Recruiting the High School Baseball Player

RECRUITING THE HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL PLAYER

DATE: January 1, 2011
BY: Marc Cuseta: President and Senior Head Coach – Bayside Yankees

The evolution of the college recruiting process for the sport of baseball has changed dramatically over the past decade due to several factors which are detailed below. The roles and jobs of all parties involved in this process has also been altered. Below is a “guide” to use in this process, bearing in mind that each individual prospective student-athlete has varying levels of ability, both athletically and academically.

First and foremost, choosing a college is the first really important decision a youngster will make in his life. It can affect his future considerably, both athletically and academically, either positively or negatively, and should be done with great care and research on the part of the player and his parents. Important rule of thumb, there is a good college situation out there for every level of high school player, as long as the player and his parents are realistic about his potential, both athletically and academically.

PRIORITIES: Take your time making your selection!!!

Due your due diligence and research your options carefully. Do not be “pressured” into a quick decision by any parties, be it a college coach, your parents or your peers. It is of the utmost importance to choose a college for academic reasons first and athletic reasons second. Remember, you are a “student-athlete”, not the other way around. Here’s a straight statistical fact to keep in mind. 99.4% of all high school varsity baseball players nationwide will never play one day of Major League Baseball.

When doing your research and making your college visits, ask as many questions of the coaches, academic personnel and other student-athletes on campus as possible. You want to make sure that you “fit into the student body”. Not only athletically and academically, but mentally and socially as well.

MITIGATING FACTORS:

For the sake of discussion, let us assume that you and your parents have done your due diligence and researched your college options in a clear and realistic manner. That means that you have taken off your “rose colored glasses” and narrowed your choices down to a reasonable number of options (no more than eight or ten) who fit your athletic and academic profile. Now, a few key points:

1. What year in school is the player who plays the same position as you will be when you are a freshman? Is he a “legit” draft eligible player the year you are graduating high school. Has he been, very successful at the college level, marginally successful, or not so successful.
2. How many other players on the college roster play the same position as you?
3. Does the program, specifically the coach, have a track record for giving a freshman a chance to “compete” with an upper classman for a starting position?
4. Does the program, specifically the coaching staff, have a track record for making their players “better” from freshman to senior year? How many non drafted players out of high school have been drafted out of that program during the tenure of the current coaching staff?
5. Does the program possess the facilities that are to your liking and desires?
6. On your visits, did you feel comfortable with the coaches, future teammates and the student body, in general?
7. Are you comfortable and satisfied with the “non baseball” aspects of being a student-athlete at the college?
8. What academic support systems are in place and available for the student-athletes.
9. Very important factor: What is the track record, especially the current coaching staff, for this institution of high learning graduating their student-athletes!

Have you noticed that I haven’t mentioned money or scholarship dollars yet? That’s because if you put money or scholarship dollars ahead of any of the above mitigating factors, you are making the most important decision of your young life,

FOR ALL THE WRONG REASONS!!!!
In a perfect world, you’re #1 choice will satisfy all of the above and be in a position to offer you and your family a satisfactory financial assistance package. That would be “Utopia”. But just in case that scenario does not present itself, please bear in mind that there are a number of different avenues to pursue, aside from athletic scholarship dollars, to assist you financially when you make your college choice. At a majority of institutions nationwide, there is both financial and academic aid available that might exceed the amount of athletic scholarship dollars available to you. In some cases, there might be endowment funds available to you, depending on your need and projected course of study. Explore all your financial options before making the wrong decision, based only on money.

TIME LINE:

Boy, has this ever changed dramatically over the past decade in the sport of baseball. And in my opinion, and this is only my opinion, not for the better or benefit of the prospective student-athlete!

New words (“terms”) being used over the past decade, especially the last five years.

Verbally committed, De-Committed, definitely committed, maybe committed.

All of these terms should be “COMMITTED”, to a place with solid white walls and straight jackets!!!!!
It is utterly ridiculous and counter productive for a prospective student-athlete to be making verbal college commitments prior to the completion of their Junior year in high school. The NCAA wastes their time, in an attempt to legislate and police a multitude of rules that they ultimately, have no control over. But something so simple as this, which is so easily legislated and policed, they turn a deaf ear to. Typical NCAA, completely out of touch with reality in collegiate athletics.

