Many college coaches would like to send you a letter like this, but since they can’t, we are happy to do it for them. This letter is to help you understand what you are getting into by signing up to play college baseball. To keep up at the college level, you will have to work harder than you ever have before in your life. Expectations and demands will be higher on you than ever before and there’s a good chance it will put your love for the game to the test. The rewards will be well worth the effort, but you may not see that until many years after your playing days are over. This letter may sound a bit harsh at times, but it is delivered with the best intentions. We want to help you understand what to expect and we hope you will benefit greatly from hearing about the realities you may have to face when you get to campus. Despite what you have or have not been told during the recruiting process, being recruited for college baseball is the start of your journey, not a sign that you have made it.
To give yourself the best chance at success in college, you’ll quickly have to set aside the rose-colored glasses of your recruitment. Take the optimism and what coach said about where you would fit into the team’s future plans with a grain of salt. You will have to earn a contributing role by beating out returning players. What you liked about the clubhouse, facilities, or campus will also be put on the back burner. What’s important is you understand that things may not turn out the way you were told or expected them to. If nothing else from this letter sticks with you, remember this—the only guarantee in college baseball is that nothing is guaranteed.
What does this mean, exactly? Well, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing or a good thing. It’s a reflection of the uncertainty and opportunity in college baseball. It’s also one of the beautiful things about college baseball— anything is possible. In college baseball, everything is earned and nothing is given. It’s possible that everything goes according to your plan, but here are a few real-life examples of expectations and promise turned on their heads, both good and bad:
- A freshman walk-on outworks and outperforms a returner at his position and is named Freshman All-American and earns a scholarship.
- A freshman who doesn’t see the field in the first 18 games of the season makes the most of his first few opportunities and ends up earning conference freshman of the year.
- A pitcher struggles for success and innings during his first three years of college. He makes the adjustment to side-arm as a last-ditched effort and things click. Not only does he have 2 great seasons to end his college career, but he is drafted and eventually becomes a Big Leaguer.
- A scholarship player shows up out of shape, struggles to catch up and find his footing, and his opportunity is over before it even started.
- A big-time recruit out of high school can’t keep up with the speed of the college game. At first, he is stubborn with adjustments. When he decides to make changes, it’s too little too late. He struggles and is benched.
- A big-time recruit and top-10 round draft pick out of high school gets to college where he battles injuries his whole career, despite being a model player and teammate. His health prevents him from ever getting a full season and he goes undrafted.
As these examples show, there is nothing easy about being a college baseball player. Every college team in America has stories like these and every player experiences adversity. Each player makes many decisions that will impact which kind of story he will tell someday. When things don’t go the way you plan, how will you react? What decisions will you make?
If you want your college baseball experience to be a success story, keep the game fun, enjoy your teammates, take nothing for granted, work as hard as you can, show up prepared, and most importantly, enjoy the process while you are in it. Even when you do everything right, there still are no guarantees.