From my graduate school buddy Mark Steckbeck:
Doing the math, and discounting $400,000 per year for three years, beginning at age 17 and entering the big leagues at age 21 (not likely), the expected value of a career in baseball is about $86. Who’s likely to pursue that?
Now, certainly it’s not the average high school athlete who considers himself pro material, but It’s still predominantly those with low opportunity costs of their time that pursue the professional athlete track. Even if we changed it so that a high school athlete was ten times more likely to make it to the professional level, the expected value is only about $860. That is total, not per year.
Thanks to Tyler Cowen for the pointer.