Prep rally | What if high school stars could enter arbitration?

jlembo@bradenton.comJanuary 17, 2014 

It's the most prosperous time of the year -- if you're a major-league ballplayer heading into an arbitration hearing, that is.

More than 100 baseball players filed for arbitration with their clubs, meaning they -- or more to the point, their agents and attorneys -- and their teams sit in some St. Petersburg meeting room and haggle over how much said player will make this year in front of an independent arbiter.

The arbiter then decides who wins.

Wouldn't it be funny if arbitration stretched all the way down to the prep level? That's an interesting picture: a player and/or his parents sitting in a classroom and trying to squeeze just a little more out of a coach.

I'd imagine the school's athletic director and principal would be there, too. Hey, this stuff is too serious to simply assign to a game manager.

Student-athletes don't get paid, of course, so the sides wouldn't exactly be swapping seven-figure salaries across the table. Nor can they stay in high school longer than four years, so there's no point in trying to wrap a kid up long term or purchase his prime years at a discount before he hits the open market.

But I could see memorable arguments being hashed out during a student-athlete's free period, including:

• A quarterback wants to throw an average of 25 times per game; coaches won't budge on 15. As a counteroffer, quarterback will settle for an average of 20 passes per game as long as he can be the one who speaks during the coin flip.

• The team leader in digs wants to be listed as a libero so she can occasionally wear a different uniform than everyone else, especially on the road, when the team wears red; coach claims they already have a libero, and, for the last time, "red is so your color."

• Long jumper wants better sand installed in the landing pit. The current stuff chafes; coaches would rather spend the money on stuff the team needs, like, you know, uniforms.

• Wrestler doesn't like the way the headgear messes with his 'do; coaches politely ask him to quit.

• Baseball player wants permission to do more spitting and scratching; when his mother gets wind of this, the case doesn't even make it to arbitration.

Snacks and drinks would be served, and trainers would be made available should anyone seek medical attention.

For now, however, we'll have to leave arbitration hearings to the big boys, which is a good thing: I could see that libero hearing getting pretty messy.

John Lembo, prep sports writer, can be reached at 745-7057. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnLembo1878.

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