The college baseball recruiting process is just that: a process. There are no shortcuts. But the more knowledge student-athletes have about each step in the journey, the better they will be able to navigate its twists and turns and appreciate just how competitive it is to be recruited for baseball. After all, more than 500,000 student-athletes play high school baseball, and less than two percent will go on to play college baseball at the Division 1 level.
Baseball scholarships are not as plentiful as they are in other sports. At the Division 1 level, there are only up to 11.7 scholarships for each school; at the Division 2 level, there is a maximum scholarships limit of only nine. But for those who have the grades, the athletic talent, the passion for the sport and a strong work ethic can get recruited for baseball.
This step-by-step baseball recruiting guide highlights the benchmarks and milestones student-athletes need to reach throughout the recruiting process. Yes, it may be frustrating at times; things may not go according to plan. But NCSA’s information and insider tips will motivate student-athletes to be proactive in the process and take charge of their recruiting journey.
College baseball recruiting tips
Before going into detail on how to get recruited for baseball, here are some general college baseball recruiting tips that will help keep the process moving forward:
- Above all, start early. Being recruited for baseball is highly competitive and every day an athlete does not do something to advance their recruiting process, you can assume another recruit out there is doing just that.
- Do the research. Below you’ll learn how to create a list of target schools that will be the best match for you. Remember, don’t just think about baseball when choosing a school. Consider the big picture and whether the school will be a place you will be happy for the next four years and a good match academically, socially, culturally as well as athletically.
- Be proactive: We emphasize throughout this guide that you cannot wait for coaches to find you. It is up to you to reach out to them and to follow up on any communications or contacts.
College baseball recruiting timeline
- Research two to three schools per week
- Create a list of 100 prospective schools that are good athletic and academic matches
- Film a skills video
- Send letters or emails of introduction to coaches
- Go on at least three unofficial visits to colleges
- Pick two to three camps and one or two showcases to attend after the school season
- Follow up! Build relationships by making phone calls and sending letters and emails
Tips to remember:
- Once coaches have identified a potential recruit, they chart their development throughout high school, at camps, in school and on the field. In addition to baseball skills, they are also considering character; how the recruit carries himself on the field and with this teammates and coach
- It is never too early to write a letter or email or call coaches
- Student-athletes can contact coaches at any time, but Division 1 and Division 2 coaches can’t personally respond until junior year
- Division 3 and NAIA coaches are not limited as to when they can contact student-athletes
- Do not apply to a school that is not a good athletic or academic fit. This is where target school research is helpful
- Student-athletes should film or update their skills tape and get it evaluated by a third-party
- Continue to research prospective schools and narrow the list of target schools
- Continue to build relationships by making calls, sending letters and emails with coaches from programs identified to be a good fit
- Fill out questionnaires
- Make unofficial visits
- Update the skills video and get it re-evaluated
- Follow up with coaches in a timely manner. Respond to every coach
- Ask coaches where you stand on their recruits list
- Continue to fill out questionnaires
- Continue to make unofficial school visits
- Further narrow down the list of target schools
Tips to remember:
- Division 1 and Division 2 schools can begin to make scholarship offers
- Contact coaches individually at least once a week. Do not bombard a coach with emails if they have not responded.
- Make official visits
- Follow up with coaches in a timely manner
- Apply to schools
- Apply for financial aid
- Sign and commit to a school and program
- Find out the summer workout schedule
Tips to remember:
- Student-athletes are only allowed five official visits
- Division 3, NAIA, junior colleges and some Division 2 schools still recruit during senior year. Set up tryouts and invite the right coaches
- Be aware of deadlines for:
- NCAA Amateurism Certificate
- College applications
- NCAA and/or NAIA Eligibility Center registration
- Final transcripts
- Proof of high school graduation
When does recruiting start for baseball?
According to the 2018 NCSA coach’s survey, the majority of college programs begin to recruit athletes in sophomore and junior year. Division 1 is the only division that will actively recruit during the freshman year. Read about the NCAA’s Division 1 rule changes that impact early recruiting.
How do baseball coaches recruit?
Our survey finds that coaches use various sources to find recruits. Division 1, Division 2 and junior college coaches primarily look to travel team relationships, while a majority of NAIA coaches mostly use baseball camps as a source for recruits. Division 1, Division 2, Division 3 and junior college coaches are most likely to actively evaluate athletes they’ve identified as potential recruits at showcase camps and travel tournaments. NAIA coaches are more likely to evaluate recruits during personal workouts with the student-athlete. Checkout the list of NCSA AAU baseball partners.
What division level is right for me?
One of the most important initial steps athletes will take in the recruiting journey is a self-evaluation of their expectations and talent. The recruit’s family and current coach will be instrumental at this stage, as they can help the athlete better understand the best division levels to target. This step of the process is critical, as it will influence the schools the family researches. Here are key questions recruits need to ask themselves:
- Am I ready for the demands of being a college baseball player? Playing baseball in college demands commitment above and beyond a student’s academic workload. There will be early practices, training sessions, home games and travel. Studies have shown that the time spent on playing baseball in college—depending on the division—is roughly equivalent to a 40-hour work week.
- Am I good enough to play college baseball? Which division level will be the best talent fit? This is a good time to bring in the athlete’s current coach for their analysis of the athlete’s current skill sets, athleticism and prospects for improvement. Athletes should also watch college games at each different division level to get a better feel for the caliber of play. They can also get evaluated by a third-party, like NCSA, to better understand the right division levels based on their athletic talent.
