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What does it take to play college baseball? That’s a question we get asked a lot. We get asked because unless you are familiar with the various levels of college baseball, the answer isn’t always clear. Unlike a multiple-choice test where you know the exact grade you will receive according to how many questions you get right, projecting a high school baseball player’s success at the next level is far more subjective. The thing that most high school players want to do to show they belong at the next level is line up a list of accomplishments, dust off the old stats, and tell college coaches everything about themselves and what they can do. While this approach may seem logical, college coaches simply do not have the time to sort through mass amounts of information to find what they are looking for. Any additional time they have to spend searching (the more you waste their time), the less likely it is that they will follow up and actively recruit you.
By now you may be starting to figure out what we are hinting at. The recruiting process is not about what you want to show college coaches, it’s about what they want to see. What we are talking about is reverse engineering the recruiting process. That means the best way to get interest from college coaches is to work backwards and think about what makes college coaches interested in a player. From there, you can go about showing them that you fit that mold. If you need hints about what they are looking for, we asked a few dozen college coaches that very question and wrote about it in What Qualities College Coaches Look for in Recruits Part 1 and Part 2. Be sure to check those out, then keep reading for a more comprehensive overview of how to reverse engineer the recruiting process.
Step 1: Start General and Work Towards the Specific
While every college coach has slightly different preferences and each level of college baseball has a different standard of play, there are common characteristics that all coaches value. Start by demonstrating that you are a strong candidate in these 4 core areas:
- Baseball Tools and Physical Skills
- The Mental Game
- Strong Grades and Quality Character
- Positive Attitude and Great Effort
Coaches will also value your ability to show intangible traits like honesty, trustworthiness, the ability to communicate clearly, and attention to detail, among others.
Step 2: Break down what it means to be good in each core area
There’s a lot that goes into being a college player and each of the 4 core areas listed above have many components. Breaking such big parts of your game down into more manageable chunks is important. The following articles break each core area into 4 actionable steps:
Step 3: Make it Specific to Each Level, Conference, and School
This is where your research really comes into play. Look closely at patterns for the level, conference, and programs you are interested in to try to better understand what abilities and characteristics those players have. Patterns and common characteristics are evidence of a coach’s preferences and what you should be aiming to show him. For example, if every pitcher for Big Time Tech is over 6 feet tall, that’s a pretty good indication that the size matters to that coach and that is something you can use to your advantage (if you are over 6 feet). Similarly, if every pitcher for Middle Tech State throws a slider, it’s a good indication that that’s a pitch type that they like to recruit. There will be certain boxes that you simply won’t fit into no matter what you do, but there’s nothing you can do about it and shouldn’t waste time worrying about things outside of your control. Focus on recruit characteristics that you have the power to work on and achieve and remember that there are coaches out there that value different things.
Just like software engineers taking a finished product and breaking it down to better understand the design, architecture, and individual components, you can do the same with the recruiting process. Peel back each layer of what a college player looks like, getting more specific as you zero in on the level, type of school, or coach you wish to play. By understanding exactly what college coaches or a specific coach are looking for, you will be able to put that on display and show them that you have what they want. Doing so will require a lot of effort and dedication, but by working backwards and combining your new-found insight with a plan to improve, you will save time spinning your wheels and be able to put together a baseball skill set and resume that reflects what coaches want. Working backwards in the recruiting process shows you what it takes to play at the next level and helps you show that you have what it takes.