As a parent who has gone through the college recruiting process I can tell you this, it’s a maze with no roadmap. There are so many different topics, and there is really no one telling you what to do, or what’s right and/or what’s wrong. I am by no means an expert, but I did learn a few valuable things along the way and for the record, most of my knowledge revolves around D1 and D3 programs. So with that said, here are the top 10 things I learned about college baseball recruiting.
- The Recruiting Math
- Rankings Don’t Matter
- Choosing a Program
- Recruiting is Moving Down in Grade
- College Baseball Camps
- Emailing a College Coach
- Stats are Irrelevant
- Overall Conduct and Behavior
- When That First Offer Comes
- Recruiting Video
Here we go…
1. The Recruiting Math
College baseball programs have limits on the size of the roster and the number of scholarships allowed per program. Here is a quick summary:
I will cover scholarships in a later section but with respect to roster size, in any given year, many of these spots are already taken by sophomores, juniors and seniors. If you make some basic assumptions it boils down to the following # of openings per program (you can fine tune this further if you assume lefty/righty for pitchers, or corner/middle infield, etc.):
The numbers may vary in any given year as different programs have different needs based on their specific situations. These are approximate at best, but I think the numbers give you a good idea for the math.
2. Rankings Don’t Matter
Throughout the college baseball recruiting process you keep hearing about rankings, rankings, rankings. Let me tell you, rankings don’t matter. I know it’s hard for most players to accept this with Perfect Game and other sources constantly putting out rankings. It feels good to be ranked. It feeds the ego for both parents and players. But believe me when I tell you, although all coaches subscribe to these services to gain access to information, they want to see you in person, on the field, playing the game. So, my suggestion is “ignore the rankings, play hard and stick to your game”.
Coaches want to see for themselves and reach their own conclusions. What one coach may absolutely love about your mechanics, another one may hate it. If your rankings aren’t what you’d like them to be, but you hustle and play the game the right way in front of the coaching staff the rest becomes irrelevant. Of course, it helps if you hit and/or pitch well when they are watching!
3. Choosing a Program
Here is some simple advice, pick the kids first, the college second, and the coach last. That may sound backwards but as you go through the recruiting process keep in mind that your happiness is #1. If you aren’t happy nothing else matters. Since you spend most of your time with the other players, try to get a sense for the type of kids the school attracts. Speak with existing players at the school during the visit. Do you think you would fit in with them? Do they seem like decent and friendly kids?
Although you have to like the coach, I list that criteria as 3rd, only because college coaches are constantly moving around from school to school. There is good chance that there will be a coaching change during your time at the school. Others may disagree with me on this topic, but given that unknown you better like the rest of it. My son’s college coach, the one that recruited him, announced he was leaving the first week of his freshmen year. The new coach started the process with running an open tryout.
4. Recruiting is Moving Down in Grade
NCAA has many rules of conduct, including when and how a coach may reach out to a player, by phone, email, text or otherwise. If you ask me it’s silly because coaches get around these rules all the time. For example, officially you can’t really commit to a D1 program until your senior year when you sign your National Letter of Intent (NLI), yet players are announcing verbal commitments all the way down to middle school years. How does that work?!! A coach can’t reach out to a middle school player but middle school players are announcing verbal commitments! Well, a verbal commitment is exactly that a “verbal commitment” between you and the head coach. If the coach leaves before you sign your commitment papers (D1 and D2) or receive your admissions notice (D3) during your senior year a verbal commitment is just that, verbal.
Needless to say, recruiting earlier and earlier is putting everyone, including coaches, in a difficult spot. Players are worried that there will be fewer and fewer spots as they go up in grade. Coaches are worried that the better players are getting picked up earlier by other schools. It’s putting everyone in a tough spot. A coach can easily rescind a verbal commitment if he believes that your commitment to the game is not what it used to be, or your aren’t developing as well as he had expected. One more thing, signing an NLI is not a four year commitment. The program can cancel your athletic scholarship any given year (more on this later).
So, think long and hard before making a commitment. If it’s your only offer and you don’t like it then keep looking. Transferring out after your Freshmen year isn’t fun. You only go to college once. It’s a lifetime experience. Do NOT get caught up in the excitement of the moment. Do your research, ask your questions and commit with both eyes wide open.
5. College Baseball Camps
After showcases, college camps are probably the next best dollar spent. Just about every major college program offers a baseball camp. They are usually in the summer and/or fall and you can generally find all the info about the camp on the school website.
