Caleb Campbell is the epicenter of the service* academy straight-to-the-pros debate, but he isn’t the only story. Navy’s own Mitch Harris, the fireball-tossing pitcher with as much pop in his bat as his lively right arm, has been getting a lot of press lately with the Major League Baseball draft on tap this week. Navy fans have undoubtedly already seen this piece in the Washington Times on Mitch and his situation. (Note to newspaper editors across the country: “Anchors Away” is about the most unoriginal, overused headline for a story about Navy sports. Please, please start coming up with something new.)
Anyway, the piece is pretty good despite the cliched headline. One thing that probably catches your eye is the series of quotes from Navy AD Chet Gladchuk.
Moreover, because the “nation is at war,” Navy secretary Donald Winter in November suspended early release from active duty and made five years of full-time service mandatory. Harris isn’t the only one displeased with that. By promising athletes the chance to play immediately in the pros, the differing policy gives West Point a marked recruiting edge over Annapolis.
Gladchuk has gone to the very top to try to get the Navy to change and said Winter seems willing to reconsider the issue.
“There is a chain of command, and I think I have addressed every link in this chain,” Gladchuk said. “Everyone is aware of our concerns that the playing field is not level and will eventually affect our competitive stature.”
“A-ha!” say the fans of the Alternative Service (lol) Option. Even Navy’s AD has no problem with it! He wants the same thing! Now it’s justified! Hooray!
Not exactly. Would you expect anything different from an athletic director? It’s Chet’s job to do what he can to ensure his teams’ success on the field. So if he sees something that would help him to that end, he should pursue it. It’s completely understandable why Stan Brock and Kevin Anderson would want the ASO, and completely understandable why Chet Gladchuk would want to even the playing field in response. But that doesn’t make it right. There is supposed to be a higher level in the chain of command that balances the desires of the athletic department with the needs of the service. It’s that level which has failed. I’m sure that service* academy coaches and athletic administrators would love for all kinds of things to change in order to make their jobs easier. Lower admissions standards, basket-weaving majors, more lax conduct rules, you name it. But these things are kept in check. Just like the Alternative Service (lol) Option should have been. Chet is right that he needs a level playing field. Hopefully the answer is for the ASO to be shut down rather than the Naval Academy stooping to such desperate and shameful measures.
One more thing…
Catcher Jonathan Johnston was drafted in 2007 in the 42nd round by Oakland – a year after he graduated – and is now playing in the minors. But Johnston previously served 18 months aboard a ship. That helped. He also had an understanding commanding officer who assigned him to the U.S. Military All-Star team, which has allowed him to play professionally.
Johnston believes he and Harris can serve the Navy best by playing and recruiting.
“We want to do both,” he said. “Because we can. We want to bring attention to the Navy. I’d rather be a recruiter and pay the Navy back that way.”
So many people say that sending players to the pros is great because it “brings attention to the Navy” or it “helps the Army.” The purpose of going to the Naval Academy isn’t to “help” the Navy. It’s to be the Navy. Not that the good of the service has anything to do with the policy. It’s a sad state of affairs.
May has now come and gone, which means that the Army’s “internal review” regarding the ASO should be complete. My guess is that they do nothing to change it. Here’s hoping the OSD crushes them. I won’t hold my breath.