Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The "Invited" Walk On Player

RT Staff: We are in the middle of the late signing period and a lot of parents and senior players are getting e-mails and letters asking them if they would be a recruited or invited walk-on for the 2008-2009 year. Many of our readers are confused about this. We did some research and the best explanation we found for baseball is on our favorite web site High School Baseball Web. This article was written by their resident genius, Bob Howdeshell...Enjoy!

The "Invited" Walk On Player
by: Bob Howdeshell
High School Baseball Web

There are several significant differences between being a walk-on college baseball player and in being an "invited" walk-on player. When a college coach contacts a high school player and invites him to walk-on at his program he has a "real" interest in that player. We take a look at the topic.

The typical walk on player is one that comes out in the fall of the year. Usually after seeing a notice for baseball try-outs. (Many schools still require their programs to hold try-outs)

The "invited" walk-on is the player that a college baseball coach specifically calls or invites in person, to come and be a part of their program as a walk-on. Those players are the focus of this article.

As funding for college baseball programs continues to get tighter and tighter and team rosters seem to be getting larger (numbers) at many schools each year, the walk-on is becoming more and more important.

This is especially true when the player is an in-state student.

An invited walk-on player almost always has a chance to earn some scholarship money as he continues to contribute to his team. Invitees also are usually given a much longer "look" by the coaching staff. This may involve getting to play in mid-week games, etc.

Keep in mind that the walk-on player will have to be clearly better than the scholarship players at his position to get significant playing time. This is just the way the world works. It's not always fair.

In many cases the invited walk-on player is given the use of the same resources as the scholarship players. Things such as weight room usage times, training staff, dorm assignments (the walk on will pay a dorm fee (board), use of the athletic dining room (again the walk-on will pay), athletic department tutors, athletic department academic advisors among other items.

NCAA non-scholarship players do not sign a National Letter of Intent. The LOI comes into play only when scholarship monies are involved.

The same is true for NAIA and NJCAA letters of intent.

Some schools require all players to sign a "code of conduct" type of agreement, this applies to both scholarship and non-scholarship players. This agreement is a "one way" document that allows the school to terminate the players involvement with the baseball program for violations of team rules.

The signing of one of these "conduct" agreements does not prohibit a player from transferring to another school.

In the case of ALL invited walk-on players the acceptance of the initial offer to be an invitee is a verbal commitment. There are no binding written agreements involved. A player is free to sign a scholarship offer with another school after verbally agreeing to walk on at the first school. I will leave the moral and ethical debate on this issue up to the individuals and their families.

As we have discussed on this site before -- Being a walk-on player can be a great experience for some, for others it is not. I suggest that the player and his family research a school's, and the head coaches history of playing walk-ons before agreeing to do so.

In some cases it is better to get a small scholarship at a lesser baseball power or a junior college than it is to be a walk-on at a major college baseball program.

The name of the game is "PLAYING TIME", all players ultimately want to play, not sit on the bench. Being invited to walk-on makes a big difference, just be sure to do your homework.

I suggest reading the High School Baseball Web article entitled Walking On as well as this article.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good article, although one aspect is outdated: "As...team rosters seem to be getting larger (numbers) at many schools each year, the walk-on is becoming more and more important." Actually, per the newest NCAA guidelines issued in the fall, rosters will be getting smaller at many schools. Whereas in the past some programs had roster sizes of 40-50 or even more, D1 programs will be limited to a maximum of 35 rostered players beginning in the spring of 2009, which affects all 2008 high school graduates. Even though the roster sizes will be smaller in many cases, the role of the walk-on will still be very important, if not moreso, in that rosters will be limited to 27 players receiving athletic money. This means that schools can fill their rosters with up to 8 additional walk-on players, who can receive academic monies or other types of scholarships, just not athletic scholarships.

Like the author said, it's important to research the program and coaches thoroughly before making a decision to walk-on. Some schools may bring on 15-20 walk-ons each fall and then cut down to the maximum number of 8 by spring. If that occurs and the cut walk-ons desire to keep playing baseball, they will have no choice but to transfer to another D1 and sit for a year, as mandated by the new NCAA rules, or transfer "down" to a D2 or D3 school or JUCO. On the other hand, some schools guarantee a roster spot for all recruited walk-ons, so there is no uncertainty about being cut after fall work-outs.

My son will be a recruited walk-on this fall and we feel very good about his decision. The school he'll be going to made him a recruited walk-on offer in the early fall, paid for an official visit, assured him that he has a guaranteed roster spot for all 4 years, and promised that my son would be the only recruit at his position for this year. (This was confirmed when the school published its list of NLI signees.) We had thoroughly researched the school and coaches, talking with both current and former players and their parents, and believe the coaches to be very trustworthy. In addition, the head coach was instrumental in helping my son obtain a scholarship (non-athletic and non-academic) valued at 30% of the entire cost of attendance.

My son is a talented player, but is a late bloomer and most likely will not be able to make an immediate impact as a D1 starter his freshman year. This is probably why he was not offered a minimum 25% athletic scholarship. We believe that as he physically develops and bulks up, he will have an excellent chance at becoming a starter -- the same chance that any athletic scholarship player will have.