Research schools and create your target list
Researching schools is a critical first step in the recruiting process. As student-athletes compile their target list, here’s an easy way to organize schools:
- 5–10 safety schools: These are the athlete’s go-to schools. Nothing is a sure thing in choosing a college, but these are schools for which the athlete more than meets the academic requirements and athletic expectations. Recruits should connect with these coaches early in the process to express their interest, so they are up to speed in case one or all of their target schools fall through.
- 10–15 target schools: These schools and baseball programs are solid matches; they are at the top of the athlete’s list and are considered recruiting priorities.
- 5–10 reach schools: Also known as “dream schools,” these schools would be a stretch for the recruit either financially, academically or athletically. But, athletes thrive on competition and adding these schools to the list is a good goal to set.
As recruits progress through the process, this list will be an evolving recruitment tool. A school considered a favorite may be revealed to be not the best fit. A so-called “Cinderella school” may emerge as a strong candidate. Continue to update the list as the recruitment process unfolds.
Create an attention-getting skills video
“Attention-getting” does not mean special effects, flashy editing or dramatic music (this should be avoided). We are talking about a video that will get the athlete on a coach’s radar and on their list of recruits they want to pursue.
The skills video is an essential tool by which recruits introduce themselves to coaches, and in many cases, it’s the main way that coaches will evaluate a recruit’s athletic talent. Here’s some general skills video advice:
- Keep the video under five minutes. Lead with the strongest skills and keep the focus on the fundamental skills specific to your position
- Again, this is a skills video; coaches will request game footage if they want to see it
- Make sure to get fully warmed up before filming
Read more about creating an impactful skills video.
Reach out to the schools on your target list
- Introduce yourself in an email to the college coach. An impactful subject line will compel the coach to open an email. Recruits should mention their graduating class, GPA, position, key stats and if a video is attached.
- Coaches are most likely to respond to an introductory email if they feel the recruit is a good fit for their program and they have strong key measurables. If there is no response to the email, follow up with a call to the coach.
- Respond in a timely manner to all coach correspondences. This includes recruiting letters, emails, direct messages, social media and more. A timely response indicates to the coach an athlete is organized and has a good work ethic.
- Continually follow up with coaches with transcript updates, enhanced stats and new skills videos. Congratulate them on a recent win and invite them to watch you compete.
Visit our College Recruiting Guide for more information about how to contact college coaches.
Attend travel tournaments, college camps and showcases to get exposure to college coaches
These events are important to college coaches in identifying talent, especially at the Division 1 level. More than 90 percent of coaches at these elite programs cite travel team relationships as their primary source for their recruits, according to NCSA’s research. More than half of NAIA, Division 3 and junior college coaches we surveyed indicated that they find recruits at camps and tournament showcases.
Manage the baseball recruiting process
What does it mean to manage the baseball recruiting process? It means being proactive and remaining diligent in moving the process forward. Recruits should answer any communications from a coach in a timely manner. Until an offer is received, recruits need to take all the appropriate steps to make sure they remain on a coach’s radar. Below is a helpful timeline to help recruits ensure that they are where they should be in the baseball recruiting process.
Keep all social media platforms professional
It is easy for some student-athletes to take social media for granted and not give a thought to what they post. But scholarship offers have been revoked for social media offenses, such as inappropriate photos, offensive language and questionable re-tweets or shared posts. In extreme cases, so have offers to attend a college or university. Recruits shouldn’t let a tweet undo all the hard work they’ve done. Athletes must always keep in mind that coaches are checking Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts to gauge whether a recruit will be a good representative for their team and the school.
Understanding scholarship offers & how to negotiate
Full-ride baseball scholarships are rare. Because baseball is an equivalency sport, coaches will divide their limited scholarships (for example, 11.7 at the Division 1 level) across their rosters. Families looking to ease the financial burden of college will want to pursue academic scholarships that will put the student in a position to attend a college and try out for the team as an unrecruited walk-on (in this scenario, it is crucial the student-athlete confirms with the coach prior to enrollment that they will be allowed to try out for the team).
How can families negotiate for a better scholarship offer? The best bargaining tool an athlete has is offers from other schools. No coach wants to lose out on a recruit for whom there is strong interest. Visit our College Recruiting Guide to learn negotiating strategies.
College baseball National Signing Day—sign with your top school
All that is left is for the recruit to formalize their agreement to attend their chosen school. Many athletes do this by signing the National Letter of Intent (NLI), a legally binding document that commits the athlete to attending a college or university for one academic year and the school to provide agreed-upon financial aid for that year. Not all schools use the NLI, so the recruit should check if there’s a document for them to sign.
Congratulations on completing the recruiting journey. Athletes have earned the right to celebrate this important milestone in their life. The hard work the recruit’s family has put in to get to this moment will serve them well as they move forward.
Insider tip: Despite the impact that coronavirus had on college sports, as of June 1, 2021, the NCAA resumed its regular recruiting rules and activity! Coaches are actively working to fill their rosters, so student-athletes should be proactive in reaching out to coaches. Read up on how the extra year of eligibility granted to athletes who were most affected by the pandemic in 2020 will impact future recruiting classes.