Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Online Baseball Pitching Community Forum

New Online Baseball Pitching Community
Visit: This site is an extention of the A place where coaches, players, instructors & professionals can discuss baseball pitching traing and development.Features also Include:-Customize your profile page-Upload photos, audio, and videos-Receive feedback from other players and coaches on your play by uploading game and practice video-Share your thoughts in your own personal blog-Create and maintain group and team pages-Send and receive messages through your inbox-Chat with other players and coaches-Post events and track responses automatically-Participate in the discussion forum-

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

College Athletics Recruiting: “Getting Out Of The Gates”

Parents, prospects and coaches often ask me to identify the ideal time a prospect should launch his or her college quest. Although each prospect initiates their recruiting plans at different times, I would say a good date to “get out of the gates” is January 1 of the junior year. But before you hit the pavement running, let’s run through a simple checklist of pre-launch tasks that will assist you in organizing for an important life decision.
Creating a user friendly organizing system for the college recruiting process will serve as a helpful tool, especially when information begins to pile in from different college coaches. Not only will this system assist you in keeping track of the steady stream of paper and e-traffic, it will act as a great resource for future contacts and important coach-prospect communications. Trust me, coaches will be requesting information (transcripts, high school profile, standardize test results, tax information for financial pre-reads etc.) at about the same time, and the family who develops an efficient access system to this information will navigate the process with more success and with greater confidence.
Create a filing system that provides you with easy access to pertinent information. I suggest storing the following information in your individual college program folders:
Updated contact information for coach, assistant coach, financial aid representative etc. Include name, address, e-mail, phone number etc.).
Materials the coach has sent (brochures, articles, etc.).
Team competition schedule. You should add important events to your calendar and stay updated on the team’s accomplishments, especially before any correspondence with the coach.
College catalogs, applications and/or other marketing materials.
Updated notes from your phone conversations and meetings with representatives from the school.
A list of pertinent questions or follow-up items you need to address for the program. Set aside regular time to review outstanding tasks you have for each college program and list these items on your calendar.
Copies of all the information you have provided to the school – your application, the data sheet you may have to fill out for the coach, the last resume you provided etc. By keeping these copies handy, you can easily reproduce them if they are misplaced.
The aim in this stage of college recruiting is to develop a well organized and efficient system that you understand and can work effectively. “Lift off” is the most demanding part of any worthy project and requires the most energy. Prepare well here by developing solid plans and executing them with vigor and you will be well positioned and confident moving forward. Beware of the flip side of the coin!
Executing the Plan
OK. Your plans are complete, well constructed and clearly spelled out in a language everyone understands. Your calendar is updated and you are proud that you have listed everything from the next round of SAT’s to the fall homecoming dance! Now it’s time to take the plunge.
You can have the best organized and most highly detailed approach to the college quest, but it won’t amount to a hill of beans if you lack confidence and the desire and the ability to “execute the plan.” If your strategy is to wait by the phone for the coach to call, in most cases, it’s going to be a long wait. Top prospects will get their fair share of attention, but the majority of athletes will increase their chances in getting on the radar screen of the college coaches by taking a proactive stance and initiating communication with college coaches.
College coaches are strictly bound by a myriad of NCAA contact and evaluation rules that limit them in initiating contact with prospective student-athletes and their families. What few families realize is that although college coaches may have their “hands tied” to some degree, prospects may initiate contact with the college coaches, early on and with very few exceptions.
Effective communication between the family and the college coach can be critical to the level of support the prospect will receive in the recruiting process. It can make or break a coach’s decision to offer an athletic scholarship or provide that extra “push” in the admission process. If your mission is clear, communication becomes the vehicle to move with definite purpose in your chosen direction. On the other hand, ill-prepared communication can cause confusion and misdirection. Your ship moves, but with a weak rudder.
The college recruiting process is both exciting and potentially overwhelming. It requires a disciplined and yet flexible approach, especially when timelines get tight and situations become challenging. Developing and executing recruiting plans are crucial to success and no different from preparing for a championship game! Communication with coaches is vital and a proactive effort will only get you on the radar screen faster and more effectively. That being said, the family that approaches the college recruiting process with an organized and proactive effort, will have the best chances in building mutually strong and respectful relationships with college coaches and position themselves best as they navigate the college search.

