How to get a scholarship in baseball

photo credit: TVZ Design

photo credit: TVZ Design

Scholarships in baseball are pretty rare. That’s not because it isn’t possible to obtain one, but because the number is limited and the requirements for getting one are rather steep, all thanks to NCAA regulations. With this said, if you’re determined enough, you can make it happen. Many people will be surprised to hear that there is a real need for talented baseball players, both in colleges and universities across the country.

Opportunities abound

The first thing you want to make sure is that you have the talent and skill to get to the next level. If you were an average player in high-school, chances for you obtaining a scholarship are pretty low. But this doesn’t mean that you have to be a blue chip or an all-American player to get into college baseball. Even if you don’t make into Division I or Division II, there are plenty of spots in Division III, the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) and, why not, junior college.

Don’t leave it up to chance to get yourself noticed

One mistake that many high-school baseball players make is thinking that if they’re good enough to play in college baseball teams, they will be automatically recruited and awarded a baseball scholarship. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Many good players have this faulty perception which leaves them unnoticed by their coaches, with no chances of every getting promoted. Don’t leave it up to fate to get yourself noticed. You have to impress your high school coach, your AAU coach and everyone else that holds the key to your future in baseball.

Get on your coach’s radar

If you’ve got what it takes to make to the Major League, you need to put yourself out there and market your assets the best you can if you want to have a shot at a baseball scholarship. Contact college coaches and tell them about your stats, athletic aptitudes and your mastery of the game. Let them know how you can make their program succeed. Coaches are always on the lookout for good players, so get in their sights and do your best job to remain there as you might never know when you get the call.

Having read this, now you know what it takes to get yourself recruited to a college team. The road may not be easy, but the steps are obvious to all. The question remains: will you walk this road to the end and give it your best or will you remain content with what you have right now?

Will new NCAA rules change the game?

photo credit: Keith Allison

photo credit: Keith Allison

The NCAA introduced a new set of rules on August 1st, 2008 that many saw as game-changers concerning college baseball players. Here at Spartanburg Stingers, we decided to write an article in order to shed light on this event and help you better understand to full extent what these changes are about.

Perhaps the only reason why you have heard about these new rules is because of the backlash that was generated both in sports media and with baseball players all over the country.

If you are familiar with the NCAA then you already know that they already have a limited number of scholarships that they can award each season, that is 11.7 scholarships distributed to more than 30 players. This new legislation will further dictate how these scholarships can be won.

Scholarships in baseball aren’t always awarded in full. A coach is often forced to divide the 11.7 scholarships among 25 and more players that are on a team. This way, even if players don’t get a full scholarship, at least all of them can receive some form of financial help.

Baseball programs from Division I have a limit of 11.7 scholarships, and the practice of breaking up the scholarships and dividing them to all of them is fairly common.

This isn’t the first time the NCAA has been criticized. Sport fans and players lashed out against the institution when it decided to reduce the number of scholarships awarded to college baseball players, this way eliminating coaching positions and significantly lowering the number of games baseball teams could play each spring.

For reasons unknown to us, college baseball has always been overlooked by the institution when it came to scholarships. To put things in comparison, Division I – A football teams receive 85 scholarships each season. OK, this may be understandable since football is America’s favorite sport, but basketball teams, both men’s and women’s, receive 13 full scholarships each season. For women’s equestrian, 15 scholarships are awarded and women’s crew teams receive 20 scholarships. This makes baseball the least favorite sport of the organization as college baseball teams get only 11.7 scholarships per team.

Starting with the 2008 – 2009 academic year, the new rules went into full effect, capping baseball rosters to 35 players, dictating that only 30 players can be eligible for financial aid. This number was reduced further in 2009 – 2010 to 27 players, with the additional stipulation that each of these players must receive at least 1/3 of a full scholarship.

The new legislation also prohibits college baseball players from transferring to another school. Those who do have to sit out one full year before they can play again. Compare this to football, basketball and men’s hockey where the penalty is only one season for transferring. The NCAA has justified these new rules as a means to increase player retention and graduation rates for college baseball.

