Reality Check Part 2: Playing College Baseball

baseball on field representing playing college baseball reality checkHopefully, the previous post demonstrated that the chances of getting a scholarship to play college baseball aren’t very good. Sometimes I think parents talk about the baseball scholarship as a way to justify the amount of time and money their family is spending on baseball. Claiming that it’s all to pay for college is an easy and obvious excuse.

But I think it’s okay to say that you child plays just for the love of the game even at the high school level. Think about it, no one questions the financial return of a teen being in a marching band or acting in plays. Most realize that they won’t do the activity professionally and probably not even in college but will participate in some form if they are able.

Ultimately, the possibility of a scholarship isn’t the only reason to consider playing college baseball.  There’s just the challenge of playing at the next level. There’s the skills developed in balancing academics and athletics. There’s the development of close relationships with others sharing the same goals. And then all the usual sportsmanship stuff that some really mean and others only pay lip service to.

For whatever reason your son is interested in playing college baseball, he’ll need to find a team that lets him play. Notice, I said that he will have to find the team, not the team finding him. When you think about it, this makes a lot more sense than people realize.

So let’s start thinking.

How to Get Recruited

College baseball recruiting occurs when a college coach selects members for his team from a pool of available players. In other words, if a coach doesn’t know you exist, he can’t recruit you. Therefore, you must get into the pool of players the coach is considering.

It’s not just enough to get into a pool of players, you need to get into the right pool.

What do I mean? Consider some incredibly oversimplified examples. All other things being equal, is it better to be one player in a pool of 25 or one player in a pool of 50? How about being a first baseman on a team that has three sophomore first basemen or only one senior first baseman? You need to pick your pool to increase your odds of being selected.

This is where you need to consider the factors that affect the availability of players for a coaches pool. The factors are going to vary from team to team. The critical factor affecting Harvard’s application pool would be academic qualifications while the University of Texas’ would be ability to play D1 baseball on a national level. Both of these factors would significantly decrease the number of players the coach has to choose from but I’m not sure which would actually have the most difficult time recruiting players.

The question for the potential player is to decide in which pool would he have the better chance of standing out and being selected. If you think about it, there probably isn’t much overlap between these two pools of players. (Using the DIY College Rankings Baseball Spreadsheet can help you identify the colleges where you will stand out in the recruiting pool.)

I hope you’re getting the point here: you can increase your chances of playing college baseball by understanding the factors affecting a coach’s recruiting pool. Let’s go through some of the factors in college baseball recruiting.

Academics

The higher the academic requirements for admission to a college, the smaller the coaches’ available pool of players. You may not be the best player on your high school team but how good of a player are you compared to others with similar academic qualifications? Have high academic qualifications? Look for teams where the coach has limited influence with the admissions office.

Recruiting Budget

This usually shows up in terms of geography. A coach without a large recruiting budget (or any recruiting budget) isn’t likely to look for players outside his immediate geographical area. Of course, this isn’t too big of a problem for schools in baseball rich areas of the sun-belt. Florida colleges don’t have to look too far for quality players.

But elsewhere in the country? Are there coaches in Iowa or Minnesota that would love to have the opportunity to recruit players from warmer areas? Highly likely. (See “Going Where the Teams Are“) And it is getting easier for them to do so with services like Be Recruited. However, even if you use such a service, it is still in your best interest to contact the coaches to let them know that you are interested in them so that they pay attention to your profile.

Program’s Reputation

Okay, nobody likes to talk about it but teams that finish in last place in their conference recruit baseball players just like other teams. After all, someone has to come in last. And these teams probably don’t have as many players interested in them as other teams in the same conference. Such teams offer opportunities for players to play in a conference that they might not otherwise be recruited for. Also, don’t think of it as playing for a losing team but being part of a team that turns things around.

You can also find such opportunities with teams that hire new coaches especially after the summer season. The players they had been recruiting might not be interested in his new school and he won’t have as much time to look for new players.

Position Availability

Position refers to both a general position on the team and the specific field position. A team with a large number of seniors is going to be looking for replacements the coming year. However, a team with an unusually large freshman class will probably not be making a major effort to recruit new players.

You also need to look at teams that have (or will soon) have vacancies in your position. You can get some idea of this by looking at team rosters on the web but they aren’t likely to list the players in the class immediately before yours during the time you’re looking for teams. It’s best to contact the coach directly and ask him what positions he will be looking for in your class. This is a great question to ask the coach in a phone call to follow-up your initial email contact.

There will be additional factors that affect the player pool that vary from team to team. Understanding these factors to position yourself in the optimal player pool will greatly increase your chances of playing college baseball. It might even get you a scholarship.

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No one questions the financial return of a teen being in a marching band or acting in plays. Most realize that they won’t do the activity professionally and probably not even in college but will participate in some form if they are able.

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