Baseball Factory Feature
Volume 6, No. 1 - January 2011
Doing the Little Things to Pay Big Dividends in the College Recruiting Process
The college recruiting process has long been considered an evaluation marathon. There are a great deal of variables in the equation for both college and pro teams; however, not only are coaches and scouts looking at bat speed, raw power and arm strength, but they’re also assessing a player’s mental makeup. It is important to realize that when a coach or scout is looking at a field of equally-talented players, the tiniest of differences can separate the prospects from the signed athlete.
Many players don’t realize that they are being evaluated long before the first pitch. As a coach making a recruiting trip to high school games, I made it a point of arriving early, not only to beat the traffic, but to get there with plenty of time to take in the scene. I found that a lawn chair near the fence was the best place to “eye down” a player as they got off the bus. Whether or not he’s half-dressed, horsing around with teammates or interrupting his warm-up to steal a few minutes with his girlfriend are all considered in separating players even before they’ve taken the field.
Evaluating prospective student-athletes during a game also goes beyond performance and skills. Baseball is a game of streaks, both hot and cold. How a player approaches every at-bat and every routine play, and how a player handles failure or success is very important to college coaches. Does he understand how to play the game hard and provide an example of solid leadership on the field to younger players?
Furthermore, a fair warning to parents in the stands: coaches are not just evaluating the players on the field … they’re evaluating you, too. It’s astonishing how much information is passed around via bleacher gossip, and coaches are always listening. Be wary of what you volunteer not only about your son, but about other players, as well. I must also strongly caution any parent against seeking out coaches that come out to games. Rather than trying to actively market your future student-athlete, consider that the coaches are on the clock and there to do a job. The more time they spend looking at family scrapbooks, the less time they have to evaluate your son.
Finally, the manner by which a player deals with a good or bad performance can speak a great deal about his attitude. Is he hanging his head? Is he kicking gravel on the way to the car and muttering under his breath? I personally tried to introduce myself to players I came to see as they left. A firm handshake and solid eye contact will prove to be one of the best first impressions a prospective student-athlete can ever make with a coach. Players that are both humble and appreciative of the attention are the ones that make the most of this interview. Don’t confuse cockiness for confidence.
The thing to take away: you never know who’s going to have their ear to the ground and their eye on your game. Everyday we are amazed how things can come full circle in life. It’s no different in the college recruiting process. The baseball fraternity is a very close-knit group. We talk. Word spreads fast and far. And it’s the little things that always come around to tip the scale.