By Ethan Guevin
It is November 25th and you are unsigned and uncommitted to play college baseball. The early wave of signees have put pen to paper and with all the congratulatory messages and excited tweets going around social media, you may feel a little discouraged, frustrated, or left out. While you may be disappointed, we are here to tell you that there is still have time to find a place to play, even with recruiting restrictions that will persist because of COVID-19. Believe it or not, hundreds of college programs are still looking for players to fill out their rosters.
Even with college coaches still on the hunt for players who can help, it’s important to note that this year (and the next few years) will not be typical. For you to have recruiting success, it’s important we acknowledge the elephant in the room. Because of eligibility decisions related to COVID, college programs have a logjam of returning players and recruits. There are more quality players on campuses competing for playing time now than ever. As a result, the recruiting classes of 2021 and 2022 are going to get squeezed out of opportunities. It’s likely you need to broaden your search, be open to opportunities you may not have considered, and create backup and contingency plans (gap years, different levels, safety schools, etc.). With the right plan there are still plenty of paths to the next level.
Here are 5 reasons for you to stay positive and keep working hard towards your goal of playing at the next level.
You Have Time
9 months. That’s how long you have to find a place to play. That’s a long time. There is a reason why this time of year used to be called the EARLY signing period. Yes, many programs have inked their top recruits and have more players on campus than they know what to do with, but once the season gets underway, even the schools that appear to be done recruiting your class will likely be looking for late adds. It happens every year. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with signing later in your senior year.
The Future is Still Uncertain
There is a lot of uncertainty about the way college and college baseball will look next year. Will campuses be back to normal? Will there still be major COVID concerns? Hybrid learning? Will fall ball be normal? What additional eligibility decisions will be made by the governing bodies? Letting this play out isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you have a back up plan. You can continue to develop, get better, and make yourself more recruitable while seeing how things change over the winter and into spring. You have time to make a careful decision about where you want to play. This is a BIG life decision, so having a little extra time to do your homework and figure out where you really want to play is a good thing. Take advantage of it. With the new rules, you can now sign at any point from now until August 1st.
There Will be Lots of Turnover
It is so early in the season that many teams don’t know what type of turnover they will have with their rosters. There are always players who quit, transfer, or get hurt throughout the year, not to mention players who coaches decide aren’t performing to the standard expected who they want to recruit over. In typical years, this opens up roster spots and scholarship money late in the year for kids who have not signed yet. COVID will add another element to the uncertainty (see above).
There’s Great Baseball Outside of D1
It’s usually around this time that recruits who are holding onto D1 dreams come down to reality a little bit. That’s not a bad thing. Guess what? Not making it to D1 baseball doesn’t mean you have failed! Playing college baseball is about finding a fit, not chasing the highest division. Many players who end up on D1 rosters would be better suited at other levels and many players who play other levels are good enough to play D1. Know this: there’s incredibly good baseball and great opportunities at every level. Non-D1 programs typically do their recruiting later and there will be many programs at all levels still looking to fill roster spots.
Junior college baseball should not be looked at as a last resort or backup option, it’s legit college baseball. JUCO is a great stopping point for players who need to continue developing, didn’t get the offers they wanted (or needed) from four-year schools, or who need to improve their grades and become eligible, not to mention it is affordable. Junior colleges offer much more flexible rules and practice time than four-year programs. The right junior college fit can offer playing time you need to improve your skills in game play. If you do well at the junior college level, you have a great chance of advancing to a four-year school. Like all levels of college baseball, the JUCO route will also be incredibly competitive because of bounce-backs from D1 and D2 programs, additional eligibility, and other COVID-related side effects. Start to consider giving junior college baseball a serious look. Start by giving your local programs a good, long look.
If it fits, consider taking a gap year while the dust settles on the impact of COVID on college baseball and recruiting. There are many people paying costly tuition bills while they sit behind a computer screen during distance learning, sometimes even from their home. Because of the recruiting dead periods and uncertainty, it might actually be the perfect time for some players to consider a gap year. It takes the right mindset and kind of player to get value out of a gap year, so you’ll want to spend a lot of time thinking if you have the discipline and desire to do it. You’ll want to have a structured plan for training, weight lifting, playing, and getting better. Getting more recruitable during a gap year won’t happen unless you have a quality plan and the commitment to stick with it.
As you can see, even with the uncertainty surrounding college baseball, there are plenty of opportunities remaining and plenty of paths to college baseball. While making it to college baseball has become more competitive, the recipe for making it remains the same: create a plan, educate yourself, continue to get better on the field and stronger in the weight room, and relentlessly pursue your fit. If you’re not signed, don’t get down. Keep your head up and keep working!