The goal of the Wildcats High School Summer Baseball Program is to provide high school-age players with a great baseball experience and some exposure to college coaches and scouts. Just as most parents are unprepared for the college search process before their first child begins to go through it, many are unsure about navigating the recruitment of a prospective student-athlete.
The Wildcats staff is composed of a professional head coach and several current and former college baseball players, all of whom are acquainted with this potentially daunting process. Their insight and experiences are an invaluable resource to all players on the Wildcats roster and their families.
We’ve heard so many questions from players and parents alike, who often don’t know what they don’t know. We hope the answers to some of these frequently asked questions helps to demystify the process a little.
What is the biggest difference between playing for the Wildcats versus the pay-for-play programs?
First and foremost, there’s an opportunity to practice and improve. Many of the for-profit and showcase programs perform a great service for their players, but many exist to provide only a chance to get seen, not the chance to get better. Some showcase experiences consist exclusively of showing up for events. They are weekends-only; there’s no opportunity for instruction or practice between showcases. The onus on developing is put entirely on the player.
The Wildcats compete in the 17U division of the Westchester Baseball Association, so there is a full league schedule and regular weekly practices where players get to work with a professional head coach and a staff of current and recent college baseball players (most from the Sound Shore area). That’s important not just to those upperclassmen on the roster who may be considering their options for playing college baseball but for the younger players looking to develop with an eye toward playing for their high school teams.
What kind of exposure to college coaches and recruiters will I get?
Our goal is to find the summer showcase events that provide our players access to coaches from all levels of college baseball: NCAA Divisions I, II and III, NAIA and Junior Colleges, as well as prep schools.
This summer, the Wildcats participated in showcase events at Fordham University, the Sports Zone Classic Showcase in Rome, NY, and the Dream Bat Invitational in Hartford, CT. Dozens of coaches typically attend these events.
How do I know which is the appropriate level of college baseball for me to pursue?
The answer to that question is the same as it is for any college-bound student wondering, “Which is the right school for me?” Finding the right fit athletically is no different than finding the right fit academically or socially; there is no shortage of factors to consider.
Recognizing that there is no one-size-fits-all college baseball program is a vital first step in every player’s process. Here’s a rough overview of the different levels of college competition:
NCAA Division I: This is the top level of college baseball. In 2018, there will be nearly 300 D-I programs across the country, competing for the chance to qualify for the College World Series, played annually in Omaha, NE. These teams tend to be fielded by the schools with the biggest and most well-funded athletic departments in the country. UNDERSTANDING D-I
NCAA Division II: This is considered an intermediate level of college baseball, somewhere between the big-money athletics programs of D-I and the scholarship-free world of Division III. D-II schools typically are smaller than their D-I counterparts (close to 50% have fewer than 2,500 students). UNDERSTANDING D-II
NCAA Division III: This often is thought of as “small college” sports, but it’s actually the largest of the NCAA divisions, with roughly 440 member schools. Most D-III schools are private colleges and universities. The biggest difference is that there are no athletic scholarships offered at D-III, only academic. UNDERSTANDING D-III
NAIA: The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics is a different governing body than the NCAA. There are roughly 250 NAIA athletic programs across North America, including several in Canada. The caliber of NAIA baseball tends to be the equivalent of NCAA D-II. UNDERSTANDING THE NAIA
Junior College (JUCO): These are two-year colleges (such as Westchester Community College in White Plains), which often serve as an intermediate step between high school and a four-year college. NJCAA ELIGIBILITY RULES
To familiarize yourself with the recruiting calendar and the scholarship opportunities unique to each NCAA Division, click here
How early do I need to begin the process of exploring my college options?
If the prospect of playing college baseball – at any level – appeals to you, then it’s never too early to start thinking about where you are in the process. But that certainly doesn’t mean you need to start visiting college campuses the day you graduate from middle school.
Here’s a timeline that reasonably approximates how things unfold for the typical college baseball recruit:
9th & 10th grade seasons: Play ball. Enjoy yourself, work hard, develop, get good grades (no, your parents did not bribe us to say that). The first two years of high school set the stage for what is to come, academically and athletically. If playing college ball is a dream or even a notion, be sure you are building the foundation for opportunities you may want to pursue down the road.
