Can My Son Play College Ball?
Updated: Apr 1, 2019
The key in the baseball recruiting process is targeting colleges that are a match academically, athletically, and socially for your child. Many parents and athletes make the mistake of choosing colleges based on baseball. Picking a school based on athletics alone is not wise, since there is a chance your son could get cut, hurt, or decide not to continue playing, and then be stuck at a school he doesn’t like. There are thousands of colleges; by using a filtering method, you can narrow this to 10-20 schools that are ideal for your son.
To start narrowing which colleges are right for your teen, you must eliminate schools based on various factors. For example, if your son would prefer to stay near home, in state, or even in a certain region of the country, already you have narrowed the list tremendously. Other factors such as, campus setting, number of students, student body make-up, academic difficulty, areas of study, the faculty, campus computer systems, social life, campus quality, etc., should narrow down his list of colleges to a manageable number of about 50. You can get information on colleges through one of the four-year college guides, the Internet, college admission departments, and high school guidance department.
Now with the list you have, it is time to determine which of these schools offers baseball. This will narrow the list some more. The next issue is the one that confuses everybody. Parents often aren’t able to determine which level of baseball is best for their son. As a former NCAA Division I baseball coach, I have seen the results of an incorrect assessment. Players walk on at Division I schools, only to get cut in one day, when they could have played in Division II or III. On the other hand many athletes play at the Division III level, when they could have played in Division I. Misjudging talent hurts the decision-making process and ultimately the college athletic career. Keep in mind as a parent you will be somewhat biased in your assessment of your son’s skills. Thus, other methods are needed to answer the age old question of, “At what level should my son play?”
Ask their high school, summer league, or even opposing coaches. Ask them for a fair evaluation of your son’s talent. Keep in mind that some coaches have a solid understanding of college athletics, while others do not. Don’t base your decision on one person’s opinion. However, it is of the utmost importance that you and your son have a good relationship with his coaches. While not all college coaches will make decisions based on his evaluation of athletic talent, they will all judge his character by what his coaches say about him. If there are any problems, kids must remember two things; coaches coach to help kids and that is to be respected. Secondly, they will learn a life lesson - making the best of a bad situation.
Enroll in showcase or summer camps. This will give your son the opportunity to evaluate his skills against others interested in playing college baseball. Further, coaches will have an opportunity to see your son play and get to know him. For camps held at colleges, this is a great opportunity to be on a college campus and discover what they like or dislike about it. Ask any college coaches who have seen him play. Regardless of whether they are interested in him for their program or not, most coaches will give a fair evaluation of his athletic skill. Again, don’t base any decisions on one coach, but college coaches obviously know what their program talent level is and their opinion is to be respected.
Ask former players. Players who have graduated before your son and have gone on to compete in college have a good understanding of his talent as it compares to their programs’ level. Further, if they have played with him, they know as well as anyone, what he is capable of achieving in college.
Determine how he ranks on his team and others in the area. When doing this keep some factors in mind. Many teams and conferences are not as strong as others are. Thus, being the best player on the team or even in the league, does not necessarily qualify him as being able to compete in the best college level. On the other hand, if your child has gotten limited playing time in high school, this doesn’t mean he can’t compete in college or even get a scholarship. What if a good catcher doesn’t get any playing time because the starting catcher is the best in the state?
Go see college games. It is helpful to watch a few games at each level. You may think your son is a Division III player, but you may change your mind after seeing some Division II games. Regardless of what level you think he is, watch games at various levels to see if he can fit now or may develop into a player at that level. Since very little baseball is on TV, this may require going to campuses to see games, but it is well worth the time. When watching college games, don’t make the mistake of thinking the level is way over your son’s head without factoring in his development in a couple of years.
I am often asked how an ideal career should pan out in college. In my opinion it is ideal to attend a school where you will get limited to no playing time in your freshman year, regular playing time but not a starter sophomore year, a starter junior year, and a leader in your senior year.
Some people become stars right away, others get cut, but if you choose wisely your career should follow as described. Finally, if you have a dream to play at a certain school no matter what, like Rudy at Notre Dame, no one should talk you out of it. However, in my role as a recruiting adviser, I would have told Rudy he’d be better off in Division II or III!
Once you have a better idea of the right level for your son, you can match this up to the list of schools you have already targeted. For example, if you decide that your son is a Division I athlete, then you will eliminate all of the Division III schools from the list and most of the Division II’s. Thus, the 40 you had may wind up being 15 schools. This makes it easy to target the coaches and admissions departments at these schools and start marketing your son as you would in a traditional job search. If you hear from a coach outside of this target list, by all means hear what he has to say, but research the school to determine if it makes sense in all the other areas that matter to you and your child. So often I have seen athletes go to schools only because the coach called and recruited them. Then after a year on campus, when it is too late to do the process over, their son is miserable because, while he might like or dislike the baseball team, he does not like the school.
Lastly, while it is the focus of parents to worry about college, I encourage you to keep your child focused on the present. High school sports are very pure and enjoyable, for most it is the best baseball experience they will have. It should not be taken away by over-concern of the future. I wish you and your son much luck.
Wayne Mazzoni is author of “Get Recruited – The Definitive Guide to Playing College Sports”. Visit waynemazzoni.com for more information on consultations with families needing recruiting help.