I’m standing at a game with a group of coaches and as I walk away a parent grabs me. He says, “Did they see his double?” I say, “Yes, they also saw him not back up a base, and roll over a first pitch curveball.” Of course, dad says, “Oh, I didn’t notice him not back up a base. The curveball was a good pitch”….that isn’t what the college coaches think.
A major piece to the recruiting process that parents should understand is a coach does not watch the game the way you do. I’m not speaking about the view they have from behind the backstop versus your view from the bleachers. They focus on the things you cannot learn from the box score. They see everything. They are trained professionals. They know a 3-4 day at the plate does not mean your son is getting a scholarship, and an 0-4 day does not mean he is off their list.
Players all have to be able to do the big things at the next level. They can all hit, run, catch & throw, etc. Everyone has a similar skill set at the next level. The difference maker for successful teams is the ability to do the little things better than the other guys. When a college coach evaluates talent he looks at more than just the big things. Let’s say a coach is watching a pitcher who is sitting 88-90mph. Yes, 90mph is impressive and it will draw some serious attention. Yes, the radar gun is used for a reason, but coaches look beyond the gun. They want to see if this 90mph kid can throw another pitch for a strike, can he throw two other pitches for strikes? Do I like his arm action? Does he remind me of a kid who has had success in my program? Does he carry himself the right way on the mound? Does he locate his fastball or heave it up there toward the zone? Can I teach him and get him better? Is there a kid on the next field throwing 84mph that I like better? These are just some of the things on a coach’s mental checklist when he evaluates a player. They also go through this checklist regardless of what the radar gun reads.
‘My son doesn’t throw 90, but he is just as good as that kid.’
Well, maybe they were both 5-0 in high school and they both beat the Diamond-Gold-Elite-Showcase-Prospect Team in Georgia. However, there are certain metrics that have to be met to perform at certain levels. These metrics can include speed, size, velocity, bat speed, etc. While metrics are important considerations, they are not the end all be all in the recruiting game. You can go to a D1 college baseball game and see a pitcher sitting low 80’s. It won’t happen often, but you can see it. However, coaches don’t recruit many exceptions to the rule. You can’t say because Jose Altuve is 5’5/160lbs that it means your son with the same tale of the tape has a realistic chance at pro ball. Altuve is an exception. He is a freak athlete. He generates nearly the same bat speed as Giancarlo Stanton (6’6/240lbs) and Mike Trout (6’2/230lbs). Coaches rarely ‘take a chance’ on a kid that does not meet the metrics for their level of baseball. Rarely, but not never. There has to be an intangible or tangible skill that absolutely trumps the black and white metrics.
‘My son hit .420 in high school, and was all-conference.’
I hate the ‘stats do not matter’ line because good players have good stats.Statistics mean less to a coach than what he can see with his own eyes. Every coach has seen a kid who hit .420 in high school that just doesn’t quite fit what they want on their team. Maybe it’s his bat speed or maybe it’s his approach. Every coach has seen a .290 high school hitter that shows something special they love to see on their team. Maybe it’s his bat speed, or maybe it’s his approach….
One of the best recruiters I know always says that recruiting is the most inexact science. It is a formula based on uncontrollable variables and a lot of personal preference. His anecdote is one we can all relate to; Recruiting is like flirting with the girl at the bar. You like one girl, I like the other. It doesn’t make me right, or you right. It is in the eye of the beholder.
Keep in mind the next time you are watching your son play, you are watching him PLAY – not work. Enjoy watching your son. Don’t try to read the mind of the coaches behind the backstop. If he is 3-4, go grab some dinner and enjoy it. If he is 0-4, go grab some dinner and forget about it.
Coach’s Corner provides tips on the recruiting process from the viewpoint of the nation’s finest college coaches.
Coach’s Corner with:
TUCKER FRAWLEY – YALE UNIVERSITY ASSISTANT COACH & RECRUITING COORDINATOR
“Most of the players I come across have dreams of their baseball abilities opening up academic or financial doors that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible. While that is true for many recruits and absolutely a dream worth pursuing, don’t underestimate how many baseball doors can be opened for you due to your academic credentials. You’d be surprised how many players – at all levels of college baseball – make their way onto a roster without an athletic scholarship because they garnered admission to a school on their own and earned a roster spot as a walk on. The toughest part of this process is getting your foot in the door and on a college roster. But it is also the least important part of the process when it comes to who earns at-bats or innings. The best players play regardless of how they got there. Keep all of those potential paths in mind throughout your college search and the more options you’ll inevitably have when it’s all said and done.”
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