Playing college baseball is an impressive accomplishment. Looking at the numbers alone, only about 7% of high school baseball players have the opportunity to continue playing at an NCAA institution. Every year, there are a little over 120,000 high school senior baseball players, with only 9,000 open roster spots within NCAA baseball programs. Prospective college baseball players should understand that the odds are stacked against them. By understanding this, players can better gauge the level of recruiting effort that is needed to play college baseball.
Some players believe that they are skilled enough to get recruited with little to no effort. While this may be true for a very small percentage of players, this mind set will lead the vast majority down the wrong path. To have success with college baseball recruitment in the current climate, players have to be engaged and take proactive steps to build exposure to college coaches. Gone are the days where players get recruited by a program that stumbles across talent at a high school baseball game. Even in the rare circumstances where that does happen, the player typically has several other college options that were generated through exposure building events.
The college baseball recruiting process can be very challenging and time consuming. Along with athletic responsibilities, players must maintain a solid GPA and earn sufficient scores on standardized testing to be academically eligible. It’ll be time consuming and even frustrating at times, but with this comprehensive guide to college recruiting for baseball, you’ll be able to better plan your path to playing at the next level.
College Baseball Recruiting Rules and Timelines
Players and parents often struggle with the college baseball recruiting process because they are uninformed about the fairly complex components that go into it. That’s why the most logical place to start is to cover the recruiting rules that NCAA institutions are governed by. By understanding these guidelines, players can ensure a smoother college baseball recruiting journey.
An important piece of the rule book is the NCAA recruiting calendar, which establishes recruiting timelines. The calendar essentially determines when the recruiting activities can occur, the parties that can be involved, and the type of activities that can be conducted. The NCAA contains a variety of schools with varying athletic budgets and recruiting resources. To level the playing field from a recruiting standpoint, the NCAA holds baseball programs to these timelines.
Coaches are limited to certain times of the year where they can have in person contact with prospective college baseball players. There are also periods where coaches can meet in person, but only if it occurs on the university campus. Obviously, these timelines impact a player’s efforts to get recruited. With this information, players and families can better plan their contact with coaches and a schedule for attending camps and other events. To learn more about contact periods, quiet periods, dead periods and when they occur throughout the year, check out our NCAA baseball recruiting calendar post.
A piece that often gets overlooked throughout the college baseball recruiting process is academic eligibility. Players can get so wrapped up with building exposure and handling other recruiting responsibilities that they forget about the academic component. All too often we see players land their top school, only to learn that they won’t be academically eligible to play their first year. The eligibility guidelines vary by NCAA division, so you’ll definitely want to find out more about the academic eligibility requirements broken out by each Division.
The two main pieces to academic eligibility are the core courses that a player takes throughout high school, and an evaluation of academic performance which is assessed through a floating scale. To have full eligibility to play their first year in college, players must have completed 16 core courses in high school. To be considered a core course, it must be in areas such as English, Math, Natural/Physical Science, Social Science, or additional courses identified by the NCAA.
The floating scale factors in GPA and standardized testing scores. If a player typically receives lower scores on standardized tests, like the SAT and ACT, he must earn a higher GPA to make up for it. Similarly, if a player struggles to maintain a high GPA, he will have the opportunity to balance that out with high standardized testing scores. For a comprehensive guide to academic eligibility with more information about the core courses and floating scales, check out our academic eligibility post.
Another key piece to the college baseball recruiting process is understanding the likelihood of receiving a baseball scholarship. Baseball scholarships are highly sought after and for good reason. With the rising costs of attending college, a partial scholarship could represent tens of thousands of dollars in savings over the course of four years. Through the National Letter of Intent Program, players can lock in their athletic related scholarship for their first year of college. After the first year, the scholarship money isn’t guaranteed. Both Division I and Division II institutions are allowed to offer athletic related financial aid, but the regulations vary between the divisions. While the key details are covered below, you can learn more through our baseball scholarship post.
At the D1 level, baseball programs can offer a maximum of 11.7 scholarships across their roster. The NCAA classifies baseball as an equivalency sport, which means that players can be offered partial scholarships. Not every program is fully funded, so this allows coaches to spread out their scholarship money across more players. Specifically for D1, the minimum amount a player can receive is a 25% scholarship.
D2 baseball programs can offer a maximum of 9 athletic scholarships. Unlike that of D1, D2 is not held to a minimum percent that they must offer a single player. As a result, some players could receive as little as a few hundred dollars a year to help out with books or other miscellaneous college expenses. Something is better than nothing. Division 2 programs typically have smaller athletic budgets, so some schools are forced to stretch 2 full scholarships across a 35 person roster.
D3 programs are not allowed to offer their players athletic related scholarships. Players will still have opportunities for academic related scholarships though. D3 institutions often have competitive academic related scholarships that are made available to student-athletes. These packages are typically dependent upon academic performance, so it’s important to maintain a solid GPA through high school and college.
