Playing college baseball is a big commitment. Preparing yourself to play at that level takes a lot of planning and work. The expectations in college baseball are much different than the ones you are used to. In college baseball, there is a lot of focus on physical skill development and winning. In other words, while baseball at the college level is still played for fun, coaches shift away from getting everyone equal playing time to choosing players based on their performance. With more competition, a focus on performance, and higher expectations at the college level, your knowledge of the game and your ability to play will determine your playing time. Improving your on-field baseball skills will require increased effort, focus, and dedication. You will need to spend more time practicing your skills and training with more intensity. College coaches are looking for the high school players with good skills who are serious about improving their on-field performance. That’s why skills development is the first core area. Keep reading to find out what steps you need to take to improve your on-field skills, make the team, and earn playing time at the college level.
Covering All the Bases
First Base: Focus on Fundamentals
College coaches at every level from community college to Division I are looking for players who are fundamentally sound. What does this mean? It means that you can perform all of the skills required of a baseball player—catch the ball, throw the ball, hit the ball, and run the bases—at an adequate level. Being a college baseball player starts with your ability to always make the routine play, throw strikes, and put the bat on the ball. As you train, you’ll want to focus on the fundamentals of the game. You’ll need to:
- Learn to play catch at a high level by developing a daily catch play routine
- Understand your job as a hitter in every situation by focusing on quality at bats
- Learn to hit with an approach and plan in place by understanding your job each at bat, playing to your strengths, and swinging at the right pitches
- Develop a diverse set of offensive and defensive skills by working hard on all the skills you will be asked to perform in game play (bunting, hit and run, moving runners over, playing different positions, fielding grounders, fielding fly balls, etc.)
- Master the routine play on defense by making sure you get enough practice repetitions at game speed
Second Base: Develop All of Your Tools
College coaches love a player with a good set of “tools.” In baseball, there are 5 basic tools—the ability to hit for average, the ability to hit for power, arm strength, speed, and defensive ability. You should strive to become a 5-tool player. That means you are above average in every one of those areas. When you focus on the fundamentals, you will also be working on your tools. However, there’s more to developing your tools than baseball practice. For example, strength and conditioning are ways that you can develop your speed outside of base running practice. To work on developing your tools, you should set goals and create a plan for improving each of the 5 tools.
Third Base: Set Goals and Create a Development Plan
In order to make sure your tools and fundamentals are improving, you’ll want to track your progress and put together a development plan. Your plan doesn’t have to be complicated. A development plan simply means making a list of steps that you will take to improve. For example, your plan could be: “I will practice 4-5 days a week, lift weights 2 days a week, and study for the SAT test for 3 hours a week.” Without a specific plan, it’s easy to get distracted. Having a development plan allows you to focus on improving in the areas that matter the most to you. The more detailed you make your development plan, the better it will be. Start by getting feedback from a coach about where you need improve and what steps are needed to do better. Along the way, you’ll want to make sure that your development plan is giving you the results you want. Check your progress by tracking how much work you put in each day and any improvements you can measure. For example, you can put a check mark on your plan every time you study for the SAT and you can write down your scores on practice tests as you improve. You should adjust this process continually to make sure you are getting the results you want. For more information on setting goals and creating a development plan, read these helpful articles:
Home Plate: Practice Healthy Habits and Focus on Strength and Conditioning
In addition to working hard on the field, continue the healthy habits you built with the Junior Giants. Eating healthy, staying hydrated, and getting 9-11 hours of sleep a night will give you the energy you need to get better every day. Strength and conditioning should be a big part of your development plan. College coaches value players who are strong, athletic, and in shape. Building strength will allow you to maximize the gains you are making by improving your skills on the field. A consistent workout schedule will help prepare you for the lifting and conditioning that you will be expected to do as a college baseball player. Look under the Development tab of our Important Resources page for more information on developing a strength and conditioning program that will help you improve your baseball skills. Always talk to your doctor and your parents about your plan before starting any strength or conditioning program.
If you focus on covering all the bases, you will be well on your way to developing the on-field skills that college coaches are looking for. However, at the college level, skill alone can be outsmarted. Competitive coaches and college recruiters are also looking for players with a high baseball IQ. Building in-game awareness and a strong “mental game” to complement your physical skills is the topic of our next article. Read it here!
Curious what it will take to make a college team at your specific position? Click here for access to articles detailing what it takes to make a college roster at all 9 positions.