Archive | College Recruiting

Recruiting Timetable – What to Do

Questions & Answers?

Players and parents often ask “What is the recruiting timetable?”  The answer: There isn’t one!  Ok, perhaps that sounds like a cavalier, unhelpful response.  So how is the question addressed? And what is the truth?  How do players plan, get recruited, and what should they expect?

Play the Game; Make Yourself Better

The first fundamental truth is that good baseball players, players who aspire to play in college, play baseball during the summer.  They play the game, and they play lots of games.  They learn situational hitting, the importance of moving a runner along, taking extra bases.  Players need to compete.  As Boston College coach, Mike Gambino, told Ruffnecks players, the most important thing is to earn their spot in a lineup, confront competition from teammates who may be better than those you play with on your high school team.  Compete in sticky situations where the outcome of a game is in the balance.  Make a play that is special… or simply respond to failure in a manner that attracts the attention of the most scrutinizing of college recruiters.

The late, great Red Sox scout, Bill Enos, often remarked, “I learn as much watching a kid strike out with the bases loaded when he walks back to the dugout, as I do when he hits a grand slam.  It is easy to look good trotting the bases after a big hit.  I want to see how the kid deals with the other side of baseball.”

In the Ruffnecks program, players play a ton of baseball.  With a 17 year history, experience, and reputation, the Ruffnecks schedule delivers opportunity, not promises.  Our schedule puts players in games, tournaments, and in geographic locations where the blanket of exposure is significant.  Our players are seen… unless they are hiding.

And by the way, does anyone believe that when a college recruiter is watching a game, even to see a specific player, that the recruiter’s eyes are closed to everyone else, and everything else that is going on?  Ridiculous.

Here is a concrete recommendation: Run out every pop up as if you intend to get to second base, in case the infielder drops it.  That will catch coaches’ eyes!  So will the casual jog and pouty, slow, arrival at 1B when the ball is dropped.  Everyone notices both.  No one likes the latter guy; coaches love the former.

The Early Commitment

By definition, an early commitment is… early. So why does everyone get worked up about early commitments?  First, let’s be honest with ourselves.  Status. It is cool to get an early commitment, and even early attention.  It validates a player’s self-worth.  Envy. It is human nature to question, “Why him, and not me?”  If a teammate is getting some love from a Division I school, why am I not getting the same?  Anxiety. The entire process makes players and parents anxious.  An early commitment means I am done with the pressure.  I can relax.  My parents’ aspirations are met!

Well, the realities are quite different.  Early commitments are an anomaly, not the ordinary.  Sure, many top Division I schools are caught in the maelstrom of recruiting and committing prior to the summer before a player’s senior year in high school.  But the colleges don’t love it.  And the NCAA exercises cowardice in policing the practice.  Yet even the most successful D-I powerhouses find room for talented players at ALL times in the recruiting cycle.  One example is Ruffnecks alumnus Will Toffey.  Toffey is currently playing professional baseball for the NY Mets.  He played college ball at Vanderbilt.  Yet, he did not receive an offer from Vandy until September of his senior year in high school.  He was not seen by Vandy until June of that summer, when he played with the Ruffnecks in Nashville.  And he ws not the player that the Vanderbilt coaching staff came to see!  They saw him incidentally to their other recruiting priorities.  Will is not the exception… Will was recruited on an ordinary timetable.

And while most Division I schools commit some players “early,” these are contingent deals, predicated on everyone’s best intentions, maintaining academic standing, and performance on the ballfield.  Yes, there are many re-negs in both directions of the process… players who bail on their commitment, and schools that for one reason or another don’t get the recruit admitted. And there is always a reason… sometimes an excuse.

The Division I “Dude” is Easy!

J.P. Olson - Northeastern Commit

Travel programs boast their list of Division I commits.  Some bandy the news on their websites, and tout players over the TEAM.  Many of these programs use disingenuous claims, such as “so-and-so” is a D-I commit, even though the player may have worn that team’s jersey only once, pitched or played in a single tournament, or had a pre-existing commitment elsewhere… but that does not matter.  Furthermore, some programs focus all their efforts ONLY on the Division I prospects.  But there are many good ball players out there who are not Dudes.  Many of these players are perfectly capable of playing at Division I, II, or III schools.

Sure-shot Division I players are rarely missed in the recruiting process.  That does not mean Division I players are not missed… but the top guys are obvious.  Prospective players should be encouraged by the fact that many, many, Division I players find their ways onto college rosters late in the process.  Building a solid Division I program takes work.  College coaches build a TEAM… a group of guys who can play together, travel together, and learn together.  Colleges do not have the luxury of flying in mercenary pitchers for a weekend series, like some travel programs.

There is also texture to the Division I canvas.  Mid-level D-I programs are later in the commitment cycle than ACC or SEC programs.  IVYs and Patriot League are on different timetables as well.  It is a nuanced process that creates its own “domino effect.”  And by the way, playing Division III college baseball is no easy accomplishment.

