Only real baseball historians would know anything about Happy Felton and the Knothole Gang circa 1950. So very few people know that Happy’s been referred to as the “God of the Sandlot”, TVs first youth baseball advocate, and even the first known user of player evals (what??? really???).
Yes, starting in 1950 Happy Felton brought his vaudeville humor and charm to Ebbets Field and WOR-TV in Brooklyn, NY. There, before every Brooklyn Dodgers home baseball game, he’d invite three young neighborhood sandlot players to the big league field to be evaluated by one of the Dodgers major league ballplayers.
Why are Player Evals Important
Since the dawn of time (or at least for a really long time), Kids have played sports to have fun, be challenged, be with their friends and push themselves. Player evals help players identify what they are strong at and where they need to improve. For players that dream of making it to the big leagues, player evals serve in some ways as marching orders. The other thing that player evals do is create a sense of empowerment and accountability. It allows players to own the process. Their future is in their hands.
Player Evals from 1950
So for each young player that made an appearance on the big league field with Happy Felton, they were evaluated based on fielding ability, speed and “baseball competence”. The youngster with the best evaluation got to meet his favorite Dodger player the next day (plus got lots of great free gear from the local sponsors).
In one of the only known archived episodes, Jackie Robinson conducted the player eval for three young players and named the winner. You can see the clip here:
How exciting to be evaluated by one of the greats in baseball? If you think about what a coach would look for today, it hasn’t changed much over the decades.
Evolution of Player Evals
While baseball coaches today are looking for the exact same skills as they did in Jackie Robinsons’s day, today’s evals can be done faster, with more consistency and more objectivity than ever before thanks to technology. And that feedback goes a long way for players (and their parents).
About Ian Goldberg:
Ian Goldberg is the Founder and CEO of iSport360 but also a volunteer coach and #GirlDad of two teenage multi-sport athletes. He is a member of the Advisory Board for the National Alliance for Youth Sports, a frequent speaker on topics in youth sports and an advocate for young athletes. Prior to founding iSport360, Ian spent most of his career in digital marketing and digital product development and started his career at the White House working for the economic advisors to two US Presidents.
iSport360 is a revolutionary youth sports technology platform that empowers player development. Over 185,000 youth sports athletes, sports organizers, coaches, and parents depend on iSport360. iSport360 helps set individualized goals and share training videos, practice assignments, 360 degree feedback, player evaluations, sticker rewards and a Virtual Locker Room®. We help stakeholders collaborate so their players can develop athletic skills and life skills. That’s why we have been endorsed and recognized by the biggest organizations in youth sports.