Tom Kovic is a former Division I college coach and the current director of Victory Collegiate Consulting, where he provides individual advisement for families on college recruiting. Tom is the author of “Reaching for Excellence” An educational guide for college athletics recruiting. For further information visit:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

College Baseball Recruiting - Collegiate Baseball Newspaper

College Baseball Recruiting - Collegiate Baseball Newspaper
For Immediate Release: Tuesday (Sept. 23, 2008)
TUCSON, Ariz. — For the third time in history, Arizona State University has landed the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation according to Collegiate Baseball newspaper’s annual evaluation of NCAA Division I baseball classes.
This marks the 26th consecutive year that Collegiate Baseball has ranked baseball recruiting classes.
The Sun Devils, which captured recruiting titles in 1995 and 1983, feature a stunning class led by 13 players who were drafted among the 20-player haul. It includes 15 freshmen and 5 junior college transfers.
"This is a special recruiting class," said ASU Recruiting Coordinator Josh Holliday.
"We feel we have a deep and talented group of players who will contribute immediately. We like the combination of high school and junior college talent. We really like the athleticism of our freshmen class and feel like we have the type of kids who are tough and want to be great. This group represents what our program stands for."
The drafted players include:
3B Zach Wilson (Long Beach Wilson H.S., CA), 26th round pick of the Pirates
SS Riccio Torrez, (Brophy Prep, Phoenix, AZ), 32nd round pick of Diamondbacks
LHP Josh Spence (Central Arizona J.C.), 25th round pick of Diamondbacks
C/RHP Jordan Swagerty (Prestonwood Christian Academy, Plano, TX), 44th round pick of Rockies
CF John Ruettiger (Joliet Catholic Academy, Chicago, IL), 35th round pick of Rangers
INF Jared McDonald (Pima C.C., AZ), 40th round pick of Cubs
1B Johnny Coy (Benton H.S., St. Joseph, MO), 7th round pick of Phillies
1B Abe Ruiz (Pacific Grove H.S., CA), 47th round pick of Giants
RHP Calvin Drummond (Huntington Beach H.S., CA), 34th round pick of Brewers
INF Drew Maggi (Brophy Prep), 47th round pick of Diamondbacks
INF/CF Zach MacPhee (Sandra Day O’Connor H.S., Phoenix, AZ), 22nd round pick of Tigers
C Carlos Ramirez (Chandler-Gilbert J.C., AZ), 34th round pick of Angels in 2007
OF Brandon Magee (Centennial H.S., Corona, CA), 29th round pick by Rays in 2008.
The class features three junior college All-Americans in LHP Josh Spence (Central Arizona J.C.), INF Jared McDonald (Pima C.C.), and OF Kole Calhoun (Yavapai J.C.).
Other quality players in the class include:
RHP Ray Hanson (Long Beach Wilson H.S., CA), injured his senior year but one of the top 100 players in the nation going into the year
C Jake Saylor (Hamilton H.S., Chandler, AZ), lst team All-State
OF Jeff Lusardi (Blue Spring South H.S., MO), lst team All-State
LHP Mitchell Lambson (Tualatin H.S., OR), lst team All-State
RHP Jeeter Ishida (Punahou School, Honolulu, HI), 2007 Northwoods’ League MVP
UT Trask Switzenberg (Chandler Gilbert J.C., AZ).
The following are the top 40 rankings of NCAA Division I recruiting classes for 2008 as determined by the staff of Collegiate Baseball newspaper. A complete rundown of the top 10 classes is in the Oct. 1, 2008 edition of Collegiate Baseball.

