The goal of this column is to provide players and their families with as much information as possible regarding the recruiting process, hopefully providing some quality information gathered from a variety of sources. I am going to try to provide new posts on a weekly basis. I am going to start off by providing some information on 2 topics that has been asked MANY times over and over: 1) I want to play college baseball at a D1 school. 2) As a byproduct of the first statement this second topic comes up which revolves around the parents and their involvement in the recruiting process.
First of all, just about every young player out their wants to play at a D1 college. The reality is that very few every enjoy that luxury; statistics show that it is less than 1% of all the high school players will be able to go onto a D1 program. That’s ok, there are plenty of schools beyond the D1 level that players can be successful with AND achieve the elusive athletic scholarship. How? Be realistic about your skills and at what level you can be successful. Believe me every mom & dad thinks that they have the next Mike Trout headed to the MLB but unfortunately they are not making the decisions. To be successful in the recruiting process you need to be honest about your skills and open to all available options including D2, D3, NAIA, and JUCO programs. At every level you can find very competitive baseball; in fact, many southern JUCO programs are capable of taking down the best D1 program at any given time. Often the JUCO programs contain players that could play at the highest D1 schools but for one reason or another they may need to refine one of their baseball skills or they may need to improve their academics in order to play at the higher level. And, yes, if you were unaware many JUCO programs offer athletic scholarships.
I found the following exchange while perusing another site and I couldn’t help but to share it here as it is relevant to this discussion. The below is an actual exchange between the former IU coach and a parent seeking an explanation of the response his son received to a video that he had sent to the coach for review. The dad’s name is changed to “baseball dad,” and the son’s name changed to Steve, for obvious reasons. Lord knows this is not the first letter of its kind sent to a college coach. I hope this provides some insight into, how pitchers are evaluated, whether or not to send videos to college coaches, things to consider when picking a college, if Coach Smith feels ALL ballplayers can play beyond high school baseball, and more.
Now the actual email (Coach Smith response indented):
Sorry it has taken me some time to respond to your email but we have been on the road a lot and I’m still catching up. I will try to address your questions and comments as best I can. Easiest for me to put my comments into the body of your email in red. That way, I can address each one of your concerns. Please see below.
Hello Coach Smith,
I hope this email finds you well. I have some questions for you which have been chewing at me for months, and I hope you can take the time to answer me and help me figure out the ins and outs of this whole baseball recruiting thing. My son sent you a video of himself pitching, several months ago. He is only a junior in high school. You very quickly sent back a reply letter that he was not scholarship material and basically “no thanks”.
We try to be prompt in our evaluations of videos. We receive several every week and want to respond to every video we receive in a timely fashion.
I am very curious why you were so quick to reply and what he can do differently. Was it the mere fact that he sent the video? Was that the turn off?
No, we actually encourage prospects to send us footage of them if we have not seen them in-person.
Did you see something in the video that was negative?
We look very closely at arm action and delivery when evaluating pitchers. Does the prospect possess a “quick arm”? What type of body does the pitcher have? In our opinion Steve did not have a quick arm, which we could see from the video. The velocity (81 mph) as indicated on his PG report supported the fact. In addition, his 5’10” in frame is not what we typically recruit for RHP.
Did you look up his “stats” someplace? Are you just so “big” that you don’t need to look at videos?
We review every video we receive. If we like what we see on a video, we will prioritize seeing that prospect in the spring or summer.
I’m not sure how you can tell simply from a video that a pitcher is not for you.
20 plus years of coaching and professional training at the major league scout school have provided me with a pretty solid basis for judgment. I will agree, video is not the best, but it can at least give me an idea if we like a certain player or not. We can “see” the tools we are looking for relative to our standards at IU from a video. As mentioned, if we like what we see on video we will go see the players in-person to get a feel for how a kid competes, etc.
You had no academic information on him, whatsoever.
Not a factor UNTIL we determine if we like them athletically.
You had never met him.
Same as above.
Maybe you just don’t need a right handed pitcher at this time, but it was quite perplexing to me how you could just send a quick letter dismissing him.
We are definitely looking for RHP in that class. To give you a reference point, we are recruiting a couple now that are 6’5” and currently pitching at 89-91 with solid breaking stuff.
You are the only school to use such a negative approach so far.
I can’t speak for other schools, but I prefer not view it as a negative approach. I view it as “honest” feedback relative to our interest level. I am very aware that athletes and parents spend a lot of time and money when trying to narrow down their choices in schools, and it would be a disservice to lead a kid on if we generally did not have an interest in them as a potential player for our program. I prefer to let prospects know immediately if we have an interest or not. If so, we keep the process going. If not, it allows the prospect and his family to devote their time, efforts and money to pursuing a situation that is a better fit. In the end, it has to be a fit for BOTH sides. I guess I could choose to lead prospects on which a lot of schools do because they are afraid to make such decisions so early, but at the end of the day it is a waste of time for all parties involved. Time you don’t have, and time we don’t have. I would rather be direct and honest up front so both of us can concentrate our efforts elsewhere. I apologize if you see it as negative.
I appreciate any advice you may have for us. At the time Steve sent you his video, Indiana was one of his first choices. He has obviously cooled that opinion. I find this whole process confusing and honestly, quite subjective.
No doubt it is subjective, but years of doing this and some of the best professional training one can receive, have put me in a position where I feel we honestly can eliminate some of the “guess work” and make some pretty solid decisions, even from viewing a video. Right now, Steve is a 5’10” RHP that throws 81 mph. I am a believer that ALL kids can play beyond high school at some level. It may not be division one, but they can play somewhere. 5’10” righties are not hard to find for any level. My recommendation would be for Steve to keep all his options open and not just focus on D1 schools.
As a parent, I want my son to have the best choice for a college and the option for the best baseball team he can be a part of. He is a great kid, and a dedicated ball player.
And you should! I say all the time that the player needs to decide how important baseball is to his college experience. For some, it is a must. For others, it is secondary to their academics, and so on. The art, or the real skill in selecting a college, is making sure the player (and family) find the best match. All of our players currently at IU are great kids and dedicated or they wouldn’t be here. I am sure Steve is a great kid and dedicated player, but in my opinion he doesn’t possess what we are looking for in a RHP as we compare him to the other players we have seen across the country. I am not taking anything away from Steve, and it is no way a knock on his abilities. Simply put, he just wouldn’t be a good fit for OUR program. That is the sole reason we try to provide that information to players and their families as early as possible so they can continue to look for the “right” fit.
I wish him the best of luck!
Thanks for your time,
The recruiting process is tough on high school players, and it’s stressful for parents too. It’s natural for parents to want the best for their kids, and as a parent it is a natural urge to want to jump in and do anything you can to help your child obtain a coveted athletic scholarship. But there’s a fine line between guidance and being overbearing. The recruiting responsibility lies mostly with the athlete. Parents that take too active of a role in the recruiting process may actually hamper the efforts of their son. Don’t be a helicopter mom or “we dad”. A helicopter parent hovers over their child and doesn’t let them grow or act on their own. A “we” parent lives vicariously through their child, and uses phrases like, “We are interested in University XYZ and tomorrow we’re visiting College ABC”. Remember, the athlete is the one who should be in charge of the recruiting process.