Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Picking Your Baseball Heaven

The series we had on Baseball Heaven was one of our most pospular ever according to our Google analytics research. If anything, it was timely in that most of high school underclassmen out there are testing the waters and about to embark on a college camp or two in the next few weeks.

A few weeks ago, we talked about the recruiting timeline and getting your sons name out to the targeted colleges he wants to play for. One reader e-mailed us and said that if a kid is good enough, the colleges will find him. Well, let me put that comment in perspective. There are far more job opportunities than baseball roster spots. So, when a student graduates from college…if he is smart enough, there’s no need for resumes or interviews…the jobs will find him right? Getting the right offer is like interviewing for a job. As we stated over a hundred times in past articles, your son needs to be proactive and aggressively go after the colleges to ensure that they indeed know about him. Rounding Third is one of many sites dealing with college recruiting and yet we have received nearly a thousand responses in just the last three weeks asking for advice and suggesting topics for us to write about. All of the parents and players that wrote us are in the recruiting process. And, they are just a fraction of the tens of thousands of students wanting to play college ball. In fact, the real numbers are: 114,159 graduating high seniors versus 13,137 slots open. Now, do you begin to see the need to step up the recruiting effort?

Picking the Right Colleges

Pick the school first and the baseball program and it’s coaches second. First of all, they are STUDENT athletes. Players should ask themselves, “Would I go to school here if I wasn’t playing baseball?” Other criteria that must be at the top of your list are:

1) The schools academic reputation. This goes both ways. If your son is in the top percentile in GPA and his SAT’s, then target the schools that will benefit him academically first. If your son is in the middle of the pack academically, then your choices may be limited, so a bit more research on the eligibility requirements of the schools must be done. Either, way, there’s a good chance that baseball may not be a career choice. So, does the school offer the faculty support, study environment, student-teacher ratios and most importantly, in-season tutoring and curriculum that your son wants to major in to advance his own post college career? In–season tutoring is very important, especially since there will be increased time away from the classroom starting that started last year. It's old news now, but the NCAA, in an effort to supposedly even the playing field between Northern and Sunbelt schools, moved the season start date last season from February 1 to February 22. That means that the same 56 game schedule had to be condensed into 3 1/2 fewer weeks. Not enough people complained the February 22 start dates will continue. Your already time-stretched son will have as many as 5 games a week to balance with his academic workload. Many top programs offer student-athlete tutoring, so make sure that this is offered at his school of choice.

2) What about the cost? Baseball does not offer full rides. The average scholarship is about 50-60% of the total expenses depending on position. Pitchers usually get more in many cases and position players less. There are exceptions of course. A typical good offer for a top prospect will pay for 100% tuition and books, but the cost of out of season meal money and housing for the year is the responsibility of the student. Also, look at the costs of in-state vs. out of state. If you are on a budget, ask if the scholarship covers the increase of out of state fees. If not, it may be better to stay in-state. Now, there are ways to close the cost gap, if you haven't had the opportunity to invest in a college education fund. There are Pell Grants and need based student loans that can help off-set the $12,000 in room and board costs you will be responsible for.

3) Location. This is a personal choice. Does the player want to be close to family? Do the parents want to be able to travel to watch some games? Families need to sit down and discuss these issues. But remember, a school is a very important lifelong decision. The school that best fits him, his goals and his abilities may be far, far away.

4) Be Realistic. As we stated in past posts, match your son's evaluated baseball talent with the school that will offer him the best opportunities. Not everyone can play at Fresno State, UNC or ASU. It’s Ok to target as many as 40-50 schools, but make sure you mix in some smaller D-I’s, D-II’s, D-III’s (no scholarships offered at D-III) or NAIA schools in your areas as well. All of the schools are listed in the column to the right under, USEFUL NCAA AND HIGH SCHOOL PROSPECTS BASEBALL SITES. There have been many instances where players were determined to walk on at a Division I college, when they could have had a better chance to get an offer from a DII or NAIA. Research some of the smaller colleges. In more cases than not, you will be surprised at the quality of education, atmosphere, and social life are just as rewarding at a smaller school, then at the big state universities…So is the Baseball.

5) Reputation of the baseball program. Now after you have evaluated all of the above, then look at the program itself. Look at the tenure of the coaches, the facilities, and the alumni. A wonderful resource that we have used is called the Official Athletic College Guide: Baseball from Sports Source. It costs $34.95 and is well worth the investment.

6) Oh yeah, we almost forgot. Social Life... An important and not always easy thing to admit as a top criteria. But come on, wasn't college the best time of your life? It's an important life experience and one that will stick with your son forever.

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