Archive | College Recruiting

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.

Myth:
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.

Myth:
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.

Summary

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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The Divsion I Frenzy: Does it Matter?

It is that time of year… students are returning to their high schools after a summer of baseball, readying themselves for the academic rigors of a new school year.  Some seniors have already committed to colleges, many others continue the process.  Juniors and Sophomores engage in scuttlebutt about “this guy” or “that guy” who is being recruited by some big university in the south.  A few Juniors, and even Sophomores, are getting “offers,” sometimes with pressure from college coaches to “take it or leave it, or else we will move on to others.”  The pressure mounts.  What does it all mean? And how much does it all matter?

In the Ruffnecks program we do our best to meet with every player to discuss academic and college aspirations.  Commonly, the initial response to the question of “What are your goals and aspirations?” is “I want to play Division 1, and I want to go south.”  Indeed, we have talented and focused players in the Ruffnecks program, many of whom can and will play Division 1 (whether they go south or not).  However, this frenzy and anxiety is rooted in the pressures from parents, peers, and the “noise” of recruiting services, prospect camps, and empty promises of national, select, teams that claim to wave a magic wand and deliver a D-1 scholarship.  One such organization, here in New England, is even dangling the carrot of “playing for your country” to 12, 13, and 14 year olds…  Taking 13 year olds to a national training complex in North Carolina in September?  A 13 year old?  Really?  Is this funded by the United States Olympic Committee, or is it simply another pay-to-play opportunity?

The Problem

The problem is that reality and expectations rarely align.  The Ruffnecks certainly contribute to the problem.  How?  We boast the accomplishments of our alums.  We communicate how many Ruffnecks have been drafted.  We tweet the commitments of players to big schools.  We fall into the trap.  But we also work tirelessly to combat the problem by working with families to understand the process.  We build TEAMS not Showcase Teams. We foster a culture in which it is fun to travel, play baseball, and be among athletes of like-minded goals and aspirations.  We hope that the friendships forged through the Ruffnecks experience endure.  But the problem constantly looms on the horizon.  Parents (and players) want their kids to get a baseball scholarship, go down south, or to “use baseball to get into a better school.”  Great, but few really have a smooth path.

The problem is also nurtured by organizations and programs that boast “Division 1″ or “draft picks” among players who may have worn that team’s uniform for a single event, or a single tournament.  Again… Really?  New teams, old teams, coaches, make claims that they get kids scholarships or get kids D-1 commitments in order to recruit for their team or program.  And face it, schools do the same thing.  They measure and promote themselves by how many IVY League admissions they get, or their median or mean SAT scores.  The world may not change.  But we can try to catch ourselves, recalibrate, and take a deep breath.

The Solution

The solution lies in the reality that most baseball players of high purpose and focus will find themselves in schools and college baseball environments that are fulfilling.  Certainly, most Ruffnecks players will find their way.  However, the Ruffnecks will not recruit players to this program with promises that we can deliver anything other than an opportunity to reach those goals and aspirations.  We do not deliver scholarships.  We do not deliver D-1 guarantees.  We hope we deliver a journey in which the phone calls to home are punctuated by, “I really like it here.”  The solution also lies in the reality that Division I baseball is not for everyone, and many Division III players are perfectly capable of playing at some Division I schools.  The challenge is to find the school that meets an individual’s academic and athletic aspirations.

The solution also continues to reside in the ability of parents to “chill” as the expression goes.  In several of our year-end conferences we hear the parents do most of the talking, despite the fact their sons are 16 or 17 years old and know our preference that it be the player’s journey.  And the look of anxiety on parents’ faces far exceeds what shows on the player’s face.  Indeed, parents have legitimate questions that deserve to be answered.  But conversations that are steered by parents and not the player are less productive than when the player has focus and purpose.  The definition of success as a parent is not tied to the outcome of a collegiate baseball roster spot for a son.  It is, after all, a game to be played for fun and what it means to our American culture, heritage, and to fulfill our competitive instincts.

Tucker Healy

Our favorite story continues to be the Tucker Healy story.  Tucker was one of the original Ruffnecks in 2003 when the program had none of the reputation it currently enjoys.  Tucker graduated high school in 2008 with no scholarship offers and no recruiting offers at all.  He was captain, short stop, and sometimes pitched for his high school.  He played 1B, 2B, and sometimes pitched for the Ruffnecks in his last few years.  Certainly, not a steady script.  Tucker went to Division III Ithaca College, where his mother went.  He became a pitcher, only. He could not get a summer baseball roster spot on any of the known collegiate summer leagues after his freshman year in college.  He went home to play Legion baseball.  Between his sophomore year and junior year he got a spot in the NECBL.  Between his junior year and senior year he got a spot in the Cape Cod League.  He did not get drafted after his junior year, as most pro prospects do.  He was selected by the Oakland Athletics after he graduated from Ithaca.  He has progressed all the way to Triple A.  He may be the first Ruffnecks alum to get a moment in the Major Leagues… but that remains to be seen.  Wouldn’t that be a fine story?

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The Week Ahead - Notices

(Updated Thursday, October 10 at 9:00am)

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENTS:

No Activity This Weekend
October 12-14

Roll Call for Weekend of October 20:

HS Responses due Thursday, Oct. 10
CP Responses due Saturday, Oct. 12

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