Don’t have long hair or wear earrings. In college baseball, one bad apple or player who doesn’t fit in can do a lot of damage to the team. College coaches are going to be looking hard at a player’s character to make sure they fit in with the team.
Don’t use drugs and definitely don’t get caught using drugs at a baseball event. I have seen players who should have gone to national powerhouse programs have to walk on at a small local school.
Target what kind of school you are after. If you want a good academic school, call or email all the good academic schools in the area you’re looking in. This probably won’t cause them to come look at you, but maybe they’ll remember your name if they see you at a showcase.
Decide what division you want to play and what caliber of program. Would you rather be a backup at a top division I school or a star at division III.
Don’t think that what you are now is what you are going to be. My college coach, Jim Farr, was a master at finding high school pitchers that were not heavily recruited but had potential that others didn’t see. We had many pitchers who threw in the low to mid 80s in high school but ended up throwing in the mid 90s and getting drafted by their junior year. There are also many heavily recruited players who don’t make it out of fall practice. College baseball is a different game.
2. Get Seen at Showcases
Whether you like it or not, if you want to get a college scholarship in baseball, you need to go to showcases. Showcases are events where anywhere from 50 to 500 serious high school baseball players come to one place and are tested for speed, power, defense, arm strength, and hitting ability. Generally there will be a skills day and then you will play two games.
With college baseball budgets getting tight, most baseball recruiting happens at these events. Don’t think that scouts and college baseball coaches are just going to show up at your high school games. They probably won’t. It’s not an efficient way of finding players.
Showcases are not all created equal. Many of them are simply a way for a local baseball guy to make money. I would recommend sticking to Perfect Game USA showcases and the showcases sponsored by Major League Baseball if you are lucky enough to get invited (East Coast Professional and West Coast Professional). I have also met the owners of the New Jersey Twins Academic Showcase, the All Star Baseball Academy Showcase, and the Goodwill Games. They are also quality showcases. If it’s not in that list and you haven’t heard it’s a good showcase first hand from someone you trust then my recommendation is to assume it’s not. That may sound harsh but these are expensive events that usually require travel.
Ignore mailings that you get. What happens is that one company will find a list of prospects and other, more devious, companies will steal the list and do a mass mailing or even cold calls. Don’t fall for it.
What makes a good showcase company? You want to go with a company that publishes your profile from the event on a trafficked website. You want to make sure they have staff available to talk to college coaches and scouts if they have questions about you. The cost of a good showcase is over 500 dollars. This sounds really high, but if you want to play college baseball and you get an average baseball scholarship of 2000 to 3000 dollars, that’s a sound investment. I would say go to at least 1 showcase your freshman and sophomore year. I recommend going to at least 3 showcases your junior year. It’s well worth the expense once you experience the thrill of college coaches starting to call your house.
If you want to go to a particular college, go to their summer and winter baseball camps.
3. Talking to College Coaches
I will cover this more in a future post, but a college baseball coach has one of the most interesting and precarious jobs I’ve ever seen. He starts by working 80 hours a week as an unpaid assistant, usually for a year or more, and then gets his first paid position. This job usually entails everything from training the team, keeping up the field, recruiting, and maybe even doing laundry. He gets paid but barely. He’ll do that for a few years until he moves into higher level assistant job that pays 30 thousand a year for more hours and more pressure. If he sticks with it, he’ll end up as a head coach who makes 50 or 60 thousand a year (unless he’s coaching in one of the two top conferences). Then if he doesn’t win, he’ll be fired in two years with little chance to move back up the ladder.
Taking the college coach’s situation into account when talking to them is very important. They are almost all good people who want to help you or your son. But their job is exceptionally tough, and they have to win. Take this into account when talking to them. Every year about 10 players will come into a college program thinking they have a chance to start. Realistically one or two of them will. By the second year that only five to seven of those players will still be on the team. And by the senior year it might be three players. This is how it works. Nothing is guaranteed and everyone comes in thinking it is.
Also, coaches move schools all the time. Never sign a scholarship because of a coach. Make sure the school makes sense for you. Chances are you’ll have a coach change during your time at the college.
4. How to handle a college visit
Once a college starts recruiting you, they will likely invite you on an official visit. This experience will vary wildly depending on the college. Usually the college coach will make a decision on which players you will stay with during the trip based on your personality. If you seem like a party guy who likes girls, he’ll put you with the party guys on the team. If you are a more conservative person, you will stay with a religious leaning person on the team or at a hotel. You will usually spend the weekend with the players and watch a practice.
After the weekend is over, the coach is going to talk to the players. In every case I’ve seen, what the players say about you is very important.
This next section needs a disclaimer. I am not advocating alcohol use by minors. It’s illegal and in a perfect world, no one would drink until they are old enough to do it legally. But this isn’t a perfect world and you are likely to encounter an alcohol situation during your visit to most colleges.
Most of the time you’ll end up going to a party with the other players and there’s going to be alcohol. Should you drink? That’s a personal decision you will have to make. Unless it is taken to excess, I’ve never seen it hurt a player’s chance at that school. If everyone at the party is drinking, you don’t have to drink. Just make sure not to make derogatory comments to the players. “You guys would probably be a lot better if you didn’t drink,” is probably a true statement but it’s not going to help you much in this situation. Also, don’t get passed out drunk and do anything stupid. Your goal for the trip should be to fit in with the culture of the team and get to know the players.
The bottom line is to be cool and avoid extremes.
5. Before you show up
Get in shape! The level of conditioning you need as a college athlete is far beyond what you need as a high school athlete. Most schools have a grueling first workout to drill that message home to new recruits. Most players are not ready for this. I remember throwing up for an hour after my first college workout. Most of the freshman did.