Other Top Recruiting Classes: California, Wake Forest, Marshall, Georgia Southern, Gonzaga, Troy, Kansas, Auburn, Miami (Ohio), East Carolina, U.C. Santa Barbara, St. John's, Alabama, North Carolina, Liberty, Central Michigan, Iowa, San Diego, Washington, Missouri, James Madison, Jacksonville, Minnesota, Texas Tech., U.C. Riverside, Connecticut, Baylor, Mississippi St., Houston, Nevada, Northern Illinois, Santa Clara, Ball St., Manhattan, Siena, Virginia Military Institute, Villanova, San Francisco, Stetson, Maine, Cal Poly SLO, Florida International, Michigan, Tulane, Ohio St., Illinois, Memphis, New Orleans, Nebraska, Creighton, Oral Roberts, Nevada-Las Vegas, Richmond, Rutgers, Florida Atlantic, New Mexico, Lamar, Louisiana-Lafayette, N.C. Charlotte, South Alabama, College of Charleston, West Virginia, Dallas Baptist, The Citadel.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Navigating College Recruiting: Confidence is Half the Battle

As prospects navigate the college athletics recruiting process, the level of their “command of confidence” will not only assist them in developing a positive and effective approach to recruiting, it will be “picked up” by the college coaches and assist the prospect in standing out above the rest of the pack. Self confidence doesn’t just “appear" it is a skill that is developed naturally and with experience and can offer student-athletes with an effective tool that can be skillfully used in navigating the college recruiting process.
Contacts/Return Contacts
I believe many prospects are under the assumption that the college coaches will routinely contact them by phone or by e-mail in an attempt to recruit them. This may be true for some prospects, but for the majority of athletes who are waiting for the phone to ring, it could be a long and frustrating wait. Coaches are recruiting hundreds of prospects and need to utilize a filtering system to organize their list into a manageable and functional grouping. Coaches are bound by very strict contact rules and it is in the best interest of the prospects to initiate contact with the college coaches and with persistence!
If you feel a particular college coach has sincere interest in you as a prospect, you want to develop consistent communication with him and I suggest taking the lead in making future contacts. For instance, you may be discussing a future campus visit and trying to nail down a specific date. Don’t feel nervous in taking the initiative and letting the coach know you will be contacting him in the near future to confirm the visit. This approach is respectful and all you are trying to do is assist the coach, who will appreciate your effort.
Initiating phone calls to the coach
I think one of the toughest challenges prospects face in the recruiting process is initiating that first phone call to the college coach and for good reason. They are scared! Somehow, many young athletes envision an unapproachable coach on the other end of the line and view the task of calling the coach with fear. Coaches are former athletes who went through the same process. More importantly, they are educators who “know the stakes” and the importance of the 4 year college experience. Sure, they are competitive and want to attract the best and the brightest, but for the most part, they want prospects in general, to arrive at a comfortable college choice and one that is the right match. They typically see their role as being a “resource,” with a sincere obligation to provide family’s with valuable information and to answers their questions. They want to assist the prospect reach his “comfort level” in an effort to begin developing a collaborative relationship.
