Archive | College Recruiting

Where We Go From Here

When we meet again!

Sunday, April 12th… Easter… The world still remains “closed for business.”  The bases are empty.  No one is in the batter’s box or on the mound.  No seeds, gum chewing, and definitely no spitting!  So where do we go from here in our baseball lives?  There are some answers to that question.  And the answers depend upon which segment of the baseball universe and population we talk about.  As a program, we are in a “New Busy.”  We prepare for the day we can resume.  Contingencies warrant consideration and imagination.  We will be ready when the time comes to take the field again.  For Ruffnecks in the classes of 2021 and 2022 it has never been busier off the field in March and April.  Why?  Because the baseball universe has changed and continues to change.  There are more questions than answers for players who aspire to play in college.  And everyone has lost the high school season to a “season-ending calamity” no one expected.  So what do we do about it?

The Wise Player: Academic Performance Rewarded

The “New Busy” for Ruffnecks players turns to the classroom.  Many Ruffnecks players in the classes of 2021 and 2022 have reached out to arrange individual conference calls to review their personal profiles along with the developments in NCAA recruiting.  These are the most proactive players.  They are the wise players who ask questions, review their academic performance, and develop self-awareness.  They reconsider and search for colleges and universities where they can be competitive candidates without baseball. Why is this important?  Because the baseball snapshot is frozen in a state of suspended animation, but the academic profile is not!  Those with strong performances in the classroom will likely have more doors open to them.  No player has an opportunity to present himself on the field.  It does not matter if he is from Massachusetts or Texas.  But all players can hunker down, become better students, better writers, better readers, better communicators.  All players can take practice SAT or ACT tests, whether they can afford a tutor or not.  All players can move the needle on their academic performance and what they present to colleges as students.  And frankly, those who have been good students all along are better positioned because when Vanderbilt does not recruit them, there are plenty of schools at various competitive levels that may be options for admission with or without baseball.

The Dedicated Athlete

There are things to do to advance athletic fortunes as well.  Athletes have control of core strength and conditioning.  Access to a gym is not necessary.  There are hills to climb and run up.  There a flat distances over which to sprint.  There are videos of core strengthening techniques to learn from.  And Amazon still delivers bands, barbells, and other accoutrements to set up your own “gym” work area.  The dedicated athlete can get faster, get stronger, become more flexible.  Hitters will find a way to hit and swing a bat.  Pitchers and position players have every opportunity to develop arm strength during this period of suspended time.  Make your arm a stand-out tool! Keen-eyed coaches and college recruiters will see those who did the work during this time.  Pitchers who are “ready to go” will outshine those who ask out of a game because their arm is sore or not ready.  Injured players have time to heal.  There is no reason NOT to be ready!

Beware of False Promises

Players and families ask about the emails, offers, and enticements from baseball outfits, recruiting services, etc.  There are many opportunists seeking to profit from this disaster.  We get the emails too.  Organizations offer “free” info sessions that lead to the sales pitch for something else.  Others rush people to register for July and August events that claim to make up for the exposure lost in April and May.  Some even offer free tokens for their batting cages that are closed!!!  Beware!  Stay the course.  No one can see anyone play right now… and unfortunately, no one knows when or where baseball will resume.  So stay the course on what you can control.

What Ruffnecks Coaches & Program Counselors Are Doing

Virtual 13U Practice

Ruffnecks coaches continue to engage our players on the 13U and 14U roster.  We conduct virtual practices… who would have imagined?!  But we have fun and we see each other.  We fill in gaps of baseball knowledge, history, and provide direction to work on skills.  Players have direction to work individually or with siblings, parents, or a trusted friend with proper social distancing.

On the college recruiting front, we are busy keeping abreast of the changes in rules, guidelines, and general landscape with college coaches and conferences.  We continue to present our players to colleges and respond to those players who initiate conversations and seek guidance (See “The Wise Player”).  We maintain communication among our core of Ruffnecks coaches, many of whom are high school or prep coaches (also in a suspended baseball universe).  We share ideas, commiserate, but largely plan for the resumption of action, discussing how to help our players.  We love what we do.

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FOMO – Understanding Fear of Missing Out!