I’m only going to ask you one question on this subject. Using common sense, which is rarely used in the recruiting process today, tell me exactly what college coach in America today can, when you are a Sophomore in high school, give you a 100% honest answer to the following questions.

Will you be my coach when I attend my first class as a college freshman?

Can you guarantee me that I will be admitted to your school when I apply?

If any one of them tells you 100% yes, they are lying, right to your face, plain and simple.

The prosecution rests! Next case.

All prospective student-athletes should BEGIN researching, doing your do diligence, during your Sophomore year in high school. Once you enter your Junior year, you will be better prepared to evaluate where you stand, both athletically and academically. Then, and only then, will you be capable of formulating a realistic initial list of colleges to consider. Ones, as stated above, that meet both your athletic and academic profile, which is still developing at this juncture in time.

VIDEO TAPES and ON LINE SERVICES:

Please take a minute and grab the newest edition of Webster’s Dictionary. Look up two words, useful and necessary. Read their meanings carefully. Digest them, understand them and then apply them into the college recruiting process.

VIDEO TAPES and ON LINE SERVICES are USEFUL. THEY ARE NOT NECESSARY.

If you can’t afford them, it’s not the end of the world. Don’t take out a second mortgage on your house to pay for them, especially if you are an “elite” varsity athlete by the time you are a Sophomore.

This still developing “cottage industry” is no different from the “snake oil salesmen” from a century ago.

EXPOSURE vs. EXPOSED:

The most overused word in the college recruiting process is “exposure”. It’s a “sexy” term that parents love to hear. They “melt” at the mere mention of the word.

Fact: far too many young high school players get “exposed” well before they are ever ready to get “positive exposure”.

Learn how to play the game first. Don’t rush it. Learn the “right way” to play the game. How to prepare to play. How to carry yourself, both on and off the diamond. Mature a little first, both physically and mentally. Then, and only then, are you ready to receive,

“POSITIVE EXPOSURE”.

ROLE OF THE HIGH SCHOOL COACH:

Be as involved in the process as you are comfortable being. If it’s “not your deal”, then stay out of it. If you’re a math teacher, just interested in making the extra dollars coaching HS sports, stick to your area of expertise. If you’re a “baseball guy”, especially those of you with a vast amount of experience in this process, do everything you can to help your prospective student-athlete. But please, and I beg you, please,

DON’T LIE OR OVER EVALUATE YOUR STUDENT-ATHLETE TO THE COLLEGE COACHES.

You may think you’re doing the player and his family a favor but all you are doing is ruining your reputation permanently, and ruining any chance you might have to help a future player who is more of a legitimate prospective student-athlete at the college level.

Don’t “oversell” the player. Let the college coaches make their evaluation and decision independently. If they want your input, they’ll ask for it. Will they make mistakes? Sure, they’re not all Branch Rickey. But it’s their job on the line, not yours.

One more thing, do not let your personal feelings (eg: your alma mater) or allegiances get mixed into the prospective student-athletes decision making process. A rule of thumb:

GUIDE – DON’T DECIDE !!

CONCLUSION: You are making the biggest decision of your life to date. Ultimately, this is your decision, not your parents, not your coaches, not your “advisors”. Ask for input from all that you trust. Don’t succumb to peer pressure. The same college situation is not necessarily right for two prospective student-athletes. Feel comfortable with the college coach and the student body in general. Pick a coach who is stable, one you consider has been sincere to you during the recruiting process. He is going to be your “surrogate father” for the next four years. Make sure YOU can adjust to HIS coaching style. Understand that in most high profile situations, HIS JOB IS TO WIN. That’s what produces the lucrative bat and shoe contracts, the local TV and radio shows and ultimately, the “next job” in baseball. Most of all, and I can’t stress this enough:

MAKE THE RIGHT DECISION FOR YOU AND ONLY YOU !!

It’s your life, no one else’s. You have to be happy with your choice if you are going to succeed both athletically and academically.

BOTTOM LINE:

A DEDICATED STUDENT-ATHLETE IS A SUCCESSFUL ONE !!!

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