I would not encourage a prospect to pick up the phone and make a “cold call” without preparation. Calls not only give you the opportunity to exchange information with the coaches, it provides you with a vehicle to begin opening up your personality to them and provide the college coach with a “look under the hood.” A lot can be learned about a person in a 5 minute phone call, so make it count! Put together a general list of items you would like to discuss and then trim it down to a bullet list of specific questions you need answers to. Keep your list informative, but short. There is a good chance the coach will cover a lot of ground with his specific questions!
Presenting yourself (visits and by phone)
You can present yourself in a number of different ways to college coaches and the manner in which you display your personality will directly reflect the level of investment you have made in the college recruiting process.
Whether your communication is by phone, email or face to face, “preparation” is the operative word. When you are well prepared to communicate with the college coaches, your level of self confidence increases and the coaches sense this. Remember, coaches are certainly looking to attract the best student-athletes, but just as important, they are looking for self aware individuals who bring potential leadership skills to the table.
Here’s a quick tip: Say you are preparing to make that initial phone call to the coach. Instead of just picking up the phone, take time to go through mock phone conversations with your mom, dad or high school coach in an effort to develop skills in communication. Just like the effort you place in improving yourself as an athlete, your commitment to training your communication skills will pay big dividends down the road.
When you are face to face with a coach, dress sharp for the occasion and create a pleasing outward appearance. Your appearance will be the first thing the college coach sees before he shakes your hand and first impressions are important and long remembered. Additionally, maintain consistent eye contact with the coach. The eyes are the “windows to your soul” and speaks volumes about your level of self-confidence.
Dealing with rejection
Not every college coach will roll out the red carpet for you and it is important to prepare yourself for the possibility of rejection. It is going to happen and you should not take it personally. Whether rejection is a result of not meeting admissions standards or not having the “stuff” to be considered as an impact player for a particular team, do not waiver from “reaching” toward select academic and athletic programs. One of many quotes I used with my teams was “Far better to reach for excellence and fall, than to settle for mediocrity.” The same holds true in the college search, but prepare mentally and emotionally for potential negative news. You might not appreciate the initial “shock” but by keeping your head held high and accepting the hand you are dealt, will only make you stronger and more persistent in the future.
The level of confidence prospects project as he/she navigates college recruiting, will be directly proportional to the potential success of the plan. Like impeccable preparation for a championship game, the best prepared individuals will have the greatest chance at success if their recruiting plans are sound and they execute with confidence and persistence. “Think you can, think you can’t, either way you are right.” Bringing a positive and organized approach to college recruiting will help you navigate a potentially daunting task with confidence and success.
Tom Kovic is a former Division I college coach and the current director of Victory Collegiate Consulting, where he provides individual advisement for families on college recruiting. Tom is the author of “Reaching for Excellence”, an educational guide for college athletics recruiting. For further information visit:

