By Michael LeCompte
During the 2012 Major League Baseball season only 4.3% of players in the league had a college degree. There are many reasons for this low number. Players are drafted right out of high-school or sign with a big-league team after a few years of college and begin their journey to the bigs.
The lure of a professional contract is a stronger pull than the thought of working hard in the classroom and on the field, while struggling economically for the next four years at college. Many athletes also decide to play the game as long as they can, until teams or their bodies tell them they can’t anymore, figuring there will always be time to finish school when they retire.
Like all professional sports there is too much money in Major League Baseball, but a little known plan in baseball does benefit former players off the field and help them get back into the classroom.
In the early 1960’s Major League Baseball established the Professional Baseball Scholarship Plan to help players fund their college careers.
Now referred to as the “Plan” it offers benefits to players who negotiated for participation in the plan as apart of their first minor league contract. Generally, even if a player goes on to have a 10 year career with 5 different teams, the club that originally signed the player maintains responsibility for paying for the player’s education.
There are four basic rules that a player must adhere to in order to retain eligibility under the “Plan.”
1.) A player must commence their studies within 2 years of their last day of active playing service. (Playing for a minor league team does not affect eligibility, however, signing with an independent league does result in ineligibility)
2.) If a player commences their studies under the “Plan” after their last day of playing service and then fails to attend college within 2 years of their last college class they become ineligible.
3.) If a player is placed on the ineligible list for any reason by Major League Baseball they lose all benefits of the “Plan.”
4.) If a player is unconditionally released or retires they maintain their eligibility
Under the “Plan” Major League Baseball pays up to $3,000 per quarter for a player’s tuition. (That number is fairly low and might not cover all of a former player’s tuition, a fact which MLB makes up for by completely covering a student’s room, board, and textbooks.)
Major League Baseball’s the “Plan.” A little-known, but valuable asset for baseball players. Only the greatest of players in the rarest of occasions enjoy long careers in professional sports, most athletes play five years or less, meaning they will spend a lot more of their lives as “former athletes” rather than “athletes.”
The “Plan” is a tool at their disposal to help former athletes be as successful in life as they once were on the field by allowing them to earn their degrees.