Every year, parents of college baseball prospects are lured by expensive showcases that promise a 5-tool evaluation and exposure to college coaches. This sounds great to parents who think that an objective evaluation will help give them guidance on what level their son should pursue and where to start in the recruiting process. And any exposure is great, right? You can’t get recruited if you aren’t seen, right? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
The showcase business has long been profiting off of parents who so badly want to do what’s best for their sons’ futures but don’t have a grasp on how to navigate the recruiting process. Before we get into the reasons why you should do your homework before paying for a showcase, let us be crystal clear that players can, and do, get recruited at showcases. To say otherwise would be a lie. It’s also true that there are trustworthy companies who provide exposure to college coaches at a fair value. But make no mistake about it, there are others that make money by stoking parents’ fears and perpetuating myths including the idea that any exposure is good exposure, rather than providing the services parents think they are paying for.
The two main concepts behind the showcase sales pitch are not inherently wrong. The most successful recruits should seek out objective feedback and use it to target the right level of college baseball for their skillset and inform their training and development. It’s also true that in order to play college baseball, you will have to get exposure to (be seen by) college coaches at some point, likely in person, but at a minimum using video. However, these ideas can be grossly misrepresented by convoluted marketing schemes to increase revenue. Here are 3 myths that unscrupulous organizations hope to use to make profits off parents and players.
Showcase Myth #1: All showcase evaluations will give you important, objective feedback on the right level of college baseball for you
Profiteers who depend on repeat customers and positive press cannot be objectively honest in their evaluations of players who attend their showcases. It would be a death sentence for the business, because the vast majority of attendees at showcases are not ready to be recruited and are used to subsidize the players that are. Here’s a classic example: John is a sophomore and he goes to “Big Exposure Showcase West” that costs his parents more than $500. He clearly doesn’t have the physicality or maturity to be recruited yet, which is what Big Exposure wants. So Big Exposure staff tells him that in their evaluation. “You have good skills, but need more time to develop and mature. It’s possible that with some gains in the weight room you could be a D1 player. There is plenty of time, so come back next year when you are bigger and stronger!” This evaluation only states the obvious. Most kids aren’t ready to be recruited as sophomores and many aren’t ready even as juniors, so there is no value to the evaluation, which is meant to lure John back again the following year. Grasping to the D1 potential, John wants to come back next year. So his parents have just dropped $500+ for a useless evaluation that is meant to get Big Exposure repeat business. And guess what? John is likely to get a similar evaluation from Big Exposure as a junior to get him to come back his senior year.
Simply put, Big Exposure needs John and his family to have a good experience and either want to come back or tell someone else that it was worth it. Knowing that’s the case, why would they tell John where he falls short? That his arm strength is nowhere near college level? That his bat speed will not allow him to hit college pitching as it stands? That his actions are inefficient, even for his size, strength, and maturity? But this is the information that John needs to hear so he knows what to work on. Unfortunately, there are many showcases where staff are trained not to provide this kind of feedback because it hurts the organization’s chances of making money. By being brutally honest with John, which is what John needs, Big Exposure staff risks hurting John’s feelings or discouraging him. Who wants to pay $500+ for a negative experience? Some organizations tell evaluators not to give below a certain grade because it hurts business and gets parents and players upset. Doesn’t sound like the honest, objective feedback that every player needs, does it?
Showcase Myth #2: All exposure is good exposure
The idea that any exposure to college coaches is good exposure is a joke to those who know the way recruiting works. At best, a player who shows poorly will get ignored. But a coach may also cross this player off his list and permanently dismiss him as not good enough so he doesn’t waste time re-evaluating him later. Do you really want to have this happen to your son as a sophomore or junior when he still has a year or two to develop? Exposure is a two-way street. If your son has recruitable skills, it’s great to get him in front of college coaches. If he doesn’t have recruitable skills, early exposure is a recipe for rejection. For the showcase setting to be successful, players must wait to have the skills college coaches are looking for. Otherwise, players risk negative exposure and having their showcase fee used to subsidize the players who are already recruitable.
Showcase Myth #3: Showcases are the best way to get seen
The idea that showcases are the best way or only way to be seen by college coaches is simply false. Any way that your son can be seen by college coaches when he has a recruitable skillset is a good way to be seen by college coaches. Attending an event or showcase is never going to be the reason your son would be recruited. Recruitment results from a combination of preparedness, having a recruitable skillset, and exposure. Getting recruited doesn’t have to cost money and there are a number of different ways to take advantage of being ready for exposure that are much more cost effective than many showcases (from well written emails and video to having a coach attend your son’s game or even sending your son to a college camp). By no means is a showcase the best or only way for players (who are ready) to be seen.
So what does all this mean for you? It means you should do your homework and understand how profit-seeking strategies may impact your son’s experience. Understand that there are more cost-effective alternatives for players to get recruited than attending showcases. If you can afford to send your son to a showcase, there is nothing wrong with his attending, but understand that it will only be beneficial for his recruitment if he already has skills that are recruitable. A showcase can be helpful if your son attends it at the right time and you help him choose the right one, but be aware of the high price tag. If your son is not ready to be recruited, save your money and don’t believe the hype! There are organizations within the showcase industry that make money off of parents’ fears, but now you know better. Save your money and don’t buy into the myth that showcases are a must. For more information on how to balance spending and exposure in the search for college scholarships, click here.