With the fall semester approaching, many rising high school seniors will prepare for college with visits, standardized tests, and applications. For athletes, specifically baseball players, senior year means a race to sign with a college team by November or in the spring.
If you’re a high school baseball player, this list is for you. I played four years of college baseball, and I’ve met a lot of recruits on their visits. Every recruit I’ve talked to, who met these requirements, increased their chances of playing college ball.
1. Ask yourself, "Can I play?"
It’s a simple question, but it requires a lot of self-evaluation. Honesty regarding your abilities can be difficult. Here are some questions to consider: are you playing varsity baseball on your high school team? Are you a starting player? Do you play competitive travel baseball in the summer? Do you have a love for the game and wouldn’t mind playing everyday? If you answered "yes" to all these questions, then you’re a good candidate for college baseball. However, if you don’t have a passion for the sport or aren’t playing competitive baseball, then college baseball isn’t for you. I’ve played a lot of teams and seen a lot of players. There are good and bad players at every level of college baseball. No matter your skill level, there is a place for you in collegiate baseball. Your job is to find which level, school and program best fits your abilities so you can increase your chances of playing all four years.
2. What are your grades? Test scores?
College coaches aren’t your parents. Their job isn’t to babysit you and make sure you do your homework. Coaches look at your high school GPA to not only gauge your ability to be accepted into their school, but also to see your work ethic. A good GPA of 3.5 and higher proves you can work hard on a daily basis. A low GPA indicates laziness. Good standardized test scores will increase your chances of acceptance into their college and may earn you academic money. The majority of college baseball programs don’t have many scholarships, and almost no one earns the legendary “full ride.” If you’re a good player and a coach likes you, then you may get a partial athletic scholarship. The rest will be related to academic money. A good GPA and high test scores will earn you money from the school and perhaps more money than you’d get with baseball. Some schools--like NCAA D3--don’t give athletic scholarships. If you get recruited by a division 3 school, you need to have academic credentials in order to gain a scholarship.
3. Be proactive.
Unless college coaches are banging down your door with calls, letters, and emails, you need to be proactive. If you want to play baseball at the next level, take control of your dream and reach out to coaches. This can take a variety of forms. You can call coaches and send emails--introducing yourself and expressing your interest in their program. A great tool is creating a highlight or skill video and uploading it to Youtube. You can include a link to your video in an email for coaches to view.
4. Go to prospect camps.
After contacting coaches with your desire to play for their school, you can do a few different things. Most schools have prospect camps. With these, you pay to attend a skills showcase at a specific school. These camps offer a good opportunity for a college of your choice to see you play and interact with you. It will also give you an opportunity to see the school, interact with any college players working the camp, and see how the coaches organize their program.
5. Attend showcases.
Showcases are an alternative to prospect camps. These are events hosted by baseball organizations in which numerous college coaches and scouts attend. Showcases are designed for coaches to see a lot of players within a short period of time. The goal of a showcase for you as a player is to ‘showcase’ your skills. Most showcases include a skills session where you will run a timed 60-yard sprint, throw from your position and take batting practice. Some showcases will have an inter-squad following a skills event.
6. Don’t be an idiot.
Having fun off the field is great, within healthy boundaries. You may decrease your chances of making a coach fall in love with you if: you’re posting party photos on your social media, tweeting obscenities or building a reputation as someone who drinks and does drugs. Having a good reputation is key. The world of baseball is small. People talk. Coaches talk. Believe it or not most college coaches in your region of the country know each other. If college coach A stops recruiting you, then college coach B may ask coach A why they lost interest. Guard your reputation.
7. Be resilient.
Baseball is a cruel sport. It’s a game of failure on the field and off of the field. If you’re a heavily recruited player, then gaining a chance to play college ball is much easier. However, if you’re scrapping to find a place to play, you need to be resilient. Expect rejections by coaches. All you need is one coach to believe in you and take a chance on you. Your goal is to find that coach and show him why he should invest time and money in you.
8. Be yourself.
If a coach invites you to visit his school, then you’re well on your way to playing college baseball. However, nothing is final yet. A recruiting visit will give you an opportunity to meet the coach(s), tour the campus, meet players, and hopefully discuss your possible future as a member of their program. It is crucial to be yourself on these visits, ask intelligent questions and smile. Coaches want to know if you have a personality they like and can get along with. Essentially, don’t be a jerk on your visit.
9. Send thank you notes.
This is a simple gesture, but it goes a long way. Many young people don’t write thank you notes anymore. Sending a thank you note to a coach after your visit will impress. Thank you notes often show coaches you are a humble, grateful and mature person. Who wouldn’t want a person like that on their team?
What can it hurt? A lot of the college recruiting process is out of your control. It’s sometimes impossible to know what a coach is looking for in a player. A lot of college baseball recruiting depends on position. Does a coach need the position you play? Were you born at the right time? Maybe you’re a catcher and the coach you’re contacting needed catchers a year ago but doesn’t need to recruit one now. This coach may like you, but may not recruit you because he doesn’t need what you can offer.
These ten points scratch the surface of the intricacies included in navigating the recruiting process. However, success in each point will increase your chances of fulfilling your dream of playing college baseball. No matter what, if you want to play beyond high school, live everyday to the best of your ability and work harder than your competition. Eventually, it will pay off.