Baseball Hotbeds: Top 20 Metro Areas
The coverage area for most scouts includes at least one metropolitan area, where a densely populated city core and its surrounding cities are linked together by common industry and infrastructure. The various metro areas of the U.S. are a good lens through which to view the strength of a particular region, because they incorporate all cities from densely-populated areas.
We used the U.S. Census Bureau’s definition of metropolitan areas, which include only the so-called “principal” cities.
|1||Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim||CA||284||1,3353,907||2.1|
|2||Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach||FL||251||6,158,824||4.1|
|4||Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land||TX||160||6,892,427||2.3|
|9||New York-Newark-Jersey City||NY/NJ||102||20,320,876||0.5|
|12||San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara||CA||76||1,998,463||3.8|
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The most productive metro areas are the ones located in the most productive states overall. Thus metro areas in Florida, California, Arizona, Texas and Georgia crowd the top of this list.
The massive metro areas of New York (roughly 20 million people) and Chicago (nearly 10 million) produce players in great numbers despite being cold-weather regions. But pound-for-pound Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue is the hottest of all cold-weather metro areas.
Seattle area high schools have produced 61 professional players—against a population of just shy of 4 million—for a rate of 1.6 players per 100,000 residents, which is a much higher rate than New York, Chicago or any other cold-weather metro area.
Additionally, a greater number of Seattle area players turn pro out of high school rather than heading to college first. This subset of Seattle-area preps includes Jon Lester, Grady Sizemore, Steven Souza and recent first-round picks Reese McGuire and Josh Sale. Few New York or Chicago kids turn pro out of high school, with the most prominent examples in our sample being Manny Ramirez and LaTroy Hawkins, who both signed in the early 1990s.
The reasons for the productivity of the Seattle metro area are myriad. King County is the richest in Washington state, and the area attracts people because it’s home to giant corporations such as Costco, Amazon, Microsoft and Starbucks. The area’s higher median household income translates into greater opportunity for young baseball players in terms of access to equipment, showcases, travel teams and even private high schools, which can afford to hire better coaches than public schools.
One Pacific Northwest area scout sees an additional advantage: a proliferation of indoor training facilities, which are necessary because of the climate.
The scout also suggested that high school basketball and football aren’t as popular in Seattle as they are elsewhere, thus a greater number of athletes focus on baseball. That hasn’t escaped the attention of universities in the Northwest, including three-time College World Series champion Oregon State, which has recruited Seattle-area players such as Michael Conforto and Matthew Boyd.