Thursday, September 4, 2008

College Athletics Recruiting and The Gap Year: A Worthy Consideration

College Athletics Recruiting and The Gap Year: A Worthy Consideration
Whenever I begin a presentation on college recruiting, I always start with the following quote:
"These are four of the most important years in the lives of our children in that it will help shape their personal character and provide them with professional direction for the rest of their lives.”
I use it to grab attention of the audience, but I strongly believe in the purpose of the message. Depending on the amount of information families have gathered and the level of organization they have developed on college recruiting, will determine their “comfort level” as they navigate the college search. The college decision is a major life choice and preparing well for this opportunity will only increase the prospect’s chances in ultimately finding the right college match.
Utilizing a “Gap Year” is slowly becoming a more popular option for student-athletes who are either not sure if they are ready to attend college, need a little maturing, or require an additional year in order to bolster their self confidence. It gives these young men and women some extra time to step back, re-evaluate their current situation and develop a unique plan that will assist them best once they step on campus. Simply stated, most kids considering a gap year just need time to explore their interests or maybe just better determine who they are and what they want to accomplish from the general college experience.
Prospects considering a gap year will apply to their colleges and university’s of choice as any other student-athlete. The only difference would be that the gap year candidate would defer a year before beginning his undergraduate experience while his buddies would be a year ahead. If the gap year is a viable consideration, I would strongly advise communicating this with the college coaches early in the recruiting process. Each coach is different and their reaction to your intended plan will vary, so it is a good idea to come in prepared to clearly explain your reasons for deciding to take a “year to grow.” Taking a year off to simply think about what you want to do with your life will most likely not cut it with college coaches, but deferring a year to become involved in a humanitarian effort, take some additional classes, or become involved in a community action group will provide some “grip” in your decision and garner respect and stronger potential support from the college coaches.
Andrew is a current senior in high school and a talented soccer goalie from the Midwest, who also demonstrates outstanding academic achievement in the classroom. I think his dad sums up the gap year option for Andrew beautifully:
“The major complicating factor is related to his goal of pursuing soccer in college, since the coaches will not be recruiting him to play right out of high school, but rather following the gap year. Nevertheless, Andrew is fully committed to pursuing the gap year and has been honest and up-front with the soccer coaches at the schools to which he is applying. He has clearly communicated his plan to continue to train as a goalkeeper at the highest level even during this gap year, while engaging in several humanitarian projects in India. It is encouraging that the coaches have generally responded in a favorable manner.” John G. (Beachwood, Ohio).
Let the coaches know that you are planning to maintain and exceed your current athletic schedule and skill level through regular training and competition with club teams as part of your commitment in creating clarity to your future. The gap year is certainly focused on developing further confidence in the prospect, but there is an unwritten agreement of trust that needs to be honored with the coaches.
While the traditional admission route may be right for some students, some might question whether student-athletes are taking enough time to select colleges that align best with their academic interests, athletic goals, and personal aspirations. Some prospects are applying to schools that might meet some of their needs, without considering which colleges might be the right fit for them beyond the athletic experience. College coaches are certainly looking for strong students and excellent athletes, but these days, coaches are looking further out and for self aware individuals who have a “finger on the pulse” of their personal destiny.
The gap year is not for everyone, but it can be a viable option for the student-athlete that feels a bit anxious about “taking the plunge,” or they are not quite ready to embrace the college experience with confidence. What is important is that the students who choose this option have to do "something." They can't just hang at home or work. It has to be a transformative experience, one that will help them grow. The gap year can become a solid option for some student-athletes to consider, but developing a clear sense of purpose, sound judgment in your decision and effectively communicating this to the college coaches early on in the recruiting process will create stronger potential support, while positioning the prospect best for success
Tom Kovic is a former Division I college coach and the current director of Victory Collegiate Consulting, where he provides individual advisement for families on college recruiting. Tom is the author of “Reaching for Excellence”, an educational guide for college athletics recruiting. For further information visit:

