a player and considered baseball — as he still tells young players — to be an opportunity rather than a career. And the story of his life, as Boras views it, is a blessed one. “Far from feeling betrayed by baseball and its old-boy network of colluding, miserly owners,” writes Ben McGrath in the New Yorker, “he believes that he was treated consistently well at every stage of his career, and benefitted from the kind of mentoring that arises from generosity of spirit rather than from contractual obligation. Boras sees the fact that he ultimately failed as a player — that unlucky circumstances intervened to spoil his dream — as an instructive lesson about the harsh odds of the business, not as cause for any personal vendetta.”
Of course, the folks on the other side of the negotiating table may feel differently.