"These kids are all looking for the quick fix," Smith, 51, says. "When they see players like Kobe Bryant and LeBron (James) go straight from high school to the NBA, that's their focus. It's not like the Latin American countries, where baseball is still the king. It's time to beat the bushes. It's time to send a message about our sport.
I'd imagine that Ozzie has a bit of a point here -- there's a certain "stardom" that you can get immediately as a top basketball prospect such as a LeBron James or even an O.J. Mayo at a very early age. James was a household name at age 18 -- 99% of the American population couldn't tell you 1 player from the upcoming MLB draft pool.
However, what baseball prospects lack in immediate superstar status, they make up in sheer volume. The odds of an athletic and talented young kid landing a job as a professional athelete out of high school is exponentially higher with baseball than it is with basketball or football. There are dozens of short season and rookie league teams that field entire squads made up of 18 and 19 year old kids vs. the insanely small number of slots open for landing a pro contract with the NBA or the NBDL as a basketball player.
You'd think that'd make baseball an enticing sell to kids looking at their athletic prowess as a ticket to better things.