Thursday, July 31, 2008

College Athletics, Official Visits and the Early Decision Period

College Athletics, Official Visits and the Early Decision Period
By Tom Kovic
The official visit is a great way to narrow down your college choices by spending quality time with the coaching staff, current student-athletes and college administrators. These visits differ from the unofficial visit in cost, time limitations and the total number permitted by the prospect and the number of visits to each individual institution. That being said, making the effort to work with college coaches to arrange the official visit will provide the prospect and family with a “good look under the hood” as you potentially head down the homestretch in the college search.
As the summer comes to a close, rising senior prospects who have effectively cultivated strong relationships with college coaches through consistent communication and by provided coaches with tangible means of evaluating both their academic and athletic skill should be well positioned to narrow down their college list to a more manageable number. If a prospect is considering the early signing period for athletics scholarship, or wishes to apply early decision to the school of their choice, I highly recommended you arrange your official visits to campus before the start of the new school year. Remember, the official visit is permission based and you will need to provide the college coaches with a copy of your high school transcripts and standardized test scores before the visit can be offered. Work closely with the college coach… He will be your point person!
As prospects begin to “get their ducks in a row” during the final stages of the college search, communication skills should be sharpened and effectively exercised on a regular basis. I encourage prospects to fine tune their approach and prioritize the “A” list of potential college choices. College coaches are taking similar steps in preparing their recruiting strategies and will look strongly at those prospects that are focused, organized and committed, as compared to those prospects that seem to be lagging behind.
Remember, coaches are bound by strict NCAA rules regarding direct communication, but prospects and their families have tremendous laterality when initiating contact with the coaches, especially by phone or face to face. Don’t hesitate to call coaches directly if an important question arises, or you require additional information or clarification about timelines and expectations. The college coach will appreciate the effort.
Rising senior prospects who are interested in Division 1 or Division 2 programs are permitted to take a total of (5) official visits to college campuses, with no more than (1) visit to any particular institution. Prospects who are interested in Division 3 institutions, may take an unlimited number of official visits, with no more than one visit to any particular institution. Official visits to Division 3 schools are also permission based and the athlete will need to follow the same (Division 1 and 2) procedures in securing a written invitation to visit campus.
Prospects are permitted to begin taking official visits starting the first day of classes at the beginning of the senior year in high school and if a fall visit is a strong possibility, the family that takes a proactive effort in arranging the trip will have a better chance in organizing a manageable travel schedule. Please note: An official visit is one that is paid in part or in full by the university and it would serve the family well to determine what portion of the trip, if any, the family will be responsible for covering financially as part of the visit.
In preparation for your visit, provide the coach with information regarding your intended major. This will assist the coach in developing your itinerary, determining your host and selecting the classes you will be attending. Create a list of questions for the coach about his program and his expectations for his student-athletes. You can develop a similar list for current team members as well. The level that you communicate your knowledge of the program with coaches and student-athletes will directly reflect your level of interest you have in the school.
I strongly suggest that you arrive “armed” with information about the school, the athletics program and how it potentially matches with your abilities and aspirations. Don’t take a “cocky” approach about your knowledge of the institution, but rather come in as an educated consumer who shows confidence, self awareness and initiative in preparing for an important campus visit. Trust me… The coaches will take notice.
The official visit is typically the “clincher” when a prospect and family are narrowing down their final choices. These visits are typically taken while school is in session, and will provide the family with an opportunity to witness first-hand, how the entire process (social interaction with team, team practice, attending classes, living in the dormitories etc.) from a “production” standpoint operates. The prospect who proactively prepares for this visit will have the best chance in making a positive impression on the coach, the team and members of the administration. Remember, you only get one “whack” at taking an official visit to a particular college… Make it count!
Tom Kovic is a former Division I college coach and the current director of Victory Collegiate Consulting, where he provides individual advisement for families on college recruiting. Tom is the author of “Reaching for Excellence” An educational guide for college athletics recruiting. For further information visit:

