Growing up a Floridian, I was well-trained on how to handle the three stages of a hurricane — 1) prepare, 2) take shelter, & 3) assess damage. Like a kid on Christmas morning, I couldn’t wait for the weather to pass so we could bust out of our shuttered house, hop in the ‘ole Ford Windstar, and roll through flooded streets – swerving around downed powerlines – looking for the most destroyed areas of town. Seeing the destructing is cool when you’re a young boy! Nowadays, as a grown man with a family and home to protect, I realize how dumb I was as a kid. The aftermath of a hurricane is undoubtedly the scariest part of the whole experience.
It’s been more than six months since I wrote “Hurricane ‘22” – a blog forecasting a disastrous recruiting season that loomed for the Class of 2022. To nobody’s surprise, the storm made a direct hit over the summer. Rising seniors and their families spent the past few months caught in a whirlwind of uncertainty as they did everything in their power to keep their baseball dreams afloat. Unfortunately, there’s just not enough space for everyone to fit on the life raft. Without question, there will be a large group of college-worthy prospects that never get a chance to play past this school year. That’s reality.
Aside from the massive contingent of recruits that remain without an offer in sight, there’s also a large group of heart-broken families that recently learned a verbal commitment is not actually a commitment.
It’s a disaster for everyone. The waves of this storm have cut through the entire baseball community. Parents, players, travel coaches, trainers, high school coaches, recruiters, mentors, and college coaches all share the feelings of sadness about the current situation.
With that said, I personally don’t care. I don’t have the time to care.
And as an uncommitted 2022, you don’t have time to feel sorry for yourself. Call me an ass if you’d like, but my approach has always been to face the facts and figure out what’s next. I stay ahead while most people fall behind trying to cope with reality. I work with multiple uncommitted 2022s. My job is to grind every second to help them find a home. There’s no time to play the “If Covid never happened…” game. We’ll have plenty of time to reflect on Hurricane ’22 later in life, but our full focus right now needs to be on making the next move.
The good news is that the storm didn’t destroy EVERY street leading to a college baseball career. Debris may be covering your original route, but there’s always another avenue if you look for it. (It’d be nice if Siri or Alexa could reroute us here.) If you read Part 1 of this blog, published in February, then you were given a map to evacuate. Hopefully you got committed this summer because you beat others to those side roads. For the rest of you, you’re likely caught in a race to the nearest exit.
At this point, no uncommitted 2022 recruit should be thinking about D1. And the same could be said for strong D2 programs. If you’re already talking to D1 or good D2 teams, then you can probably stay in that stratosphere. But if you’re an uncommitted 2022 that is talking to nobody, then you need to look at lower-half D2s, high-academic D3s, NAIA schools, and NJCAA colleges. Assuming you find a place that fits you, then reach out in every way possible. (Check out my “Connecting with Coaches” video.) Cast a wide net to see where you fit. Reach into areas of the country that you never considered. Find where the market is for you.
The market will tell a kid where he belongs. That’s one of the best lessons a college coach ever taught me. Recruits, that means you’ll find where you fit athletically if you look everywhere. For example, if we reach out to every team in the country, and the only responses we get are from D3’s in the Midwest, then the market is D3 schools in colder weather. And this is when it becomes decision time.
Realizing where you stand on the market can be a hard reality for a family to accept. You’ll need to decide if 1) you like what the baseball market has to offer or 2) if you just want to go to the college of your choice. Either one is fine as long as you have conviction in your decision.
So to conclude our family tour of the aftermath, I’ll share what I believe to be are the best open markets to target as an uncommitted 2022.
- If you have academics, use them! D3 level. If you can’t afford one, look for good academics at a D2 where they may have some baseball money. Special academics can get you to the front of the line at this time of year.
- JUCO – Parents are still living in the days when junior college was only for the dumb kids. In today’s world, JUCO is a great place to continue developing as a person and student athlete. Save money, grow into a young man, and see if you can actually hang at the collegiate level before making a long-term commitment to do so.
- Cold weather states are a good target. Baseball is meant for warm weather, and the opportunity to spend 24/7 outside is a big draw for recruits. With warm states being the majority’s first choice, southern schools fill up quick. If you’re looking for more playing time in baseball, just keep going north until you find it.
- Northeast and Midwest – Here’s where to find the hidden gems. The density of schools in the NE and MW makes it prime hunting grounds for recruits. If you invested time into researching, you’d understand why some people say, “There’s a place for everyone who wants to play.”
- Your Dream School – Believe it or not, there’s a point when playing baseball is no longer the best decision. This is the route I took. I could have played at some small school far from home, but instead I went to my dream school, Florida State. When I arrived in Tallahassee, I went to the baseball field and asked how I could become a part of the team. That’s when I became a student manager and my career in baseball truly started. I went on to work for the Marlins right out of college and things just grew from there. The decision to stop playing the game wound up leading me to a life full of baseball.
Rarely do hurricanes alone kill people. Most hurricane deaths are caused by human error happening before, during, or after the storm. Point is… Hurricane ‘22 didn’t kill you. And you’ll be fine as long as you listen to advice from the professionals (like when the weather man tells you not to drive to a friend’s house in the middle of a Cat. 4)
You’re allowed to be shaken by the aftermath, but you can’t get stuck staring at the wreckage when there’s work to be done.