The Truths: And What to Do

Back to the beginning.  What is the timetable?  Generally, the following is a guide to the timetable that, by definition, is inconsistent at best.

  • Everyone’s timetable is not the same.
  • Finding the match can be difficult.  Schools may, or may not, be looking for players who play your position in your class.  Catcher is an obvious example.
  • Pitching trumps most recruiting decisions.  Left handed pitchers have an advantage.
  • “Eye Candy” matters.  Players who “look the part” attract recruiters’ eyes.  Players are the masters of their physical preparation and conditioning, but players cannot make themselves 6’3” and 200 pounds.
  • The five tools matter. Work to develop at least one or two outstanding tools.
  • Your academic profile really matters, and opens doors.  The more an athlete pays attention to the details of academic performance, the more doors open.

What to Do

  • Get honest, regular, appraisals from your coaches.  We are your advocates, but we have to be honest in two-way conversations: With the athlete and with the college.
  • Again… Build a strong academic profile.  Yes, get good grades.  Get rid of “Cs” and make school a priority. Take challenging courses.
  • Communicate your interests to your coaches.  If you have a high school coach who is well connected with college coaches, be sure to cultivate a relationship.  Encourage your high school coach to connect with us as your summer program.
  • Research college programs realistically.  Go to their websites.  Check the bios of the coaches.  Are there any connections to your region?  Scrutinize the roster.  Where is the school getting most of their players?  Read some bios on players.  Check to see how many are graduating in the cycle of classes that affect you.
  • Summer after-freshman year in HS: Play ball!  Don’t worry about who is watching.  Just play and get better.  As a Ruffneck, you will be seen.  If you did not play REGULARLY, as a high school varsity starter, do not expect too much attention.  Just play and develop.  You will get on some radars.  Ride the coattails of your teammates who may be attracting attention, but don’t be envious.
  • Sophomore season and summer following: If you are not a regular high school starter as a sophomore, do not expect too much.  But you are not behind.  Just earn your time, and make good on opportunities.
  • Begin to consider what kinds of schools you might like to attend during your sophomore year in high school.  Communicate with your coaches about visiting schools and attending prospect camps and showcases.
  • Coaches can serve two purposes: First, we can be advocates, and help get you on a school’s radar. Second, if you have been seen by a school (at a prospect camp or showcase), we can get candid feedback regarding where you sit on their radar.  It may not always be what you want to hear, but it will help you focus on the right places.
  • Junior Year.  Follow up, beginning in August prior to your Junior year in high school with schools that have shown interest.  Plan “unofficial” visits.  Try to meet with coaches, but it is not necessary.  Plan a trip, use the month of August to visit schools.
  • If you have little interest or mild interest prior to September of your junior year, you are still NOT behind.  Just focus on school, play your other sports, get stronger, and prepare for the best possible junior season and summer possible.
  • Play hard junior year, and plan to have a productive, focused summer between junior and senior years.  This is the normal timetable for things to come together.
  • Develop an “A” list, but be sure you have a “Plan B.”  There is a place most Ruffnecks players can play.  It just may not be South Carolina!  If you want to play college baseball, keep an open mind.
  • Remember, not everyone is going to get a baseball scholarship.  In fact, most college baseball players participate without a scholarship.
  • Remember to communicate, and advocate for yourself.  College coaches do not want to hear from your parents about your statistics and your accomplishments.
  • Finally, trust that you will be seen in the context of the Ruffnecks program.  Communicate with your coaches.  Do not just expect to get calls and emails from recruiters, but when you get one, follow up if you sense it is real.

Compete.  Don’t expect to play every day.  Earn your opportunities, and remember, your teammates have the same aspirations you do…To play in college.  Eventually, the playing days end for everyone.  Enjoy playing while you can.  Enjoy!

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The Winter Showcase/Camp Dilemma

‘Tis the season to be anxious.  Or is it?  Invitations to winter showcases and college clinics populate email boxes… impossible for players and parents to ignore.  It is common to experience “panic mode,” and think about ways to get ahead on the timetable.  Juniors, sophomores, and even freshmen hear about the kid who just committed to a Division I school.  Parents think “My kid isn’t that different.  Why not him?”  Dad says “Let’s plan school visits!  We will take Johnny to a camp at ABC University, then we can go to XYZ University.”  Some families plan elaborate trips and tours of college campuses during the winter “off-season.” Does this sound familiar?

So what are the realities and myths of winter showcases and “camps” as colleges call them?  And does attendance actually move the process forward?  The answers are not absolute, but there are important considerations that include myths and realities.

