By Ethan Guevin
If you are trying to get back in the game after taking some time away, the most important thing is to be realistic. Once you take time off, it can be extremely hard to get into college baseball. We won’t lie to you. You have a difficult task ahead. To give yourself the best chance, get started right away.
You may have stepped away for a variety of reasons, but if you have gone a year or more without playing, most college coaches are going to be skeptical of your ability, motivation, or both. Whether this is fair or not, it is something you should keep in mind when you contact coaches. It will be important for you to be organized and plan ahead. You need to be realistic about your ability, the talent level of the team you are trying to play for, and based on these last two, your chances of making it on the team. Due to the ease of getting into school relative to other divisions, less restrictions than NCAA divisions on roster limits, and the varying quality of competition, Junior College baseball will most likely provide you with the best opportunity to earn a prolonged tryout and possibly a spot on the team.
Depending on whether or not you are already enrolled in the college of your choice, here are some things you can do to improve your chances of playing baseball again.
Trying to get on a team after already being enrolled in school:
Being enrolled in school makes this strictly a baseball issue. You should think about what role you are willing to accept on the team. Being willing to start as a bullpen catcher or other less desired positions can help you get a foot in the door. Just be sure that signing up for one of these positions will NOT cost you your eligibility. At some levels, if there are no available roster spots, a team manager position will mean you must forgo your eligibility, which means you will not be able to play in college. Decide ahead of time what kind of involvement you would accept and then contact the coach, with the answer to these questions ready:
- Why did you take the time off?
- What is your playing history? Stats, Awards, etc. Have contact information ready for former coaches or scouts who have seen you play.
- Do you have any credible sources (baseball people) who can speak favorably about your playing abilities? People like scouts, well-known coaches, etc.
- Which schools recruited you coming out of high school (if any)?
You should ask the coach these questions:
- Can I try out for the team and if so, what type of tryout will be given (one day, extended tryout, etc.)?
- Are there any roster spots still available? (Many leagues and divisions have limits on how many players can be on the team).
- Are you willing to take me on as a bullpen catcher, practice player, etc. (if you would be interested in these positions)?
Trying to get on a team when you are not enrolled in school yet:
Unless you are a player who at one point was actively recruited or are a high-level player, you will likely need to get yourself into the school where you want to play before trying to get on the team. Junior Colleges and Community Colleges will give you the widest selection and easiest entry requirements, but if you have a strong academic record, your options may open up. Your first challenge will be getting into school. If you are a desired player, the coach may be able to help you with your acceptance, but you should not count on it. Get started right away.
Contact the coach ready to answer the same questions and with the same information listed above. For information on how to contact coaches properly, check out our article on that. If they are interested in you, they will likely give you direction on how to start applying for admission. If not and you are still set on that school, you will have to get admitted on your own.
No matter what your situation, show up ready to go. Be realistic, prepared with the necessary information and references, show up in game shape, make sure you have NCAA eligibility, and expect nothing to be handed to you. If you keep an open mind and willingness to start in any position, you will improve your chances of finding a team.