There is a new acronym out and about educational and sports circles.  FOMO = Fear Of Missing Out.  Familiar with the feeling?  It is more a parental problem than a player problem.  Nevertheless, the anxieties, doubts, and fears seep into player psyches, as if by genetic code and transmission.  And it can destroy the joy of playing ball and being a kid.  Why? Because the same mindset that has led to the college admission scandal on a national level, not surprisingly, is rife in the world of travel baseball where upper middle class parents extend themselves to pay for the next showcase, clinic, recruiting service, to buy their sons the “edge.”  FOMO… Fear of missing out.  Sorry PBR; Sorry Perfect Game; Sorry Ruffnecks!  None of us has the magic bullet to get your kid where YOU, their parents, want them to go.  Let’s speak about the realities.

Reality #1: Talent

Talent trumps most everything else.  Preemptive talent is… preemptive.  There are several definitions, but let us assume it is the top 5% of all players:  Pitchers, hitters, position players.

Reality #2: Find a way to stand out.

Pitchers command attention.  They are prioritized.  If you are a lefty, work on your arm.  It can distinguish you and separate you from the pack.  Catchers hold a double edged sword:  If a college needs a catcher in your class, you can be in the mix.  If a college is NOT recruiting a catcher in your class, then there is not much you can do.  Move on to other schools to consider.  SPEED: If you have speed, it is a tool to show off whenever you can… especially running hard on a ball you know might be an out!  BAT TALKS: And your bat talks!  It doesn’t talk in a polished video.  It doesn’t talk in a batting average.  It talks through performance… loud, explosive, concussive swings that result in hard hit balls all over the field, regardless of the outcome.

Reality #3:  Good students open more baseball doors.

Baseball is a college sport that, at its highest level (Fully funded Division I programs), have 11.7 scholarships per 35 man roster.  If you are aiming for a scholarship, you may be chasing “fool’s gold.”  Give ANY college recruiter and easy path to present you to the college admission office and you open more doors.  Of course preemptive talent makes a difference (see Reality #1), but being a good ball player and a good student give you more options.  There are so many walk-on opportunities (not tryouts), and merit money options that big time colleges can work into the recruiting journey for good students.

Reality #4: It Doesn’t Apply to Me!

The most difficult reality to address is the human condition.  People will read this article and walk away with the sense that “It doesn’t apply to me.”  “My boy is different.”  Or “We know somebody and can afford to give him an advantage.” Yes, there are those who will justify and rationalize their actions at the outcome.  The problem is what it does to the player along the way.  Not every player will have the intended outcome a parent desires, not withstanding money spent on showcases, college clinics… no matter how much is spent in travel to colleges and on recruiting services and websites.

So Why the Frenzy?

College Baseball - At What Expense?

Parents love their kids.  They want what is best for them.  They also want what THEY think is best for them.  And this is a disservice.  Recently, a very good Ruffneck hitter showed up to a Fall Baseball game and declared to a coach, “My exit velocity was 91 at a PBR Showcase!”  The wrong focus, to be sure.  Really?  Who cares? Other players are heading to Florida for the Showball Head Coach Showcase.  $$$.  And substantively, none of those dollars will influence the outcome.  FOMO.

And the Frenzy is as much evident in the fall as during the baseball season.  Go play soccer or football.  Be an athlete!  Is anything really gained by spending money traveling to Florida in October?  Running into a tropical storm!  Sure the colleges chase the events, but they have to.  It’s a runaway train that has a life of its own.  Sadly.

So where does this all go?  We  do not have the answer.  But we will stay the course.  We play good, team baseball.  We have terrific kids and wonderful parents.  But the FEAR is palpable.  Focusing on “exit velocity,” external factors, too many showcases, all add to the pressure.  We believe in our players.  Our 2019 “Senior” team played incredibly well in Alabama at the Perfect Game Elite Championships in July of 2019.  Why? Because we have solid players who play hard… as a TEAM.  We earned a #8 seed out of 32 teams.  Many of the players on that roster are headed to high academic, NESCAC, Division III schools.  We are pleased for them.  They are good ball players!  We have a Lousiville commit too.  Ivy’s and others.  We love them all.  They can all play!  And we know they will get to their college and contribute with heart, soul, and understanding.  NO FOMO.  Get over it.

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