If you are a high school athlete and already have five coaches from D1 schools showing up when you play and you’re only a junior-congratulations! You need not read any further. For those of you who aren’t nationally ranked athletes but still want to play at the college level-read on.
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If you want to get recruited to play on a college team you need to go where the colleges are. Mind-boggling obvious you say? Of course, but have you really considered how location affects your chances to play college athletics? Let’s consider baseball. (If you are considering baseball, be sure to check out the DIY College Rankings Baseball Spreadsheet.)
How Many Students Are There?
With 53 NCAA baseball programs, California has six more colleges fielding baseball teams than Massachusetts. Sounds like an ideal place to get on a baseball team, right? Probably not. The average number of full-time undergraduates at these schools in California is 12,450 compared to 4,024 for Massachusetts. Theoretically, there aren’t as many undergraduates competing for spots on the baseball team in Massachusetts as in California. And there are probably a lot of high school players that want to play in California.
Think about it this way. Two schools have baseball teams. One has 1,000 students, the other has 10,000. Which school would provide better odds for making the team?
The Recruiting Base
The reality is that it’s not quite this simple. NCAA D1 teams aren’t really recruiting from their student population. More than likely, they are recruiting over a larger geographic area than just where their general student population comes from. And it’s not only D1 teams that recruit outside their immediate region. You can find junior colleges with plenty of out-of-state players. This is why it’s always smart to pay attention to college rosters.
Players Can be Concentrated
Of course, some places will just naturally attract more players for one sport than another. You would expect to find more hockey opportunities in the northeast.
However, because that’s also where the highest concentration of hockey players are, the competition for the spots might be much tougher than at some schools outside the region. A baseball player who has been playing three seasons a year in California, Texas, or Florida might find it easier to make a college team in Kansas or Missouri rather than his home-state.
Baseball Opportunities by State
The College Baseball Teams by State table below shows for each state the number of baseball programs. The data is from 2018 as reported to the Office of Postsecondary Education (this means classifications may not be current).
Looking at the number of college baseball teams by state you can see that Massachusetts has one more NCAA baseball program than Texas. Given the differences in state populations, superficially, it looks like Massachusetts offers better odds of playing baseball than Texas.
I say superficially because you really need to break the numbers out by division. Massachusetts has only 6 D1 programs compared to 20 for Texas. But for D3 players, Massachusetts is the place to be with 36 colleges compared to only 16 in Texas.
Furthermore, since D3 schools don’t offer athletic scholarships, there’s a lot more variation in the number of players on a team. For example, the 14 D3 programs in New Jersey have an average of 34.8 players compared to the 16 programs in Texas that have an average of 41.5 players. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to conclude D3 players in New Jersey get more playing time than those in Texas.
But if you want to play baseball at the D1 level, California and Texas offer the most college programs at that level. Therefore, it doesn’t really matter that there are a lot more opportunities to play NCAA baseball in Pennsylvania and New York because they lead in the number of D3 colleges not D1. However, New York does only have two fewer D1 programs than Texas.
It’s Really About the Competition
Competition is something that too many high school players underestimate. If the D1 schools in your state are recruiting nationally, then your competition is national. The opportunities arise when colleges are recruiting from smaller regions and the competition is smaller.
What does it mean if Texas has a lot more high school baseball players chasing baseball programs compared to New Jersey? It means that D3 programs in Texas are likely to be much more competitive than those in New Jersey. It also means that Texas players at all levels can find more opportunities if they’re willing to leave the state and look at places in states like New Jersey.
I think the main value of looking at the number of college baseball teams by state is to help players and their families understand the opportunities available. And depending on the numbers for their region, it may also prompt them to start looking for opportunities outside their comfort zones.
College Baseball Teams by State
|State||NAIA||NCAA D1||NCAA D2||NCAA D3||NCAA All||NCCAA||NJCAA||Other||Grand Total|
|District of Columbia||2||2||4||4|