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

College Athletics Recruiting and Navigating Financial Aid

College Athletics Recruiting and Navigating Financial Aid
Financial aid is an important component for many families to consider as they move forward in the college athletics recruiting process. College costs continue to increase and the family that makes a concerted effort in developing financial aid planning as part of their overall recruiting plan will have a greater chance in gaining a manageable package.
Financial aid is readily available for families who qualify, based on need, and for the most part, packaging is not based on merit or athletic ability. For those institutions that do not offer athletic scholarships, or where athletics aid is exhausted, there are cases where college coaches can assist families in getting a financial aid “pre-read.” These early evaluations can be very helpful in providing families with a strong indication to what their family contribution will be in the first academic year of attendance.
The college coach is your “point person” here and he/she can act as an indirect conduit to the office of financial aid in an effort to assist the family in a very important area of recruiting.
Financial aid pre-reads are in many cases an effective tool that many college coaches use as a means of providing prospects and their families with a “ballpark” figure as to what the family can expect to pay for a college education in the first year of attendance. It is important that the family request a pre-read early in the recruiting process, but not before sincere interest in the coach’s program has been developed. The family should first determine the individual institution’s policy on providing financial aid pre-reads through direct communication with the college coach.
For a family to receive a timely and accurate financial aid pre-read, the following information is typically required from the financial aid office:
Prior year income/business taxes with all W-2 forms.
Divorced/separated paperwork if applicable.
Completed budget worksheet (provided by the coach)
Admissions data (standardized test scores, class rank etc.)
Turn around time in completing the pre-read is about 2 weeks and this information should give parents a close estimate to what the family financial aid breakdown will be for the coming cycle. Note: financial aid packages can change from year to year based on changes to personal family finances.
Matching Packages
Some institutions will attempt to “come in line” with financial aid offers from other institutions. Matching typically occurs with schools from the same conference, or similarly “select” schools. It is good to make a comparison, but out of respect for the college coaches, I encourage families to compare financial aid packages with those schools that are serious potential choices. Remember, the college coach is your “go to guy” in this process and clear and timely communication will facilitate the process!
Internal Scholarships
Most institutions offer “internal scholarships” where student-athletes could be looked at favorably. Research the colleges on your radar for all institutionally related scholarships (academic, community etc.), especially leadership grants, which seem to be gaining popularity. These awards are typically selective and reward the “cream of the crop,” special interest prospects and those with strong financial need. Communicate your financial aid concerns with the college coach, who may recommend potential candidates for consideration of these awards.
It is important that the family share with the coach any outside offers or completed financial aid pre-reads from other institutions, and determine where your child ranks in the coach’s recruiting priority. If your child is considered a “blue chip” athlete and the school of interest does not offer athletic scholarships, carefully probe the coach’s feeling about asking the office of financial aid to take a hard look at the family’s request to determine if there are any options to possibly “sweeten the pot.”
The four year college experience is a tremendous investment in our children’s future. That being said, the premiums for a quality college education are seemingly heading “north” and I strongly suggest that families begin preparing for this important component of college recruiting early and with enthusiasm.
Tom Kovic is a former Division I college coach and the current director of Victory Collegiate Consulting, where he provides individual advisement for families on college recruiting. Tom is the author of “Reaching for Excellence”, an educational guide for college athletics recruiting. For further information visit:

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Baseball's Other Racial Barrier - By JAMES WAGNERJune 24, 2008

