Finding the Right Baseball Program
- Do I want to attend a small school or large school?
- Do I want to go far away or stay close to home?
- Would I like the college to be in the city or country?
- What major would I like to take?
- What Colleges offer my sport?
- If my goal is to play as a freshman, will I have that opportunity?
Recruiting is really a job search, and as such, should be treated that way. If you were looking for a job, you wouldn’t wait for companies to come knocking on your door…and you should not wait for college baseball coaches to come to you. Unlike football & basketball, baseball does not have the resources or funds to recruit the same way. This mandates that high school baseball players must “recruit” the coaches at the schools of interest. The key is to make yourself known among the thousands of good high school players in the U.S.
The key to the recruiting process in baseball is to target the appropriate colleges that are an academic and an athletic match for you. Targeting schools can be based on several criteria, none of which has anything to do with baseball. Whether you play baseball or not, it is vital to select a school that meets your non-athletic needs first. Remember, you are one pitch or one at-bat away from never playing baseball again. Your priority is your education! YOU ARE A STUDENT-ATHLETE and it is worded that way for a reason.
The criteria for selecting a school is based upon your personal preferences, some you may already be aware of and others that you may become aware of as you move forward with the college search process. Factors such as location, cost, setting, number of students, academic reputation, areas of study, faculty, computer systems available to students, social life, and the quality of the physical plant should help you narrow down the choices from the more than 1,400 possible colleges in the nation with a baseball program.
For example, if you don't want to be more than three hours away from home, you have narrowed down your search considerably.
If you are determined to play in a warm climate, again you have more narrowly targeted your search.
Your goal should be to reduce the number of schools your son is interested in to a more manageable number of 50 or so.
I always suggest the “brainstorming” process in which you grab a piece of paper and write down every school that you could ever think of that interested you – for whatever reason. On another piece of paper, write down those factors of a school that are important to you (good or bad). Then, go to the internet and start researching school websites. As you research the schools on your list, you can circle those that meet your criteria and cross off those that don’t. For example, crossing off those schools that don’t offer the field of study you wish to pursue. Or, crossing off schools that don’t offer a baseball program – they are actually out there & not just the smaller schools.
After you have completed your research and narrowed down the choices, then you need to start determining whether or not these “targeted” schools are a match for your baseball talent. Not everyone can play Division I baseball and compete in Omaha on ESPN. Nor, do I believe that those programs are ideal for all of the top players. College is a huge decision and should not be taken lightly. There are plenty of kids that are determined to play Division I baseball, but never make it and then suffer in the classroom because they are unhappy. In addition, I don’t believe in the theory that Division I is better than Division II or III. I can give you several “smaller” programs that field better teams and offer a better overall experience that some of the “bigger” schools. Again, it is where you feel comfortable and the coaches feel you fit in. There are 2 big questions to ask yourself as you review your options…
1.“Can I see myself not playing baseball?” This is vital because you may face the decision of trying to “Walk On” at a larger school and risk being cut as opposed to accepting an offer from a smaller school where you are being counted on to contribute immediately. Again, if baseball is extremely important to you and then you don’t have it – will you be happy and able to succeed in the classroom?
2.“Do I have the personality to sit and wait my turn?” Often times, one of the consequences of accepting an offer from a larger school is that they “project” you to play down the road and do not look at you to contribute immediately. Therefore, you need to assess your personality to determine if you are the type of individual that can bust your hump day in and day out without ever seeing any playing time, as well as potentially not joining the team on road trips, for a year or two. Or, are you the type of player that needs to feel he is being given the opportunity to compete right away…No guarantee of playing, but just given the shot to do so. This is just as, or more important, than question #1.
You may or may not be able to answer these questions right away, but they should be in your mind throughout your college search process. They are key to your decision making process. This will also help to narrow your list of schools.
The next step is to maximize your exposure. The key is to get your name in the “mouths & files” of as many coaches you can on your list. It requires some effort, but it is well worth your time & energy. You may be the best player in Pennsylvania, but schools in Massachusetts, South Carolina, or Michigan may not know your name. Thus, you have to get your name to them. The easiest way to do this is to write letters of introduction to the coaches at the schools of interest. A sample letter is included for guidance. In this day and age, it is even easier to send emails to college coaches. You can typically find email addresses on coaches on the college website. The simplest method is to type up an email letter to a coach expressing your interest in his school and baseball program, and requesting information about them. Include your “Player Profile” (example attached) and then save it. You can then go back and re-send it to any school in the country, as long as you make sure to go in and revise any specific references to coach’s names, schools, or conferences. REMEMBER – Not all coaches utilize email, so you may still need to mail a more traditional letter to certain schools.
You can also call college coaches on the phone to express your interest in playing for their program. High School Players can call colleges at any time, without restrictions. However, be aware that the NCAA regulates when and how often a coach may talk to high school players. Therefore, if a coach is not able to answer your call, he may not be able to return a message. You may have to just keep trying. Again, school websites are a great source of coach’s phone numbers.
The typical result of your letters, emails, and/or phone calls is for the college to send you a questionnaire to complete for their files. Even though the majority of this information was on your “Player Profile,” schools have their own methods of record-keeping and prefer you to complete their form(s). Therefore, complete them. They do not take much time and usually include a self-addressed return envelope. YOU SHOULD ALWAYS COMPLETE & RETURN EVERY QUESTIONNAIRE YOU RECEIVE. Regardless of who it is from, complete & return it. Coaches can be peculiar this way and you never want to get a bad reputation from a coach. Coaching is a small “fraternity” of men that talk often and you don’t want a sour relationship with one to rub off on others. Therefore, take the time to do all of them as soon as possible.
Another method of maximizing exposure is to create a videotape of your baseball skills. The video should be 15 minutes or less and showcase all of your skills – throwing, hitting, fielding, etc. Try to shoot it from several angles to give coaches a better view of your complete game. There is no need to add music or documentary to the video, just make sure that each copy is adequately labeled with your name, high school, and phone number. You will need to make several copies, since they are not typically returned. I have attached another document that details the videotaping process.
As you continue to narrow down your list of potential schools & programs, you want to try to visit the campus and meet the coaches, if possible. Visiting campuses can be helpful in determining if an individual feels comfortable in that environment – how the campus is set up, the size of the campus, the buildings, dormitory situations, and the type of students enrolled there. Meeting coaches is also a good idea because it allows the player to assess whether or not his personality meshes with that of the coaching staff. Never be afraid to be proactive and ask questions. Refer to the attached section that discusses campus visits and questions to ask.
Of course, visiting every campus is not feasible. It is time consuming and can become very costly. Therefore, you want to make sure that any campus you visit is high on your priority list.