USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the college recruiting process. Here, you’ll find practical tips and real-world advice on becoming a better recruit to maximize your opportunities to play at the college level. Nelson Gord is a former collegiate and professional ballplayer, successful high school head coach, and also the founder of the largest travel baseball club in Illinois. Nelson is just one of many former college and professional players, college coaches, and parents who are part of the Next College Student Athlete team. Their knowledge, experience, and dedication, along with NCSA’s history of digital innovation and long-standing relationship with the college coaching community, helped create NCSA Team Edition, the free recruiting platform for club and high school coaches.
In order to be successful in the baseball recruiting process and earn a coveted spot on a college roster, student-athletes will have to do the same things they’d have to do for every college sport: get good grades, do well on standardized tests, excel on the field and be proactive in reaching out and getting noticed by college coaches. This basic formula sets the foundation for an effective recruiting process, but there are definitely some variations when it comes to taking full advantage of the process for a specific sport. And when it comes to baseball, student-athletes who know the answer to some key questions can definitely get ahead of the pack. That’s why it’s important to check out the NCSA College Baseball Recruiting Guide and read up on the following baseball recruiting questions.
Which positions receive the most athletic scholarships?
For college baseball, there is a maximum of 11.7 scholarships offered per Division 1 team, 9 per Division 2 team, 12 per NAIA team and 24 per junior college team. Baseball is an equivalency sport for NCAA scholarship purposes, so partial scholarships can be awarded to athletes. With that said, most scholarship money goes to pitchers and after that, the best athletes are prioritized—typically meaning up-the-middle players like shortstops, center fielders and catchers. Players with elite skills like hitting and speed will also get more offers. Additionally, it can be a big boost to be a left-handed player, whether it’s a pitcher or hitter. On the flip side, corner outfielders and second basemen will receive the fewest scholarship offers.
When do coaches start evaluating talent and start giving out offers?
The higher the division level, the earlier it will be that coaches start to evaluate high school athletes. According to NCSA research, 41% of Division 1 coaches start evaluating players in 9th grade and 53 percent start evaluating in 10th grade. For Division 2 coaches, 36 percent start in 10th grade and 64 percent start in 11th grade. At the NAIA, Division 3 and junior college levels, only 6–7 percent of coaches start in 9th grade and the majority start in 11th grade, ranging from 57 to 73 percent of coaches. Regarding offers, Division 1 programs will start giving out offers as early as 9th grade for top prospects and will start to wrap up giving out offers in the spring and summer of 11th grade. At the Division 2, Division 3 and NAIA level, offers start getting offered in the summer after 11th grade and junior college coaches generally give out offers senior year. Of course, there can always be variations for top prospects at each level, but this timeline serves as a good estimate.
Which regions are hotbeds for recruiting?
Due to the weather and ability to play year-round, southern states (especially Florida and Texas) and California produce many top recruits. The competition is very tough at the travel and high school levels in these regions. This also means that getting a roster spot on a college team in Florida and Texas can be difficult, because many local athletes stick around to play in the region, even at the NAIA and junior college levels. In fact, junior colleges in Florida are typically filled with athletes who have Division 1 or Division 2 talent. On the other hand, there are many college baseball programs located in the Midwest and Northeast, and these schools are generally open to recruiting players outside their region. Student-athletes may find it easier to target these schools in their recruiting process.
How important is playing high school ball?
Travel and club baseball experience is important because these teams generally compete during the time period when college coaches can get out and recruit. These teams also play in tournaments and events that get good recruiting exposure. However, playing high school baseball is basically essential. Travel and club teams typically don’t play during the spring season, and not playing high school baseball can be a major red flag for a college coach.
How do recruits look at different levels?
It can be very helpful for the self-assessment of potential recruits to see what levels different athletes are being recruited to. After you set up an NCSA recruiting profile, you can compare yourself to these student-athletes at different star ratings:
Every college baseball program is a bit different, and coaches will have different preferences of what they look for in a potential recruit. If you’re interested in a particular program, it’s important to learn as much as you can about it and the coach’s philosophy. But equipped with this information, as well as the extremely helpful NCSA College Baseball Recruiting Guide, you should have a head start on the competition and be able to focus your recruiting efforts effectively.