Baseball's Other Racial Barrier
Latino Players Forge a Big-League Presence, but Are a Rarity on College Rosters
By JAMES WAGNERJune 24, 2008; Page A14
It's hard to watch the college-baseball World Series, under way now in Omaha, Neb., without noticing how different the college game is from the major-league version. Not in the caliber of play or the funny ping of the aluminum bats, but in the way the players look.
Jim Nuttle
College players in the three main divisions are 86% white, according to the most-recent NCAA figures. That's a big difference from Major League Baseball, where one study puts the number at less than 60%. The most striking difference is in the number of Latinos on the field: They made up about 29% of all major leaguers in 2007 but only 5% of players in college.
While the percentage of Latino players has more than doubled in professional baseball since 1990, accounting for top stars such as Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz, the percentage of minorities in the college game remains extremely low. That's especially true for Latinos, for whom college ball's failure to keep pace with the diversity of the major leagues is most striking. And that's embarrassing to some.
"We don't like that we're all-white, either," says Ron Polk, who retired last month after 29 years as the head baseball coach at Mississippi State University. "I don't want anyone to draw the impression that we're happy about it."
Minority players clearly aren't being excluded from major-league stardom and wealth. But because college baseball has had trouble attracting nonwhite talent, minority prospects aren't enjoying the benefits of a recent shift in the game that puts a premium on college players. Last year, according to data provided by Major League Baseball, 55% of the players picked in baseball's amateur draft came from four-year institutions, up from 38% in 1998. The number of college players taken in the first four rounds, where teams pay the highest bonuses, has increased by 20% over the past 10 years. The average signing bonus through the first four rounds last year was $790,000.
At the center of the issue is a perennial choice facing young baseball prospects: College seems to afford less opportunity than the fast cash they can get signing with a pro team.
But now that college has become a sexier pipeline for the major leagues, those players may be making a bad economic decision: not just passing up an education but also earning less money in the long run.
Elliott Avent, head coach at North Carolina State University, argues that if Latino players, or any other aspiring major leaguers, don't go to college, "they're leaving a ton of money on the table."
It's an argument that college coaches are making to potential recruits now. Turtle Thomas, head coach at Florida International University in Miami, was praying one of his commitments from Puerto Rico wouldn't sign after this month's draft. He says he spent about an hour on the phone with the incoming shortstop and his father trying to convince them college would prove more lucrative and beneficial in the end.
Mr. Thomas says if the player signs now he would probably do it for $60,000. But after three years in college, he's sure that money could be close to $600,000. That's partly why major-league teams want to scout high-school players, says Mr. Thomas. "They like to sign guys for as cheaply as possible."
The player agreed to terms with the major-league team that drafted him.
Clearly, other college sports have had more success attracting minority talent. According to the most recent NCAA Division I data, Hispanics and blacks make up nearly 11% of college baseball players. Yet blacks account for much larger percentages in men's college basketball (58.9%) and Division I-A college football (46.9%).
Many forces beyond the easy cash compound this discrepancy. They include challenges in recruiting, a college draft that, unlike the National Basketball Association's, doesn't include prospects from abroad, and baseball scholarships that are fewer and less comprehensive than football and basketball scholarships.
Coaches say it is expensive for colleges in the NCAA's Division I to recruit overseas, even in Latin America. And foreign players often lack the appropriate transcripts, grades and test scores.
The scholarship policies of the NCAA pose other obstacles for luring Latino players. Since 1993, college baseball teams have been limited to 11.7 scholarships to cover about 35 players on the average team's roster. That is a smaller allotment than some sports with smaller teams have. Women's basketball, for example, gets 15 scholarships for about 15 players. Under this system, even some star players don't get full rides: University of Arizona head baseball coach Andy Lopez points out that last season his top pitcher, Preston Guilmet, received 79% of a scholarship.
Last year, the NCAA adopted a new policy regarding baseball scholarships. While it didn't change the total value of the scholarships baseball teams can offer, it dictated that the money should be spread out more evenly. Starting next season, up to 30 players on each baseball team must have an overall financial-aid package that covers at least 25% of their costs. That means some students who got little or no assistance will get some, while others who were well-funded may see cuts in the scholarship money available to them.
Athletic directors say they aren't sure what impact this policy will have on the recruitment of minority players, but that it promises to make the already difficult baseball-scholarship situation all the more complex.
Walter Harrison, the chairman of the NCAA's Division I Committee on Academic Performance, says the pressure on men's sports such as baseball is just a fact of life given the general pressure on athletic budgets. He says the most recent change to the baseball-scholarships policy was aimed at lowering the high number of college baseball players who transfer to other schools each year in pursuit of bigger scholarships -- and whose academic records tend to suffer. By spreading the money around more evenly, he says, the NCAA believes more players will stay put and that this, in turn, should improve academic performance.
But when it comes to signing players, Major League Baseball has fewer constraints. The draft is limited to residents of the U.S. and Canada, but foreign players are free to sign with major-league teams as free agents when they are as young as age 16. And most teams are so eager to tap this pool of talent they have built baseball academies in Latin American countries to help recruit and train young prospects.
It's working. According to league figures, nearly half the players currently under contract in the minor leagues are foreign-born, and this contingent is producing some of the best players in the sport. About one-third of the 66 players named to last year's All-Star Game were foreign-born, including nine from the Dominican Republic.
What bugs many coaches most is that baseball, a sport that has a legacy of integration dating back to Jackie Robinson, has become at the college level a game for the privileged -- a country-club sport. To be noticed by college recruiters, they say, players must participate in travel leagues and showcase tournaments, attend camps and work with well-known trainers and coaches. Only the families of wealthy kids can afford this, coaches say.
"With this explosion of showcase camps and travel teams, kids from less-affluent backgrounds will get less of a chance," says Mike Gaski, head coach at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He says his biggest fear is, "baseball is too quickly becoming an elitist sport."
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