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Advice for the Recruited

Publication Date: December 10, 2002

Looking for a Home

You know, when I started doing this stuff, I had no intention of trying to affect anyone's future; I was just having fun (and still am, I suppose). Nonetheless, I've been getting notes over the last few months from parents looking for advice as they're helping their sons choose a college to play for or hoping to catch the eye of a prospective school, so I thought I'd combine some of the answers I've been giving and try to put together a sort of primer on my thoughts on the process. I realize I'm wandering out of my analyst's role again, but I really do want to answer the questions you're asking. I probably can't produce anything definitive here, but maybe I can at least open up some avenues of thought for those who need them.

The first thing to understand is that college baseball, from the player's point of view, is a small-money game. That's a rather cold way of looking at things, and it doesn't cut into the enjoyment of the game at all, but despite the small amounts of TV exposure and the prestige of it, there just aren't that many college baseball scholarships out there, and recruiting is a much less enthusiastic process than it is in the big money sports. I'm guessing baseball is the fourth most popular sport for the NCAA (assuming you count men's and women's basketball separately), but there's a pretty wide gap in there before fourth when it comes to the amount of resources dedicated to the game.

This has a couple of effects. First of all, there are only 11.7 scholarships per team, so there aren't very many full baseball scholarships. At any given time, a team will generally have only three or four guys on full scholarships, and they're frequently juniors and seniors who have "paid their dues". 25% to 50% is much more usual.

Secondly, the lower recruiting profile combined with the fact that baseball players tend to develop more slowly than in other (simpler :-)) sports means that there's a much better chance of quality players being overlooked. That means that you're going to have to sell yourself (in the good sense) to a coach as much as he's going to have to sell himself to you.

It's important to set early on what I consider to be the most important priority in the whole process -- you're going to college first and playing baseball second. If all you really want to do is play baseball, aim for the minor leagues -- the pay's lousy, but being in college when you don't want to be can be pretty miserable and can seriously mess up your game as well. If you are going to college, though, let baseball only be one of the factors that influences your choice. All of the usual things that 17-year-olds and their parents have always considered still matter -- is your preferred major available, do you like the campus and the location, does the student body feel like a good fit, do you have friends there already? Add baseball into that mix, but remember that in four (or three) years, you may be a first round draft pick or you may be picking up a diploma and looking for a job.

When you're weighing the baseball part of things, the most important thing is going to be the coaching staff and how they fit in with your style of play. NCAA rules limiting contact with potential recruits make this a bit tricky, but find out as much as possible about the schools. One way to do this is to spend a weekend on campus unofficially during a home series. You won't have access to talk to the coaches, but college stadiums are fairly small, all in all, and you can get a feel for things. How does the coach communicate in the dugout? What is the mood of the players -- relaxed, intense, nervous, comfortable (none of those are right or wrong in general, but you know what you prefer)? How is the atmosphere with the fans? Are you comfortable with the size of the crowds? How do the facilities look and perform, both from a quality point of view and from how they fit your game? Obviously, the travel requirements can make this hard to do, especially since you're still busy playing, but try to at least fit in trips to your top choices.

For pitchers, there's another concern -- what kind of workload does the coach put on his top pitchers? You can find out the most information that's available about that here on the site; feel free to ask any questions you have about specific programs. Unfortunately, there aren't many these days that don't overwork their guys, but some have been worse than others.

When it comes to selling yourself, remember that these are baseball guys, not scholars. They love video and are less impressed with written material, so keep the written stuff short. Stats matter, but not enough to be worth overloading the reader. Awards help out a lot, so put yourself in position to win as many as you can. Attitude matters, so be respectful and approachable. Coaches really like camps and spotlights, so do as much of that as you can without overloading yourself, but don't stress over it to the point where you get too worried about a bad week -- baseball's like that sometimes, and all you can do is hope you get enough chances to show what you can do.

As far as which schools to look at from a baseball point of view (don't forget all those other factors we talked about earlier), a good place to start is with the EFI's. They're a measure of how different schools perform relative to the way you'd expect them to based on their off-field advantages. What you want to look for is schools that overperform their EFI -- that do well in spite of serious academic requirements, bad weather, and small conference revenues. You may not get a chance to play in Omaha (or you may, as Louisiana-Lafayette showed a couple of years ago and Rice shows perpetually), but from a player development standpoint, it'll be good.

In the end, this is a personal decision, and you're the only one who will eventually know if you make the right one, but hopefully this will at least get you started. It can be a big choice, but try to make it for the right reasons.

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Boyd's World-> Breadcrumbs Back to Omaha-> Advice for the Recruited About the author, Boyd Nation