Generating a List of Schools to Pursue
After a player has spent some time learning about college baseball recruiting rules, recruiting timelines, academic eligibility, and scholarship opportunities, it’s time to shift gears. At this point, players should start to formulate a list of schools that they are interested in. When developing this list, the player should consider the following items:
- Location of the school – is the school a drive or a flight away, and how does that impact your family’s ability to visit during the semester/season?
- Academic majors – does the school offer your major? If you are undecided, are a variety of majors offered that could potentially interest you?
- Level of academics – are the school’s academic standards and expectations aligned with your academic abilities?
- Type of campus – do you have a campus setting preference (city, suburbs, or rural)? Are you expecting the athletic facilities to be on campus?
- Budget – are there certain schools that you wouldn’t considered based off the price tag alone?
- Student Enrollment – are you looking for a small, medium, or large school experience?
- Student life – would you like to attend a school that has a variety of opportunities for involvement, outside of baseball?
There are a several websites that offer a thorough analysis of colleges based off of the items mentioned above. By using these tools prospective college students should be able to to accurately pinpoint a variety of schools to potentially pursue.
When generating this initial list, players should focus on academics, admissions, financials, student life and other non-athletic characteristics of a school. These should be the primary reasons for selecting a school. A player should never settle on a college that isn’t a great academic fit for them because the baseball aspect worked. All too often we find players changing their majors because of their athletic circumstances. If that is something you’re considering, you should go back to the drawing board.
As the name suggests, student-athletes are students first. A small percentage of college baseball players get drafted, and an even smaller percent make a career at the MLB level. Players need to focus on their academics first, so when their baseball careers ends, they can quickly transition to their professional careers outside of baseball.
Once a player has generated this initial list, they should start to evaluate different components of baseball programs. By taking a look at some of the items below, players will quickly realize if a program is aligned with their preferences from an athletic experience standpoint.
- Players graduating by position – gives players a better idea of the positions that a program is in need of and is likely recruiting for.
- Current position depth – get a feel for the number of players that are typically stacked up at each position.
- Roster size – an indicator of competition for playing time and the need for multi-positional players.
- Player retention – when you see a pattern of poor player retention, it should be identified as an area of concern.
- Incoming transfers – does the coach rely on a replenishment of transfers, or do they develop the underclassmen to become contributing players?
- Red shirts – many recruits don’t realize that there is a real possibility of sitting out a year to develop athletically.
- Player profile by position – some coaches have a tendency of recruiting big, physical players, how do you stack up?
- Breakdown of handedness and batting side – at the collegiate level, coaches are mindful of handedness as they build their rosters.
- Player home states – understanding the locations where a coach typically recruits is extremely valuable.
We offer a tool which allows players to quickly analyze the items mentioned above. We tell all of our players that college baseball rosters are one of the most valuable resources that can be used for their college baseball search. The information that is found within a roster is objective, and can summarize a program very accurately. The downside is that it can be time consuming, especially if you are considering a wide range of schools. At TeamFacts, we offer a tool that streamlines the work of analyzing individual college baseball rosters.
If you don’t find any suitable baseball programs within your initial list, you might have to revisit the first step. Are there certain aspects of your college experience that you are willing to tweak? If you feel strongly about playing college baseball, you might have to sacrifice school size or even how far it is from home. By expanding these two areas, you would be surprised with the number of additional colleges it opens up as opportunities to be a student athlete athlete. Just don’t sacrifice any of the academic aspects.
Building Exposure to College Baseball Coaches
We hinted at this in the introduction, but players must actively pursue college baseball programs to make meaningful progress with their recruitment. This mean that players will have to attend a variety of showcase events, tournaments, and college baseball camps to get themselves noticed. Players should take a calculated approach as they decide what exposure building events to attend. These events are typically pretty expensive and can be a few hours away, sometimes requiring an overnight stay.
By putting a plan together, players and parents can ensure that they are getting the most for their time and money. Most events contain a list of college coaches that will be attending the event in person. With the core list of the schools from the previous step/section, players should be able to target events that have several programs of interest in attendance. These events are posted online several months in advance, which allows players to create a schedule of events to attend throughout the year. If there’s a showcase that only has one program of interest, it might be worth looking elsewhere.
For organizations like Prep Baseball Report and Perfect Game, players attending their events receive an online player profile. These web hosted profiles house a variety of the player’s information including basic player details, performance data that is collected at the event, scouting reports, video footage from the event, and state/national rankings if applicable. Unlike a traditional showcase, the player promotion platforms these organizations have developed allow for continued exposure to college coaches well after the event ends. The hundreds of college coaches that are a part of their networks have the ability to search through these player profiles for college baseball recruiting purposes.
While these organizations may charge a little bit more to attend one of these events, players need to keep in mind the level of exposure they will benefit from as a result of these events. In addition to receiving an online profile, players will also benefit from additional coverage through the variety of multimedia channels they operate.