Today marks the completion of another year on Earth for me. Last night at dinner, my wife asked me to recall some of my favorite life memories. As a wise 35-year-old man, I immediately recognized the trap question, so I responded with recollections that included her and the family. Her inquiry got me thinking (not talking) about those “other” good memories. (Ahhh, that first Dave Matthews concert was priceless.) If only I could go back to my Junior year of high school for a day.
Reclassifying — moving from one graduating class to another — is a hot topic in recruiting. It’s also a hotly debated issue among families because many believe this move gives kids an unfair advantage by allowing them to compete against younger, less developed players. And as a result, the belief is that the reclassed athlete will stand out amongst his peers on the field and be more likely to get recruited than the rest of the kids who are playing at their legitimate age level. (See Danny Almonte.)
So, is it right or wrong? Well I say it’s whatever you want it to be. Parents can parent however they want. I’ll certainly do everything in my power to give my kids the best chance to be successful in life.
I like to ask those debating the move, “Why do you want to reclass?” If the reasons relate to academics and/or adolescent maturity, then naturally as an educator I’m all-in. But this type of justification would usually come to the forefront well before a kid’s high school years. If reclassification doesn’t become a dinner-table topic until sophomore year, then it’s likely been motivated by baseball, and that’s when things get a little weird.
Personally, changing grad years for baseball doesn’t tickle me because it’s not a magic pill. Delaying high school graduation by a year doesn’t automatically move you from a D2 to a D1 prospect. And are you really changing your graduation year, or are you just moving into a different recruiting class? A majority of reclass questions thrown at me happen when a player is too far down the road to simply change their graduation year. These players have already taken too many classes to adjust their high school schedules, or their eligibility as a high school athlete has already been halfway exhausted. So, at that point what we’re really talking about is delaying the start of college by taking a gap year.
“Yeah, but I can still start college while taking a gap year. I’ll just take online courses through the local community college so I don’t fall behind.” Sure, that’s true. But what kind of education are you getting? What kind of college experience are you enjoying? And are you able to spend enough time training if you’re truly taking a full college course load? And how much money are you spending to take those classes? And how much money are you spending on the private training to help you become a next-level player? And won’t you be distracted by your friends if you stay home for another year? And… the list goes on.
Taking a gap year requires a special type of kid. A kid who has a proven track record of hard work and dedication — a young man that loves the game more than he likes his friends (or X-Box). A successful gap year can only be accomplished by those that will sleep, eat, and breathe with the goal of playing college baseball. And honestly, that breed of player probably doesn’t need to discuss reclassification because they’re likely already committed.
On the flip side, I’ve seen many good reasons for taking a gap year – especially for the 2020 & 2021 groups that are dealing with the COVID-19 fallout. More than ever, I’m in favor of the recruiting reclass for these graduates because of the pandemic. But even so, the question of WHY still needs to be addressed. Is it because D3 doesn’t sound as good as D2? (Shitty reasoning.) Or is it because D3 can’t offer the financial assistance that you need? (Great reasoning.)
Gap years based on baseball make sense for draft-worthy players, elite athletes coming back from injuries, and families that face overwhelming financial challenges when it comes to paying for college. Of course there are more good reasons to take a gap year than just these, but these are the obvious examples in my book because the pros have the potential to greatly outweigh the cons. In these scenarios, being patient for 12 months could change the kid’s entire life – which is another question for families to ponder. How much is 12 months really going to change your situation?
Whatever the case, always look forward. Maybe reclassification increases your chances of a successful future. Or maybe your destined path is right in front of you and not down some imaginable road.