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At his Baseball Hall of Fame induction, John Smoltz urges parents to let their kids play multiple sports

LOS ANGELES, UNITED STATES:  (FILES) This 25 August, 2002, file photo shows Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz in action against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles. Smoltz, a key figure in Atlanta's run of 13 straight division titles, will be a Brave for at least two more years, the club said 16 December, 2004. The Braves signed Smoltz to a two-year contract with a club option for 2007. Financial terms were not disclosed.   AFP PHOTO/Lucy NICHOLSON/FILES  (Photo credit should read LUCY NICHOLSON/AFP/Getty Images)

(Photo credit: Lucy Nicholson/AFP/Getty Images)

I walked to my mailbox on Saturday and opened it to find this week's issue of Time magazine. Toward the back, on page 54, there's an article by Jeffrey Kluger entitled "In praise of the ordinary child." Betraying the title, Kluger argues not to let your child strive to be average, but that if you parent with the goal in mind that he or she will be a concert violinist and earn varsity letters in four sports and captain the debate team and bring home a perfect SAT score in pursuit of that oh-so-coveted acceptance letter from Princeton or Harvard or Yale - you're probably setting you and your child up for a lot of heartache.

In fact, in Kluger's opening paragraph, he writes, "And those hours you spend coaching Little League because you just know your son's sweet swing will take him to the pros? There are 2.4 million other Little Leaguers out there, and there are exactly 750 openings for major league ballpayers at the beginning of each season. That gives him a 0.313% chance of reaching the bigs."

In the most perfect segue possible, that brings us to Cooperstown, N.Y., where on Sunday former Atlanta Braves and (briefly) Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals pitcher John Smoltz joined Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson and Craig Biggio in joining the Baseball Hall of Fame. During his acceptance speech, Smoltz urged parents to do something with their kids' childhoods than try to turn them into the hext Smoltz, Martinez, Johnson or Biggio.

Really strong message here from #HallOfFame inductee John Smoltz. Needs to be said and no better stage to say it.

— Les Lukach (@LesLukach) July 26, 2015

“Before I hand it over to next inductee, I’d be remiss if I did not talk about Tommy John. I’ve been given an opportunity as one of the only players, the only one right now, to be inducted into the Hall of Fame with Tommy John Surgery. It’s an epidemic. It’s something that is affecting our game. It’s something that I thought would cost me my career, but thanks to Dr. James Andrews and all those before him, performing the surgery with such precision has caused it to be almost a false-read, like a band-aid you put on your arm.

I want to encourage the families and parents that are out there that this is not normal to have a surgery at 14 and 15 years old. That you have time, that baseball is not a year-round sport. That you have an opportunity to be athletic and play other sports. Don’t let the institutions that are out there running before you guaranteeing scholarship dollars and signing bonuses that this is the way….

I want to encourage you, if nothing else, know that your children’s passion and desire to play baseball is something that they can do without a competitive pitch. Every throw a kid makes today is a competitive pitch. They don’t go outside, they don’t have fun, they don’t throw enough — but they’re competing and maxing out too hard, too early, and that’s why we’re having these problems. Please, take care of those great future arms.”

We have written continuously over the years - and threetimes in the last four months - about the value kids receive in playing more than one sport. But to hear a former professional athlete urge parents not to devote their kids to just one sport as he's being inducted into that sport's hall of fame adds a layer of credibility no study ever could.

Corroborating what Smoltz said, Kluger spoke to University of Illinois child-development expert who said, "You get kids involved in dance or gymnastics or chess, and the coaches get so excited about the talent they're seeing that they push too hard, and in some ways it cuts off children's interests. We force kids to focus prematurely."

(quote via FTW)