It doesn’t matter how many scouts or college coaches show up to a tournament if they don’t know you’re there. I remember one summer “showcase” tournament sitting in the bleachers behind home plate, pretty much by myself because it was over 100 degrees and if people couldn’t find shade, they left. Why was I still there? Since I had a towel to sit on, enough sun screen on to create a peelable layer, and my beat-up sun umbrella, I wasn’t much worse off than had I been in one of few pathetic shade spots near the dugout.
After the game started, a man wearing a generic baseball hat and carrying a clip board sat down two rows in front of me. He was soon joined by a second gentleman wearing a baseball hat with the logo of an area college. They started talking.
Mr. generic hat was a pro scout there to see one of the players on my son’s team pitch. Everyone said the kid was good and had all kinds of colleges and pro teams looking at him. A lot of parents were excited because they thought it gave their sons a chance to be seen as well. Before this game, I couldn’t tell you if the kid was any good since this would the first and only time he showed up to a game for the summer.
The next inning came up and the player was pulled from right field to pitch. He was definitely a level above the pitching I had seen in the tournament so far. When he got to the mound, the scout started paying some attention to pitcher. And I do mean “some.” He didn’t pull out a radar gun and he managed to greet at length another college coach who joined them at this time. It was obvious he had seen the kid before and this was just some sort of checkup.
In the meantime, the other two coaches were chatting and catching up, never paying any attention to the game. At one point, one of the coaches mentioned a certain player he had seen in Dallas and the other responded that he thought he was at the tournament. He flipped through the papers on his clipboard finding the kid’s listing. “Yeah, that’s him” said the other coach but he wasn’t pursuing him too strongly because of SAT scores.
The inning was over and the scout rejoined the conversation. It wasn’t about which players in the tournament looked promising-in fact, there really wasn’t much conversation about the tournament at all. Just three guys talking about other people they knew and who was doing what. If they were women, it would be called gossiping.
The next inning our team had a different pitcher. This guy was good and I thought about the same level as the previous pitcher. I think he actually had a better inning than the other pitcher. The three men never even looked up at him.
After that inning, the two colleges coaches got up to leave. They were just really visiting the first guy. Once they left, the first guy went back to his tournament listing of players where I could see he had been making some notes. He might have looked up at the game for a play or two but didn’t see anything to inspire him to make any more notes. After a while, he glanced at his watch, got up, and left. I don’t think we were even half-way through the game.
After the game was over, some of the parents were talking excitedly about the college coaches being at the game and how glad they were that the team was in the tournament. They thought it gave them a huge advantage in the college baseball recruiting process. I didn’t bother to tell them that the only thing those coaches could have told them was that their sons weren’t the pitcher they came to see.
Out of the 20 to 30 kids my son played baseball with starting the summer before his junior year, maybe five actually ended up playing baseball in college. These were either players who were so good that the select (travel) coaches knew they could get them into college and add to the bragging rights of the program or their parents had put out some effort to get their kids in contact with college coaches.
And it wasn’t just the best players who ended up playing baseball in college. I know because my son was one of the them. He certainly didn’t stand out on the teams and never got a lot of attention from the travel ball coaches because he wasn’t from one of the area 5A high school baseball teams. The difference was that my son knew he wasn’t going to be playing for the Longhorns and we identified colleges where he would be competitive. And none of them were in Texas.
I suspect that some of the parents didn’t believe us when we told them that our son was being recruited by three college coaches (none from schools anyone had heard of). After all, he had only made the Little League all-stars once and was playing high school baseball for a homeschool team. He really didn’t excel compared to his select teammates.
But he had started taking college tests in his sophomore year and knew his scores and grades made him easy to recruit. He also attended a Headfirst Camp after his sophomore year and ran pretty much middle of the pack in terms of evaluations. In other words, he knew where he stood academically and athletically by the start of his junior year and targeted schools appropriately. Someone has to play on D3 baseball teams. He contacted the coaches, posted video, and went to the camps with coaches from the schools he was interested in.
It doesn’t matter how good you are if the coach doesn’t know you exist. And too often, players or their parents think they are better than they actually are. If you want to be playing baseball in college, you have to let the coaches know. The pitcher on our team certainly did. If you’re waiting to be discovered, you may be waiting a long time.