Recruiting Column: Q&A with Post 22 American Legion baseball manager Mitch Messer

Recruiting Column: Q&A with Post 22 American Legion baseball manager Mitch Messer

Recruiting Column

Recruiting Column: Q&A with Post 22 American Legion baseball manager Mitch Messer

USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the recruiting process. This isn’t about where just the top five-star athletes are headed but rather a guide to the process and the pitfalls for student-athletes nationwide from Playced.com.  This week’s article is written by Ross Hawley, the president of the company.  Playced.com identifies appropriate colleges for potential recruits and delivers an online DIY college planning experience for student athletes of all talent levels and ages.

(Photo: Playced)

(Photo: Playced)

Like it or not, when it comes to sports, numbers tell the story. Numbers tell us a story of who won, who lost, who squeaked by and who came close, but not close enough. They can tell a story of success or they can tell a story of failure. That being said, the Post 22 “Hardhats” of Rapid City, South Dakota can boast one of the greatest stories ever told!

The history of Post 22 baseball includes 40 American Legion State Championships, 8 American Legion World Series appearances and a National Championship, to boot. More impressively, the “Hardhats” have sent 100+ players on to the NCAA Division I level, 200+ players on to the NCAA Division II level and a countless number on to the NAIA and junior college levels.

This week, I had the privilege of meeting with Rapid City Post 22 skipper, Mitch Messer to talk about his program and how he ensures a positive recruiting experience for all of his players.

Q: What process do you and your coaching staff follow when helping a player with the college recruiting process?

A: Well, I want to be clear about something first; college recruiting is all about the player. Whether it is me or another coach on our staff, we are merely here for support, guidance and reference. We force our guys to take ownership of their own recruiting experience. They must accept who they are and what schools make sense for their ability levels. Being honest about these things is paramount in continuing their career at the collegiate level.

Once a player takes ownership, the process is actually very simple and direct: 1. Figure out schools you have interest in 2. Communicate your interest to each college program 3. Use one of our coaches for additional support/vouch for your abilities. There isn’t much more that they or we can control than that!

Q: What is the biggest obstacle your players have in the college recruiting process and how do they overcome that challenge?

A: Our geographic location can present recruiting obstacles for our guys.  I hear all of the time “if you are good enough, they will find you.” Wrong. In our case, we don’t have a lot of college coaches, outside of our region, coming to Rapid City to watch us play. In 2011 we had a 24th round MLB draft pick that nobody had heard of until he went to the Senior Fall Classic in Phoenix during October of his senior year. Understanding that challenge allows us to adjust our recruiting efforts. We simply cannot accept that as an excuse for our kids.

Fortunately, our organization and community recognizes this as a potential roadblock for our players. They support our guys financially by investing in player development. For example, our kids play in Las Vegas, Phoenix, Minneapolis, Denver and Omaha every summer and fall. Most of the travel is funded by Post 22 Baseball. We believe our players need to get out of South Dakota to not only face quality competition, but to have exposure to as many different schools as possible. College recruiting works out much better for everyone when all options are out on the table.

Q: What separates the players in your program that play collegiately from the ones that don’t?

A: Passion. All of our players are committed to our program when they come out. They give us everything they can. But the players that move on to the next level, have a deep passion for playing the game. It is pretty obvious to tell which guys will play in college. The players that are in love with practice, the process and the grind are the ones going the furthest. Regardless of what you do in life, if you are passionate about it, you will be willing to invest more than most.

Q: What advice do you have for parents experiencing the recruiting process with their son or daughter?

A: Take a deep breath and go one step at a time. Get your athlete’s coach involved in the process. Start the conversation early with your son or daughter. When on trips, take them to different college campuses. Give them a picture of what college life is and what it should be.

Players should always follow up with every piece of communication they receive from college coaches, regardless of whether that school is on their list, or not. Every year, college coaches tell me how frustrating it is when players will not communicate with them. I think we can all relate.

(Photo: Playced)

(Photo: Playced)

Q: Post 22 has a great track record of producing college talent. What makes that possible and what does it mean for your program?

A: Rapid City is a baseball town. Our community support, at all levels, is outstanding. Much of this has come courtesy of longtime Post 22 coach, Dave Ploof. The tradition of excellence he established for baseball in Rapid City is one that we benefit from today.

Additionally, our tenacious approach to player development is also a very important factor. Whether it is our strength and conditioning coach or our mental training, we are constantly looking for ways to improve in every aspect of the game. Our indoor facility allows us access to these tools year-round and the Post 22 Baseball Academy trains around 200 kids a year ages 10-12. In 3 of the last 8 years, Rapid City has qualified teams for the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA. I believe our Academy has played a significant role in player development in Rapid City from top to bottom.

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