Who’s ready to waste money on pointless tournaments, camps, and showcases this summer?!? My guess is 60% of you reading this can look in a mirror and see the answer. It’s May and you’ve already paid thousands to your travel orgs. The hotels are reserved and, once processed, those fees will land a hard blow on the bottom line. We know the cost of fuel will be way up from our previous summer travel seasons which means everything else is pricier, too. Does anybody account for the depreciation on their vehicles? Or, what about lost income at work? There’s a ton of hidden costs.
And let’s be clear, it’s not just parents who drain their wallets for summer baseball season – it’s coaches, too. Underpaid (if paid at all) recruiters have no choice but to dip into their personal accounts to cover the costs of scouting. For the most part, college baseball is a “non-revenue” sport which translates in Dugout Talk to, “a money-sucking, pain in the ass sport for colleges”. In brief, baseball gets the minimum to recruit, and they’re lucky to get that.
But, it’s cool. Spending a college tuition to chase a partial scholarship is part of the beast, right? It’s just what we have to do, right? It is what it is, and we accept it, right?
I mean… I guess. It’s not really up to me and I don’t have the type of money or power to change the current system. So, I’ll go burn my time, energy, and grocery money wherever the masses take me. Like you, I’m nothing but a follower on the summer trail, spending my money to hang around East Cobb at 2 AM in the rain because, well, that’s the system we accept.
Spring is over and nothing much has changed in your recruiting process because things rarely happen while college coaches are chasing their own tourney titles. Yeah. I know. And now it’s the real recruiting season and your head is spinning to find “the right” camps, tourneys, showcases, and circuses to attend between now and August. I understand. That’s why I wrote this blog breaking down the three sectors of summer recruiting.
* MY DEFINITION OF TRAVEL TEAM IS A SUMMER ORGANIZATION THAT TRAVELS THOUSANDS OF MILES DURING THE SUMMER AND PLAYS A MAJORITY OF THEIR SCHEDULE OUTSIDE OF THEIR HOME STATE.
12 and under should never spend needed money on a travel baseball tournament. If the family vacation happens to align with the tourney, then great! But there’s no reason to go road tripping looking for “better competition” and “more exposure.” An experience is different – for example, Cooperstown is worth every penny. Go to overnight camp and explore the mountains before you have no choice but to jump on the fire.
Between the ages of 13-15 is where you’ll find the most waste because this is where the most vulnerable people are. They’ve been brainwashed into believing 14 is “when it all starts happening” and so this group comes prepared for the high rollers suite.
If a 13-15 year old is talking to Power 5 coaches, then yes, he should probably be playing some form of travel ball and moving around the region. If not, then the main focus should be on training and reps. For the cost of a travel team, you can get a weight trainer, three private instructors, a Biomechanics coach, two Pelotons, a PS5, and I guarantee you’ll still be able to find mercenary work on the weekends at the local tourneys.
By 16, players aiming for the NCAA should be on a summer team that attends a few major events, even if it’s not a “big program that travels far.” No coach goes to bed at night worrying about whether a recruit plays for Canes National or J. Rudd’s Wranglers. (I need a logo for that.)
Recruits don’t want to be on the worst team in the world, but it’s perfectly fine to be on an average travel team or even a talented one without a recognizable logo. (Name recognition matters… the player’s name, not the team’s name.) Find a place that gives you positive vibes. Make sure the roster has some talent, the coach is connected, and the team’s schedule aligns with the mainstream travel circuit.
Do you need to be on a travel team? No. In fact, I’ll argue that the overwhelming majority of travel baseball players have zero reason to even cross state lines when going to a tournament. I wish more travel organizations would get together to put on in-state events. College coaches agree with me there.
As a family, it’s quite possible to organize your own summer schedule of camps, showcases, college visits, and free agent offers. This takes effort, connections, and is more suited for the non-D1 prospect, but creating your own version of a summer team can work well.
I don’t see a reason to do many of these. Opportunities to attend events like Future Games (PBR), Topps (Prospect Select), and Jr. Nationals (PG) are very valuable – but those are legitimate “invite-only” showcases. (Okay, okay… you know what I mean.) Most reputable companies have a top showcase or two in which decision-making coaches attend. Outside of that, the majority of showcases you see are money-makers for the company and the volunteer assistants, whose survival depends on collecting checks at these paid events. Sifting through the nonsense is tough, but there are a few real ones out there that are worth attending if invited.
I know Headfirst Honor Roll is called a Camp, but I’m calling it a showcase. I’m also going to call it the best showcase in the country. It’s for a different breed (high-academic, D3, $$$ for college), but it’s awesome. College coaches are on the fields engaging with kids and parents, coaching the games, running the drills, and creating an immersive and positive recruiting environment. #Uncommitted prospects with a 28+ ACT/1350+ SAT will benefit from that showcase.
The ideas of “Scout Days” or “Metrics Showcases” or whatever you want to call them is still out of reach for the official J. Rudd Stamp of Approval. I’m fairly certain I’ll go to my grave without being convinced a showcase with zero coaches is a good showcase. Even worse is writing a check to a company so that a college intern can grade you on eight swings, three throws, and one sixty … in the pouring rain.
Big build, room to grow. 3/4th arm slot with good tilt on pitches. Fastball ranged 82-85, topping out at 87. Curveball consistently sat at 75 MPH and looked loopy as shit. Swings with an open stance showing plus power to oppo side.
See, anybody can do that for free.
And don’t blame me when the video and grade aren’t what you thought you paid for. I’m giving you a fair warning now. Too many times have I spoken out about recruits giving away the power of their process – and paying to do so.
Each year, I lean more and more into the idea of running a circuit of college camps. If I had to choose between the three (team, showcase, camp), I’d invest my money into attending college camps. But there are BIG CONDITIONS that apply to this pathway.
The best way for a 13-15u ballplayer to get in front of coaches is by going to camp. Colleges don’t have time to go watch a middle schooler. If a kid was worthy of that, then he’s getting drafted anyway. The good news is that camp provides the best recruiting experience for all parties involved. Recruiting rules are thrown out the window during “camp.” Families can meet privately with coaches, enjoy a personal tour of the school, visit admissions counselors, and have a night on the town. In reality, what’s more likely to happen is young campers will uncover if their dream school is just that – a dream. People can’t be scared to simply ask, “Coach, do you think I have a chance to play at this level, or should I focus on different camps?” Every college coach I know would give a straightforward answer if asked at their camp. Attending a college camp and not asking that question would be a major missed opportunity.
For 16u/17u, college camps offer all the same benefits, but time is of the essence and reckless spending happens when people panic. Rising Juniors have some flexibility to chase a dream school, but the college camp selection process should to be more than a dart throw. Ideally, upperclassmen will have options to attend camps where mutual interest exists. If not, then a showcase setting might be better, or putting down the ball and hitting the gym.
Here’s a dirty little secret – outside of DI, a majority of programs are allowed to conduct private workouts any day of the week. Knowing that, rising seniors should not be paying for any individual college baseball camp.
Uncommitted 18u recruits need to be like the guy at Pompano Pier with 15 different lines in the sea and a cooler full of live bait. Any nibble is worth a tug, or in this case, a private workout request. Seniors desperately looking for a place to play should be filling up their calendars with these types of pre-organized visits.
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