What most parents and players don’t realize is that college baseball camps often have coaches from other schools helping them run the camp (and obviously observing). So, you can get looks from more than one school at college camps. The Stanford Camp on the west coast (probably one of the best college camps in the country) has over 30 college coaches attend the 3-day event.
Generally, the school/camp websites often lists the other schools attending. If you have a high level of interest in a school and are having difficulty reaching the coach, you should go to their camp. Some schools mostly recruit from their camps. I remember one school specifically stating that over 60% of their players come from their camps.
6. Emailing a College Coach
Coaches receive thousands of emails from high school prospects in their inbox every spring, yes thousands. So, needless to say they tend to go through them quickly. Make your emails brief and to the point. Spell the coach’s name and the school name correctly and then make sure, and then triple check you spelled them correctly. Customize each email as best as you can. Put your metrics and recruiting video link at the top of the email. Your metrics are what they are. And if you ask a college coach what’s the #1 thing he wants to see in an email beyond spelling his name correctly he will tell you good “VIDEO”. They want brief, succinct emails with metrics and video clips. I can’t be any more blunt on this topic.
Also, please note that they do not want slang or present day texting-style acronyms like “lol”, “lmao”, “np”, etc. Write or text in complete sentences with proper grammar and no typos. Show respect, and definitely skip the EMOJIES.
7. Stats are Irrelevant
I can’t remember a single coach asking my son about his hitting or pitching stats during the whole college baseball recruiting process. Every once in a while, school questionnaires request hitting and/or pitching stats but we generally ignored them. No one ever said anything. Stats are meaningless to coaches. So, don’t run up to a coach and tell him your high school ERA is 1.50 and/or batting average was .450. He won’t like it.
I actually overhead a conversation once when a player told a coach that his batting average in the spring was over .600. Coach’s immediate response was “sounds like you didn’t face any decent pitching”.
8. Overall Conduct and Behavior
I covered this mostly in my article on showcases (click here), but it’s worth reviewing again. How you conduct yourself is extremely important. College coaches are always watching. They are looking for mature young men that speak up, act in a mature way, walk tall and demonstrate an attitude that they want to learn and excel. Your body language and your spoken word (and the smile on your face) say a great deal about who you are. Tuck your shirt in and please wear your baseball hat properly. Respect the game. The picture below is not a good example. Coaches want you to show respect for the game.
It’s pretty safe to say, showboats are not welcome; Team players are.
Social Media – Here is a quick piece of advice on social media. Delete your accounts and forget about social media for a while. They’ll still be there when you come back to them. But, that’s easy for me to say. So, just in case you choose to keep them, keep it clean. Whatever you post, retweet or comment on is 100% a reflection on you. And if you think you can create an anonymous account rest assured that a coach looking to offer you a scholarship will find it. They have their methods, including having team captain befriend you and ask for your social media info. So, delete them or keep them clean. Coaches will rescind offers if they see inappropriate behavior and/or material on your social media sites.
9. When That First Offer Comes
This is a recurring theme that I see happen over and over again. You have your eyes on several schools that you are interested in and then you receive an offer from another school that isn’t on your list, or even on your radar. If you really want to play college ball, given the recruiting math, it’s be hard to say “No”. But don’t just say “Yes” because you received an offer. It won’t make a difference if you get to the school and feel like you don’t fit in. Do your homework.
Different coaches provide you with different amount of time to make up your mind. It’s not unheard of to have a few days to a few weeks. The tough part is that everything is constantly changing. Coaches see new kids all the time and they are constantly making changes to their “follow list”. An offer today might only be there for a short period of time. Everything is constantly shifting and changing. This can be a difficult situation. So, just be prepared for it. It happens more often than you might think. Not Everyone is this lucky:
10. Recruiting Video
As far as college baseball recruiting goes, a excellent short video is a MUST. It’s an absolute requirement. My suggestion is 60 seconds, maximum length. Also, DON’T play “We are the champions in the background” as background music. Coaches have little time and patience and they have many prospects to review.
The best videos are those that are a sequence of back-to-back drills (unedited). They don’t want just the highlights of bomb after bomb. I also suggest that you place your metrics right inside the video where it’s visible. DO NOT exaggerate your numbers. If you list a velo of 87 mph on the video and coach sees you throwing 81 mph at a showcase he will wonder. Alternatively, you can place your metrics at the top of the email that you send coaches. It’s better if you and the coach know right away if there is a fit.
Looking for even more advice, then check out my article on Top 10 Things to Do To Get Recruited for College Baseball.
By Bahram Shirazi (BSEE, MBA, Owner at RPP)
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