Four Considerations for Attending a Winter Camp

Rich Gedman at Catching Clinic

Our organizational position is that Ruffnecks attending too many clinics is not necessarily productive.  This view is supported by the very same college coaches who send these invites to our players.  They tell us that they prioritize seeing our teams during the summer.  In some cases, they plan to see a prospect during the high school season… usually near the end.  Consider the following:

  1. Is the player presenting himself at a winter clinic at the peak of his preparation, ability, and performance?  If not, does it help or hurt?  Is it better to wait for in-season proficiency?
  2. Does the player possess a skill (tool) that provides an “eye-popper” for the coaches in attendance (speed, velocity, explosive bat)? It is demonstrable at a winter clinic?
  3. The inverse of #2 is the risk that a player diminishes his value by testing poorly in one of the skill sets measured at the clinic. For instance speed, quickness, a poor BP, or other measurements unknown to the participants.
  4. What is the “snapshot” impression the player wishes to leave with college coaches?  They will be nice, but what will they remember?  Does attending really “move the needle” on the recruiting timetable with college recruiters?

The reality of #3 is a very real risk.  A player can cross himself off of lists at camps by testing out poorly on the agility and speed elements, particularly if there is not a visible, “loud” tool to present.  There is a lot to consider regarding winter camps.  Our suggestion is to stay home and attend the local ones (if any): Boston College, Harvard, Northeastern, or select a D-III of interest.

Just because you are contacted does not mean you are on the school’s short list

Players in programs like ours make their way onto many lists.  These lists are harvested from a variety of sources.  The two most common sources are the personal roster information required for certain tournament entries, and direct communications between our organization and college recruiters.  We regularly share contact information for all our freshmen, sophomores, and juniors.

Reality #1
Players can no longer show up, unannounced, and visit a Division I college coach, prior to September 1st of their JUNIOR year in high school, even if you are just visiting the school.  This does not apply to Division III schools.  Technically, Division I college coaches cannot initiate contact or respond to contact from freshmen and sophomores.

Exception: The college coach can respond with an invitation to a camp at the Division I college or university.

Reality #1A – You are thinking…
There is that 2021 grad from East Somewhere, GA (or even Massachusetts) who has verbally committed to a Division I school.  We know this from talk, rumors, “through the grapvevine,” or from the “prospect list” we saw on a baseball website!

Recommendation: Stay grounded on Reality #1.

If You Want to Attend… Which Ones?

Experience suggests that a player should stay close to home unless there is a real, purposeful, and meaningful, recruiting opportunity at a specific college somewhere outside the region.  In other words, that school really wants to see YOU!  And they will let you know… often through our staff or your high school coach. So let’s cut right to the chase for Ruffnecks players.  There are three, local, college winter camps that might be beneficial and are worth considering:

Boston College Winter Prospect Series: December 27-30
Link to BC Winter Camps

Harvard Crimson Baseball Academy
Link to Harvard Winter Camps

Northeastern University Prospect Clinics
Link to Northeastern Winter Camps

Expectations & Objectives

Frankly, players should attend winter clinics with a mind-set of instruction and development.  Exposure is great, but try to get better.

The winter prospect camp will create exposure for me with Division I schools.

Reality #2
Temper your expectations: Exposure to Division I coaching is limited to the host school.  NCAA restrictions do not permit Division I coaches to coach in winter clinics and camps other than their own.  However (and this is valuable), the coaching and instruction is often staffed by Division II and III coaches who are not under compliance restrictions from the NCAA.  There is good exposure to Division III coaches if that is among your objectives.

Attending a camp provides an opportunity for coaches to get to know me.

Reality #3
This is true.  But Division I coaches are still restricted from building a narrative with you unless you are a junior.

Suggestions & Research

Coach Gambino Address Team - BC Summer 2018

Boston College Mike Gambino is clear and transparent about what winter camps are all about for him and his staff.  “If a kid wants to make an impression, we want to see how he takes instruction.  Our camps are instructive.  We get to know kids over time.  And we understand the value of muti-sport kids who can’t attend and even those who do attend while there are focusing on a winter sport.”  Gambino and our staff are consistent in what the primary objective should be:  Development and Instruction. Participate to get better.

Accordingly, we suggest players do homework on clinics and camps before registering and spending the money.

  1. Research the curriculum or hourly/daily “plan” for the clinic.  Is it posted? Can they send it?
  2. Does the activity consist of work/drill stations?  Are they productive for you?
  3. Is the camp developmental?  What tests do the coaches conduct?
  4. If you are a pitcher, what is the plan and how best can you prepare?
  5. IMPORTANT: Does the camp provide a written evaluation or “report card” at the end?  You should ask this question and know the answer.

Of course, be patient with yourself if you attend.  In most cases, you are not as big, strong, and developed as the players who play at the collegiate level.  The college coaches know this and have experience in assessing potential and projectability.


The best clinics are instructional.  Staying local keeps the cost down, and builds self-awareness. If you are looking to build a narrative, understand that the coaches of these schools are in close contact with our program… Another reason to stay local.  Best of all, continue your off-season workout program and move yourself forward in strength and purposeful preparation for playing a demanding schedule this spring and summer.  Best of luck and health in 2019!

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