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Do You have to Play High School Baseball to be Recruited to Play in College? Part 2

Baseball mitt and ballPart One covered the situation of wanting to play college baseball when there’s no high school team available. But what if there was a high school baseball team available?

Now we’re entering tricky territory.

It’s like the student who had AP classes available to take but decided not to. The college admissions people are going to want to know why didn’t you take them and what did you do instead. Curing cancer is always a desired response but not expected or considered the only acceptable response.

So why wouldn’t you play on your high school baseball team?

You didn’t make the team. It could be that you attend a high school with an awesomely competitive baseball team where only future MLB draft picks make the team.

Not great for the ego but it would seem to me to be a perfectly acceptable reason for a D3 coach who thinks you have to skills to play at his level.

Then there are the cases where high school baseball interferes with other responsibilities such as a necessary part-time job or family obligations. Sometimes the players simply can’t meet the demands of the high school team and even with good reasons, the team policy is no exceptions. Of course, assuming the player is on a summer team, he will have to explain how he could participate on one and not the other.

But what if you didn’t make the team because of some reason that had nothing to do with baseball or the responsibilities mentioned previously?

This is a situation that is going to raise warning flags for anyone recruiting players. This is where the attitude that “the coach is always right so get on the team even if you have to sit the bench every game” comes from.

I suspect the actual number of players who don’t make a team because the coach “has it out for them” in some way, is actually pretty small. But I don’t doubt for a minute that the number exists.

The problem is, even if the issue is on the coach’s side, the player really doesn’t have any way to “prove” it to college recruiters without coming across as somebody who is just making excuses for not making the team. This is why families will move to another school district. It’s a no win situation for the player.

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In such cases, it may be better to never have actually tried out for the team. And there are all kinds of reasons why you might decide not to play on the baseball team.

Being on the team would unnecessarily prevent you from participating in multiple other activities or even some of the more demanding academic classes. I know that at some schools, baseball players couldn’t realistically participate in other extra-curricular activities and were strongly encouraged to stay away from other sports as well. These suggestions have sometimes been reinforced by reduced playing time.

If you’re on track for the MLB draft, this may be an acceptable situation. If you are more realistic about your chances of making pro, it may not be.

Like the student who passes on the AP classes, what you’re doing instead of being on the baseball team becomes critical. Without going into details, your explanation is that high school for you is not just baseball and it was clear that you could not make the commitment to the team that the coach expected. You have continued to work out on your own, take lessons, and accomplished x, y, and z. And you better have teachers and summer coaches prepared to explain how this should be considered a sign of maturity rather than a lack of commitment.

Still, the coach could point out that you’ll have to face the same situation in college, especially if you’re playing D1 or D2. It’s D3 where the priority is generally on the student part of student-athlete.

For some, being of the team is a waste of time. I’m not too sure what the difference is being on the team but never making it into the game versus not being on the team at all. If you’re a junior and have no stats because you can’t convince the coach to play you, how is that easier to explain than not being on the team?

This is where the homeschooler in me comes out. You expect my kid to sit around all game because you don’t think he’s better than any of the nine players currently on the field? (Or whatever the case may be.) I would much rather he was using that time to participate in something where he could have an effect and prove his baseball skills in the summer for more receptive coaches.

With the exception of the first case where the team talent is just over the top, any of the remaining situations come down to the coach not seeing value in the player. If the player is talented and demonstrates it through non-school baseball activities, there is the question of why is the high school coach not playing him when his job often depends on winning by playing the best players possible.

No matter what, no matter how correct the player is or how wrong the high school coach, this comes down to questioning the coach’s decisions and authority. And that’s going to give any coach pause.

I suspect that in most cases, players who didn’t play on the high school team could only expect to play baseball in college at the D3 level. Even that will depend on the coaches commitment to academics.

The key will be to keep the attention on the player and his activities and accomplishments and not the high school coach. The player has decided to be responsible for his time that would have been spent under the direction of the high school baseball coach. The player better be able to show that he used that time in a manner that justifies passing on the high school team experience.

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