BROOKSVILLE, Fla.– It has been over a month since any lights shined on the baseball fields. Hernando High first baseman Steven Taylor said… “It’s a mix between sadness and anger. Baseball has been my life, and for me to work as hard as I have to get to where I am and for it to basically be stripped away from me at the end, it just sucks. It broke my heart when my mom told me the news.”
Even though the FSHAA ruled to cancel all spring athletic programs for the rest of the 2020 calendar year, this understandable decision can also bring many challenges for seniors who are not sure about the future of receiving a baseball scholarship. However, there may still be opportunities on the horizon.
Mike Bakas started a scouting company, Baseball Prospect Connect, with Al Yevoli and Jesse Piccolo in 2012. He helps student-athletes prepare for the recruiting process.
“We work individually with players and families, sort of helping them navigate through the whole recruiting process because that can be a real challenge,” Bakas said. “It can be expensive, overwhelming, and it can be confusing and really difficult to do that on your own and do that successfully.”
Steven Taylor met Bakas through a friend who had hired Bakas as his recruiter. During batting practice, Bakas observed Taylor and liked his batting style and performance.
“He’s a great guy,” Taylor said. “I was honestly really lucky to find him through my buddy. He’s always sending me new information about existing colleges or new colleges.”
Having these restrictions in place makes it a challenge for any college coach as well as recruiters. Throughout their scouting profession, these coaches and recruiters have relied on that first-person connection. They can visually see the player’s talent and presence on the field. It may help with decision making when choosing who to put on their watch list or possibly a spot on their roster.
“What players and families need to understand is what college coaches do for a living is coach baseball, and part of their job is that they recruit. Right now, they are very, very limited. The players are basically on their own, and it’s really difficult,” Bakas said. “College coaches are in recruiting mode. This is the time when they are trying to identify players, probably more than ever, because of all this free time on their hands.”
As summer is just a few months away, most of these players are looking forward to playing travel ball. It’s a way to still be in the game, to stay focused, and remain connected to the sport they love.
Travel ball is a summer outlet for many baseball players. Travel teams and leagues have grown tremendously over the years, as well as the competition. However, would a player that is in league with more competitiveness improve their chances of being seen by a college coach or recruiter?
“What most of the players and families do not understand is that college coaches do not show up (to events) with 374 teams trying to identify new players,” Bakas said. “If I need a 2021 shortstop, I am not going up with a lawn chair and sit there for fourteen hours a day for seven days and watch as many shortstops as possible, that is not how it works.”
Bakas explained that the coaches might already have a list of the players they have an interest in and will go from field to field to see them play. College coaches are not only watching their athletic skills and capabilities but also their overall field presence. They are watching how they are handling and conducting themselves on and off the field. How players interact in the dugout as well as how they react to errors and so on.
“From a recruiting standpoint… The best way to make sure you are getting watched by college coaches is somehow to get on their radar before the event,” Bakas said.
Getting on the radar of college coaches takes time, dedication and some help from your high school coach.
“I know Coach Sims at Hernando has been there a long time, and a lot of his players have gone off to play in college. Obviously, that’s important to Coach Sims, and he does a good job of helping his players get their name out there,” Bakas said.
Stated on the NCSA website; In response to the coronavirus, the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) has suspended all in-person recruiting through May 31. Schools have also been asked to suspend official and unofficial visits.
Today, college coaches and recruiters are limited and rely heavily on virtual aids. Online recruiting is critical, and it’s their only option.
“I think the really interesting thing is for us as a company and our message is that, in light of everything, it hasn’t changed. It’s actually very much the same,” said Nelson Gord, Director of Baseball for Next College Student Athlete. “The things that we have preached for twenty years now, as far as being proactive, reaching out to coaches, sending out video, having an online presence doing all those things, it hasn’t changed one bit.”
Traditionally, parents and students rely heavily on coaches conducting any outreach or player promotions. Gord says that it’s especially important right now for athletes to promote themselves through video and statistical profiles.
“Right now, to get these kids to get their name out there, they need to focus on marketing, branding themselves, and putting their information in places that college coaches tend to search,” said Gord.
All of this may be repetitive to many student-athletes, but the timing is crucial for many baseball players wanting to move forward in their careers. Student athletes should be utilizing this time to create a new professional profile or even updating their existing profiles.
“The most profound effect they can have is posting their video and transcription. What we have found through our history once a kid posts video, their profile is twelve times more likely seen by coaches. Once they put their transcript up that number goes up 17 times more likely to be viewed. It’s really that combination that’s going to paint that athletic and academic picture of what the athlete is like,” Gord said.
Both Gord and Bakas express the need for visual presentation as well as maintaining a social media presence.
“The absolute best way to showcase your skill set to college coaches is through a legitimate recruiting video,” Bakas said. “One of the most powerful things that I do in terms of having success with coaches reaching out to players is that I do recruiting videos with players. That is one of the things I did with Steven, and we went through an entire pro-style workout.”
“Social media is a great starting point because there are a ton of coaches, especially in the baseball community, Twitter has a huge following, and there is a lot of recruiting that is initiated there. I would encourage athletes to put their video on Twitter but also put a link back to their professional profile,” Gord said. “The really nice thing about the tools that we provide is yes, we have paid membership, but we also have our free (player) profile (page) that is utilized by over 200,000 baseball players every year.”
Facing the fact that all high school athletic programs are finished for 2020 and going on a month of zero sports doesn’t mean it’s time to quit. It’s time to dust off the gloves, scrape off the dry clay from your cleats, and to take hold of what can be controlled and look ahead towards summer.
“It may not be a school you are familiar with, but there are schools out there that are actively recruiting and still looking for athletes, and it might be a perfect match for you,” Gord said.
Next College Student Athlete https://www.ncsasports.org
Prospect Connect Baseball https://baseballprospectconnect.com/