Sep 4

How Likely Is It, Really, That Your Athletic Kid Will Turn Pro?



Chris Silas Neal for NPR

On the way to his son’s baseball game on Long Island, sports writer J.R. Gamble tells me that his son, J.C., is quite a ball player.

“I have a lot of clips and highlights that I show people of him doing amazing things — jumping over catches, hitting balls right-handed, hitting balls left-handed,” Gamble says.

Part of the reason his son is so good at baseball, Gamble explains, is that he started at an early age — a very early age.

“When he was about 14 months, I put a golf ball in his hand to let him know how a baseball would feel when he got older,” Gamble says. By age 2, J.C., was hitting and throwing the ball. By age 3, he was playing organized T-ball.

Since then, Gamble says, he has spent quite a bit of money on baseball for J.C. — bats and gloves, league fees, hotels, gas and more — and it seems a good investment. Several people have told Gamble that his son looks like he’s good enough to play professionally one day. School will remain J.C.’s top priority, Gamble says. But he has high hopes for his son’s baseball career, too.

“I’d love it if he went pro,” Gamble says. “I’d quit whatever I’m doing and just go be at every game.”

We stop to pick up J.C., and I’m expecting a teenage Derek Jeter — someone tall and muscular. So I’m rather taken aback when Gamble introduces me to his son.

J.C. is just 9 years old, and about 4 feet 6 inches tall. He’s wearing a crisp white baseball uniform and a blue cap with a “D” for his team, the Brooklyn Dukes. His dad calls him by the nickname “Little Legend.”