The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
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Player Database Reflects Evolution of Baseball in New Orleans

Each year around this time, I make updates to my Metro New Orleans Area Player Database, which catalogs baseball players who competed in high schools in the metropolitan area and then went on to play at the collegiate and professional levels. The scope of the high schools in the database includes both public and private schools on the East Bank, West Bank, North Shore, and River Parishes.

I first started the digital compilation of players about 15 years ago with 300 entries, and now the database has grown to over 1,950. Most of the new updates each year now come from college media guides. The older players have come from a variety of sources, including research of newspaper archives, major-league team media guides, and internet databases. My local SABR colleagues who grew up in New Orleans have provided countless inputs and corrections. On many occasions, I have gotten inputs directly from the players themselves, who want to be included in the compilation.

In many ways, the database contents reflect the evolution of high school, college, and professional baseball in the New Orleans area.

The earliest dates of high school players in the database begin around 1910, at schools which no longer exist, such as Boys High, Rugby Academy, and McDonough-Jefferson. In the 1930s Jesuit, Warren Easton, S.J. Peters, Holy Cross, Fortier, and St. Aloysius started to become regular sources of players who advanced beyond high school play.

College baseball scholarships didn’t become available until the early 1940s, with Tulane and Loyola being the predominant local universities that some high schoolers advanced to over the next two decades. However, most players advancing their careers went straight into the professional ranks.

Baseball’s minor-league farm systems grew exponentially, beginning in the mid-to-late 1930s and into the 1940s. To fill minor-league rosters, high schools became the primary source. Major league organizations looked to the New Orleans area as a popular area to recruit players, especially since the city hosted the minor-league New Orleans Pelicans and several other South Louisiana cities fielded teams in the Evangeline League. For example, the 1936 class of Jesuit High School had seven of its starters eventually sign professional contracts. A 1939 Times-Picayune article reported over 100 New Orleans players in the professional ranks. in 1944, seven of the players in the Pelicans’ starting lineup were native New Orleanians.

Colleges began to elevate their baseball programs in the early 1970s to the same level as football and basketball. Local high school players started to populate colleges like LSU, Tulane, University of New Orleans (originally LSUNO), Delgado Community College, Southeastern Louisiana, and Nicholls State in larger numbers. Southern University and Grambling attracted many of the best Black ballplayers in the area.

However, most of the larger universities have now turned to recruiting nationally, which affects the number of scholarships awarded to local players. Consequently, community colleges and smaller universities in New Orleans provide an expanded opportunity to play at the next level for many local ballplayers.

Delgado Community College has developed into a perennial breeding ground for major-college programs throughout the South, but especially in Louisiana. Within the last couple of years, Nunez Community College launched its inaugural baseball program, while Xavier University of Louisiana re-instituted its baseball program after a 60-year absence. Loyola University, which is experiencing a resurgence in its program this season, has been another prominent destination.

The number of players being drafted out of high school and going directly to the minors has diminished over the years. This is partly due to major league teams increasingly looking more to the college ranks for players who have already developed their skills due to advanced player development efforts by college coaching. Another reason is that MLB has increased its recruiting and player development efforts in the Latin American countries.

The number of New Orleans area players in the professional ranks is not at predominant as it used to be, now in the 15 to 20 range. I believe this is attributable to the fewer number of local players in major-college (NCAA Division 1) programs, where major-league teams focus their recruiting and draft efforts.

After I complete the update of my database for the 2021 college season, I’ll report back on some of the details of where local players are coming (high school) from and where they are going to (college).

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