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First impressions are important and your body language and demeanor are the first things that a college coach will pick up on. He’s judging you without even thinking about it the second he lays eyes on you. Size, mannerisms, movements, posture, etc. are quickly getting filed away as positive or negative. If you pass a coach’s eyeball test and he likes your skills evaluation and projectability, he’ll likely pull out his phone and Google “[Insert Your Name] [Insert Your Team Name] Baseball”. Once he discovers your web footprint and you pass the social media check, he’ll wonder about your grades. If you are lucky, your coach has your grades and test scores listed right there on the recruiting roster that the college coach picked up at the beginning of the game.
At some point before, after, or maybe even in-between innings, the Coach will make his way over to the dugout. He may post up near the dugout and see how in-tune you are to the game, whether you stay locked in and support your guys or just check out until the next at bat. What he sees and hears are important. Eventually, he’ll grab your coach’s ear for a quick minute. After some chit-chat and investigative work, he is almost sure to finish up with some variation of this question:
“Is he a good teammate?”
Stop right now and consider that question for yourself. How do you grade out as a teammate? What kind of teammate are you? How would your coach describe you to an interested recruiter? If the answer is anything less than rave reviews, you have work to do. Being a good teammate is rule number one, and if your coach lets on that you are anything less than a good teammate, your recruitment will likely end right there on the spot. There are many boxes a recruit must check off to be seriously considered by a program, but there are only a few question marks that will make a coach red line (cross off) a recruit on the spot. The previously mentioned social media and academics are among these important questions, but even those provide more wiggle room than the teammate question.
In a sport where team culture is talked about almost as much as launch angle, there simply is no room for guys who are going to give anything less than 100% support for the guys next to them on the bench and in the field. Do bad teammates slip through the cracks and end up on college rosters? Sure. Do they get as much out of the college baseball experience? Definitely not. Baseball is a team game, and there is nothing more detrimental to the success of the team than an “I” guy. Coaches seek out energy giving players and there is a place on every college baseball roster for a player whose skills may be a tick below par, but who is a phenomenal team guy, brings positive energy and work ethic every day, and is loved by his teammates. You also won’t have to look far to find examples of college baseball teams performing beyond their capabilities because they love being around each other, pick each other up, and simply don’t want the season and experience to end.
When the wins and losses are tallied up at the end of the season, all you are left with are the relationships that you created and the lessons learned. I don’t know Jake McKinley, the 1st year head coach at William Jessup, an NAIA school in Rocklin, California having the best season in school history. What I do know is that everywhere he goes to coach, his teams have success. I can only begin to guess the reasons for the success, but I think his tweet following their conference championship may capture one of the most powerful ingredients well:
— Jake McKinley (@mckinleyjake12) May 3, 2018
College baseball is about creating this unquantifiable synergy with teammates. If you aren’t being the best teammate you can be, the time to change that is now. Not just because it will help you get recruited or help your team win, but because on the most important level, it’s what will give you the most out of this great game and allow you to create meaningful relationships and memories that last a lifetime.