Today my interview is with Jeremy Sheetinger, the College Division Liaison with the American Baseball Coaches Association (www.abca.org). I had the pleasure of meeting him recently at the “Be the Best” Conference in Atlantic City. Jeremy has a wealth of knowledge that I think is extremely relevant to what we are doing here at RPP.
Nunzio: Good morning Jeremy and thanks for your time. I just want to say that it was great to meet you recently at the “Be the Best” conference. Thanks for taking the time to speak with me today. Can you please begin by telling me a little about yourself.
Jeremy: Good morning Nunzio. Ok, so I was born and raised in Frankfurt, Kentucky and like everybody else I played high school baseball and went on to play college baseball at Division II Kentucky Wesleyan college.
I got into coaching right away at Georgetown College (NAIA). After Georgetown, I joined the staff at University of Kentucky (Div. I), as Director of Operations. I was there for 3 years. I also worked as the Recruiting Coordinator at Saint Joseph’s College in Indiana (Div. II) and Brescia University for couple of seasons. Prior to coming to the ABCA, I was head coach at NCAA Div. III Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky for 3 seasons.
I joined ABCA as the College Division Liaison in September 2015. My primary role is helping service our members but I am also responsible for increasing the awareness around ABCA. I host ABCA’s “Calls from the Clubhouse” podcast and also manage our social media efforts.
I think it’s fair to say that I like having a lot of irons in the fire. I like to be busy. I was also an Associate Scout with the Atlanta Braves for 2 years. I have run a baseball academy and managed summer league teams, camps and academies. I earned my undergraduate degree from Kentucky Wesleyan College and I also have a Master’s Degree from the University of Kentucky.
Nunzio: Sounds great. What an awesome background, you have certainly seen it all. Can you talk a little about ABCA’s primary mission and purpose.
Jeremy: So, you know we’ve been around since 1945. We are like the baseball coaches’ fraternity, a collection of over 7,600 coaches worldwide are now a part of our association. We are basically the organizational group behind baseball coaches. Interesting transgression is how things have kind of evolved over time. Back from the 40s through the 70s, we were just for college baseball coaches. In the 70s, we opened the doors to high school coaches. And we have now opened the doors to get into the youth baseball world and get those coaches involved as well.
Our mission is simple; grow the game of baseball. We try to do anything we can to make the lives of our coaches better, including help facilitate changes when necessary with the NCAA, NLI, NJCAA, National Federation of High Schools, all the while working on their behalf to grow the game. We try to serve as good stewards of the game by furthering coaching and overall education about the game.
Nunzio: How do you think the influx of technology and data like Statcast, TrackMan, Zepp, Motus Sleeve and Diamond Kinetics and other products will change college baseball and do you think it will also change the way people get recruited.
Jeremy: That’s a really a good question. We do some stuff with a lot of these technologies. We have done things with Zepp, and Diamond Kinetics is actually our official motion technology partner. We also have a relationship with Blast Motion. I think these technologies are certainly changing college baseball right now. It is really one of those things that will take time to truly blanket college baseball. As we know, coaches can be very slow to change. We are very rooted in tradition and we’ve always done it a certain way. But there are definitely guys that are challenging that.
I think more guys are seeing that there can be another way. A clear example where the recruiting side has changed is in the showcase realm. The progression has evolved from the classic scouting information, things like the 60-yard dash, home-t- first time, grading out the infield, arms, batting practice, mound velo. Scouts now have gotten to a point where exit velocity off the bat is something that most coaches have a really good grasp on.
When you see exit velocity of 75, 78 or 80 mph, you know what that kid is about. He is either a small frame kid, singles hitter or a big kid, with slow twitch muscles, that hasn’t figured out how to efficiently move the barrel yet. On the other hand, you see a kid with 95 mph exit velo you know you are dealing with a different type of kid. I think everyone now has a framework for what exit velocity really means. You would not have said that ten years ago. That would have been the farthest thing from what coaches would have looked for.
Today, on the other hand, you might be talking about “launch angle”, I don’t think we are quite there yet. But certainly exit velo has made a change. I think “spin rate” is moving along, especially for the upper level guys at Division I schools that are basically feeder systems for the minor leagues. I think they are thinking of spin rate as a great reference point. I think it’s new but that’s the beginning of change in college baseball.