In addition to this, baseball players must be eligible for admission during fall semester in order to play the following spring. This means that summer school is now mandatory for those who want to play. The problem is that most college baseball players cannot afford to pay the fees for summer school and thus cannot attend. Because scholarships are limited and they have to be divided among many players, a 4% scholarship during the academic year will be the same for summer school. Football and basketball players who receive a full scholarship have no trouble attending summer school because all costs are covered by the scholarship.

These changes come from the NCAA’s Academic Performance Rates, which monitors each student’s individual progress toward obtaining an academic degree. Those teams that do not reach the 925 score in the APR (which is equal to a 50% graduation rate) are at risk of losing their scholarships.

The NCAA has released a list of all programs that were subject to penalties because they failed to meet the APR score. Out of 112 programs, 1/4th were baseball teams.

What is the best way for highschool students to get into college baseball?

kid pitching

photo credit: Keith Allison

Parents would give anything to see their kids get good enough at the game so that they’re admitted into college baseball teams. Everybody knows about Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Manny Ramirez, Albert Pujols and other Major League players. We all envision the day when our little league player gets accepted into college baseball and wish that he becomes an all-American.

Now, we don’t want to discourage you from your kid achieving his dreams, but you should know that the odds are very low for such a thing happening without some serious training involved. The first priority, of course, should be in fostering love for the game – something that you as a baseball parent must do if you want him to become a strong little league player. But what is the next step in becoming a college player?

Statistically, less than 1 in 15 kids that play in little league and youth baseball get to make it to their high school’s varsity team. And further on, less than 10% of high school varsity baseball players make it to college baseball. That number includes both walk-on players and those who have earned a scholarship. In a year, out of 936 high-school players, only one gets to be drafted to Pro Baseball. So you can see right off the bat that such figures show how committed and skillful you have to be to make it into the Major League. Put more succinctly, odds are that only one in 15,000 youth or little league baseball players ever join a MLB baseball team. That may be putting it lightly, since MLB baseball has had around 20,000 players in total since it’s inception in 1869.

So what can you do to improve your child’s chances of getting into the high-school varsity team?

It all comes down to three things: skill, athletic build and pure luck.

How to develop skill in baseball?

No matter if you’re in high-school, college or major league, skill is one of the top factors that influences your child’s chance of admission. It may sound like a no-brainer, but if you want to play with the big dogs you really have to own your game! Coaches are essential early-on as they will be able to teach the fundamentals and work on their hitting and pitching skills (each requiring a different coach). The major league players of today take advantage of indoor hitting facilities, intensive training year-round and let’s not forget travel baseball which is played every season. Of course, it goes without saying that you and your child must have an interest in the game that goes beyond the “hobby” level. There’s baseball homework that you have to do just like you would with math, English and physics. By homework I refer to the extra-training that he would do in the off-season and at home, as much as possible. To assist in the homework, many parents invest in a backyard pitching mound, a batting cage, training equipment and private one-on-one training with an experienced baseball instructor.

How important is body build in baseball?

When we’re talking about body build, we’re referring more to athletic build rather than attributes such as height and size. The later ones aren’t as important in baseball as they are in football or basketball for example. However, athletic build is important in any game. By athletic build we mean endurance, stamina, power and speed. All the training that is done should be centered on increasing these crucial factors. MLB players got where they are today by having exceptional batting speed, pitch velocity and feet faster than Speedy Gonzales.

What do you mean by “pure luck”? Surely if you’re determined enough you can make the team!

We included this factor lastly because it also stirs up some controversy if we did not talk about the previous two, that is, athletic build and skill. When we talk about luck, we do not refer to “luck” as “beating the odds” winning a game. We talk about the luck of having top quality coaching at such an early age. When you have an exceptional coach in your little league team, someone that trains, motivates and inspires your kid to exceed his limits – that is luck. Having a parent that is more than interested and invests in his kid’s baseball training is luck. Players who make the MLB have had all the right conditions from early-on in life and that, without a doubt, can be attributed to luck. Even if they had a natural talent, the guidance of a top coach was still required to get them to the next level. Not every coach is successful! So getting the right coach is just as much about luck as anything else.

We hope this article was useful to you. We wish you and your child only the best in this fascinating game. To get to the next level, it takes real sweat, blood and tears – and it’s no shame to admit that it might not be for everyone. But if all the right conditions have been met early on and there is a real passion for the game, then it would be a sin not to pursue an opportunity that comes only once in a lifetime.