If you are like most college baseball hopefuls, you’ll likely only get one chance to impress a college coach watching your game. When college coaches are recruiting, they’re not necessarily looking for you to have the game of your life, although that certainly wouldn’t hurt. They are looking to evaluate your tools, skills, actions and behaviors. At any given game, the recruiter may show up with only 2 or 3 player names. That means that all the rest of the players in the game need to show something to catch the coaches eye and change themselves from a “no” to a “yes.”
If recruiters are looking for tools, skills, actions, and behaviors, you probably want to know what you can do so that your skill set stands out from the pack. There are never any guarantees, but here are 5 things you can do to put yourself in the best position to impress:
Take advantage of pre-game time
Pre-game can be the best time for a scout to evaluate your skill set. You may not get a pitch to hit or a ball hit your way in the game, so make sure you take advantage of every opportunity to show your skills in BP, pre-game defense, and even catch play. Play quality catch. Take ground balls or fly balls in a game-like manner. Show off your arm strength and accuracy with throws. Go after balls and run hard. Carry yourself well.
Scouts are watching the way you approach your game and go about your business. They are evaluating the way you move around and the way you carry yourself. They are looking at your set up, your jumps on the ball, and looking for ways to evaluate your speed and quickness.
Sprint on and off the field
Want to catch a coach’s eye. Sprint out to your position. We’re not talking about running or jogging, we are talking about an all-out SPRINT! Coaches have labeled doing this as eye-wash, and they might be right. There is no actual performance benefit to sprinting out to your position, but it’s an indication that you are willing to put in the effort. Nothing will make a coach look at their roster and check a player’s name faster than someone who sprints out to their spot (expect for maybe a 90 mph fastball or 400 foot bomb). You just don’t see many people do it anymore and it shows you want to be there and that you want to be watched. Doesn’t matter what position you play. It certainly won’t hurt.
Have a plan
Think about what you will be doing ahead of time and have a plan for how you want to do it. Since you already know what you will be doing and when, you will be able to put all your focus into doing it with purpose and carrying yourself with confidence. Most of the communication you do with coaches is non-verbal. The second a college coach lays eyes on you, he is making snap-judgments based on your appearance, size, how you carry yourself, mannerisms, interactions with teammates and more. Make sure the body language cues you are giving off help your cause. Walk around with purpose and intent.
Who does a coach want on their team, a guy who looks lost and continually needs reminders of what to do, or a guy who knows what is expected of him and just does it?
Understand what coaches are looking for
We have numerous articles on what college coaches are looking for on the recruiting trail. Start by reading our series about a recruit just like you here or listen to what college coaches say they are looking for here. When you understand what college coaches want to see, you can work hard on doing that. The best part is that the things they want to see will also force you to be a better ball player and teammate. When you know that coaches are looking for things like a quality time from home to 1B, you will give a 90 at 100% without slowing up, even if the throw beats you. When you know they want to see kids who are present and engaged, you’ll decide not to pull your cell phone out in the dugout.
Simply put, if you know what college coaches are looking for, you will know what to show them. It will also give you an idea of what skills and tools you should be working to develop. This is the cat-and-mouse game of the recruiting process in a nutshell.
Act like you want to be there
College baseball is much more demanding than high school. At a recent high school scrimmage double header, we saw players’ attention and effort disappearing. That’s telling to a college coach. In college, games are longer, there are more games, practices are longer and more intense, there is weight lifting, tutoring, college coursework, etc. If you can’t stay focused for a few hours during a game or practice, coaches will think you don’t have the ability to stay focused when you are faced with a college game, much less a double header or college season. Keep your phone in your bag. Watch and learn from the game while you are not involved in the action, and be a good teammate. Baseball is a game of skill and attention to detail, by showing you can stay focused and involved in the game from start to finish, you are showing college coaches you are exactly the kind of player they are looking for.
If you are waiting until game-time to prepare to show colleges you have the tools and skills they want to see, you are too late. These things are born on the practice fields, in the weight room, and in training sessions. However, as these 5 suggestions show, you can present your skills in the best light and show coaches the details that they want to see. The best part about following this advice is that by doing these 5 things consistently, you will not only catch recruiters’ attention, but you’ll be a better player and in a better position to help your team win. Good luck!