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Sports Law teams with baseball to keep kids in the game

November 06, 2015

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Tulane Law student Hamilton Wise (JD/ MBA ’16) talks baseball business with 12-year-olds Alfred Ripoll IV and Andreas Palmer as part of a new partnership between Tulane’s Sports Law Program and Major League Baseball’s New Orleans Urban Youth Academy.

By Kirby Campbell

Salary cap. Competitive balance. Arbitration. Sabermetrics. 

If you heard these terms being thrown around a room, you would probably think it’s a front-office meeting for a big league baseball team — not the small, albeit well-equipped, classroom underneath the bleachers of Wesley Barrow Stadium, home of Major League Baseball’s New Orleans Urban Youth Academy

Yet, as Tulane Law student Hamilton Wise (JD/ MBA ’16) flashed slide after slide of law and business jargon across the projector screen, explaining how it relates to the business side of baseball, the 12- and 14-year-olds sitting before him eagerly answered his questions and defined the vocabulary words with ease.

It’s part of a new partnership between Tulane’s Sports Law Program and the New Orleans Urban Youth Academy. Adding a sports law program was the brain child of UYA director Eddie Davis III and Professor Gabe Feldman, director of the Sports Law Program at Tulane and one of the most highly recognized experts in the field. 

After starting a program to teach UYA participants broadcasting skills because of the flourishing television and movie industry in New Orleans, Davis hit upon the idea of teaming with Tulane‘s renowned sports law resources and approached Feldman. What the two came up with is a sports law “pilot” designed to serve as a benchmark for future versions of the program. The ultimate goal is to introduce kids to the possibilities of internships and jobs with Major League Baseball and its teams off the field.

“We want to get these kids to look beyond just playing on the field,” Davis said. “I don’t want them to feel like ‘I’m only talented inside the lines.’ ”

Davis, a New Orleans native who played at Long Beach State University and spent time in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ minor league system, knows all too well that playing days don’t last forever. 

“We can’t just focus on the 1 percent that potentially will play pro ball,” Davis said. “It’s all about the 99 percent of kids and opportunities outside the lines. We want to keep the 99 percent interested in the game. It’s the only way the game is going to survive.”

Feldman, whose prominence in the field of sports law has made him the second-most-followed U.S. law professor on Twitter, shares Davis’ sentiment and enthusiasm.

“The academy provides opportunities for thousands of kids,” Feldman said. “It’s opening their eyes to opportunities and giving them something to strive for.”

The academy’s sports law offering, which began this fall, not only provides education and opportunities for kids but exposes new audiences to both the New Orleans UYA and Tulane’s Sports Law Program. It also gives law students like Wise, a baseball player himself as an undergraduate at Northwestern University, a chance to share their experiences and knowledge of the game. During the October class, he also talked about his internships with the MLB Commissioner’s Office and the front-office job with the Texas Rangers that he’ll start in January.

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Feldman, who recently was named to the Abram and Paul Barron Professorship, taught the program’s first installment and then brought an MLB Players Association agent the next week to provide another perspective. Other sessions included salary arbitration exercises, featuring the kids taking on the roles of attorneys and agents trying to hash out contract disputes in the same fashion as the National Baseball Arbitration Competition hosted annually by the Tulane Sports Law Society.

The program’s success so far, directly attributable to the passion and commitment of those involved, was evident in the students’ interest.

“I’m doing it to gain more knowledge and see if maybe I would like to do this when I get older,” said 7th grader Alfred Ripoll IV, the youngest member of the class.

MLB sponsors academies offering baseball skills training in several cities, but opportunities like sports law and broadcasting are unique to the New Orleans Urban Youth Academy and are helping to create a blueprint for the others.

“For me, the difference that sets us apart is having these programs,” Davis said.

“Don’t tell my law students this, but it’s my favorite thing to teach,” Feldman said with a laugh. “They’re the future of baseball.”

 

Kirby Campbell is a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, where he played and coached baseball. Before moving to New Orleans, he was an assistant coach for the Palm Springs Power of the Southern California Collegiate Baseball League. 

More about the Tulane Sports Law Program: http://www.law.tulane.edu/tlsAcademicPrograms/sportslaw_index.aspx 

More about the New Orleans MLB Urban Youth Academy: http://mlb.mlb.com/community/uya.jsp?id=program&loc=neworleans 

 
   


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