Summer after Sophomore season: This is the perfect time to start thinking about what you’re looking for in a college. Make a list of what matters to you: location, size of student body, fields of study that interest you, admission standards, etc. By this point, you have a pretty good sense of where you are academically – are you a high-GPA student, someone who is struggling in the classroom, or someone in between? That will help shape your list. This is also the summer to attend a baseball camp or two, just to see what level of college ball you are best suited for. Maybe attend one geared toward Division I programs and another geared toward Division III, just to give yourself a clearer sense of how your abilities compare – and to get your first taste of competing in front of coaches and scouts, which can be unnerving for some ballplayers. If you are a D-I prospect, this is the summer when coaches start to take notice. If you’re more of a D-II or D-III caliber player, interest from coaches is likely to come later.
Fall of Junior year: This is a good time to begin an email campaign. Reach out and contact coaches at the schools you are interested in. If a coach responds, it’s an indication he may be interested. Be sure to continue that correspondence. Email him updates as warranted. Express an interest in visiting the school (if you plan an actual visit, try to schedule time to meet the coach in person when you’re on campus). It’s important (if not mandatory) to have a video that demonstrates your abilities, which you can forward to coaches who have demonstrated interest. Keep in mind . . . once you get into college baseball preseason, don’t be surprised if a coach’s communication becomes less frequent. At that point, most coaches are focused less on recruiting future players and more on the current team they have (and on winning games and keeping their jobs). Fall/winter are probably the best times to take the ACT and SAT; it’s best to get them out of the way so they don’t become a distraction during baseball season. As you head into your Junior season, be sure to have a PDF version of your academic transcript ready to send to any coach who asks for it. If a coach offers to take your transcript and test scores to the school’s admissions office, that’s a pretty good sign that he’s interested (he just wants to make sure you’ll qualify).
Summer after Junior season: Continue interacting with the coaches you’ve been emailing, and expand your search to include new schools you’re interested in. If you’ve not received any interest from a Division I program by the end of this summer, it’s a pretty decent indication that coaches don’t see you as a prospect for that level. But this is when interest from D-II and D-III coaches starts to peak. If you play in showcase events or summer camps, coaches you have emailed are likely to be in attendance. Don’t wait for them to come looking for you. Be sure to seek them out and introduce yourself. If you have a video, be sure to update it to include your Junior season and the subsequent summer.
Fall of Senior year: Division II and III coaches tend to extend offers in September or October (but don’t be surprised if some don’t come until February or March). Plan to visit a bunch of colleges, and be sure to stay overnight, go watch practice, spend as much time around the team as possible so you can get a feel for what life really will be like playing for that team at that school. If you’re having trouble connecting with a coach, go through the school’s admissions counselors; they can be a great resource for setting up meetings with coaches, especially at the non-Division I level.
What baseball-specific research should I conduct in creating my college wish list?
Look at a team’s roster and project where you might fit in. If you are a shortstop and the team already has two junior middle infielders and brought in two freshman middle infielders, there might not be an opening for you. On the flip side, if you find a team that hasn’t landed a shortstop in its last two recruiting classes, your timing might be more favorable.
Also, be sure to look at the measurables, specifically the height and weight of the rostered players at your projected position. The 16 pitchers at Oregon State – the No. 1 seed at the Division I College World Series – were an average size of 6-foot-2¾, 203 pounds. By comparison, 10 of the 18 pitchers at Oswego State – the No. 1 seed at the Division III Series – were 6-foot or shorter, and 14 weighed 190 or less.
If you’re a pitcher, be realistic when assessing whether you have D-I stuff. Division I coaches look for pitchers who throw 88-90 mph. If your fastball tops out at 76, you probably would be better served to look for opportunities at other divisions.
How much should a parent be involved in this process?
Parents can – and probably should – be involved 100%, just as they are with students who are not pursuing athletic opportunities. Provide as much guidance as your child will accept. You can go as far as writing the emails your son is planning to send to prospective coaches . . . just don’t send them. It’s the student-athlete’s responsibility to connect with and develop a rapport with the coaches.