Nunzio: In your capacity, you obviously deal with a lot of college coaches. If you were sitting down with a high school player right now, trying to figure out where he should play, how would you suggest he assess a coaching staff or a program to make his choice.
Jeremy: A Great question. I do a ton of recruiting seminars and I speak to high school players and their families on a regular basis. I think the first thing that the athlete has to check is their ego. They have to take the college level completely out of their evaluation and decision. Too often, with all the social media craze and water cooler talks, it sounds a lot sexier when you say “I am playing D1 baseball” vs. “I just got a full NLI scholarship”. I get it. Unfortunately D1 is what we see on TV. But, if you can take the level and the ego out of it, you can go a long way towards making a good decision. You can’t just sign D1 to say you signed D1. You have to evaluate for fit. High school players have to focus on the fit across every level. If you start there and look at the criteria that really matters to you, you should be ok. Level should be irrelevant.
Players should be thinking outside of themselves and finding out what makes them happy and motivates them. If you are a guy that craves winning, you can go to a lot of programs that will go 10 and 40 every year. That program might be D1 and you get to wear the sweet sweatshirt, but when you go 10 and 40 every year, and 40 and 160 over four years that can get pretty tough over time. Think about what makes you happy before you make a decision.
Listen to the way the coaching staff talks, and I am not talking from a selling standpoint. Sort through that selling talk and then speak to the players. Ask players “how the coaches are in person”. Listen to the players and hear how they speak about their coaches. Also use the internet and find out about the school and figure out the direction of the program and how they compete. Review their archive for the last 10 years and study them. Use what’s at your fingertips. There is a lot out there when you google a program.
Nunzio: Last question, it seems like on the recruiting front, baseball college recruiting is following football recruiting in many ways. Commitments are moving down further and further in the grade. I mean I can tell you for myself, I have kids in here that are considering committing to Division 1 schools in 10th grade. That’s tough for both coaches and high school players. What advice do you have for high school players dealing with the evolving recruiting process?
Jeremy: Great question. I will piggy back on your comment. I recently reached out to recruiting coordinators at SEC, Big 12, Pac 12, ACC and the Big 10 and asked a handful of the bigger programs where they were with their recruiting classes, anonymously. The answer will blow you away. In the 2017 class (current seniors) those programs are about 95% done, 2018s (juniors) are 75% done, 2019s (sophomores) are 60% done and the 2020s (freshmen) are 30% done. That is the accelerated look at the top programs in the top 100. If you go to the D1 mid-majors, they might go down a little, but in the 2017 class right now, those programs are probably about 85% done, and 2018s (juniors) are probably 50% done.
In this environment, guys are looking at social media, teammates or kids in the same conference and they are wondering why no one is calling them. Every one’s recruiting timeline works on their own time. Just because some kid got called as a sophomore and you didn’t doesn’t mean anything.
Nunzio: You also have to be careful. When you commit to a school you kind of become untouchable and you have to realize that you still may have 2 or 3 years before you graduate. Your coach may leave before then, and then all of a sudden the school starts fresh because the new coach wants different players. They drop your verbal commitment and now you are early in your senior year trying to find a new program. By committing early without really exploring a number of different programs, you can shut the doors too early.
Jeremy: I’ll do you one worse. These kids are committing as freshman and/or sophomores early and they are done. They are committed to school X and if you don’t physically develop the way the coach thought you would or you aren’t progressing the way they thought you would they could pull the offer. Remember it’s a “verbal” commitment, until you put ink to paper during your senior year. These players are held accountable to make sure they continue to develop and the are at risk.
Coaches and players are both having a tough time with the process. But that’s the current state of the union. Players have to understand that if they don’t develop or put in the time there is a chance that early during their senior year they might be getting a call from the coach giving them some bad news. I know grandparents and everyone purchase the hat and clothes but the coach is telling you that “sorry you are going somewhere else”. At 14, do you truly know how someone is going to project out? Also, remember there are no limits on verbal commitments. A school can make as many as they wish. So back to fit, back to timeline, you have to do your homework, take your time and if it feels right it will happen.
Nunzio: That’s awesome Jeremy. Thanks so much for your time. This has been great.
By Nunzio Signore (BA, CSCS, NASM, CPT, PES, FMS)