Hoping to play ball beyond high school? Summer is the perfect time to make your interests and talents known to collegiate and professional baseball teams across the country. And the best way to do so is by participating in showcases and clinics, which have become an integral part of the baseball recruiting process for both players and coaches.
Showcases give players the chance to display what they’ve got to hundreds of coaches—all at once. However, to be successful, you must choose carefully. According to Chris McKnight, a 19-year NCAA coach and advisor with World-WideBaseballProspects.com, you need to research showcases to find the one that’s right for you. “My recommendation to players is this: if you’re interested in a specific school, go to a showcase at which that school’s coach is scouting,” he says. “Go online to find which coaches will be where. That’s the most important thing.”
Second, consider whether the event is a true showcase or clinic. McKnight explains: “If the event is called a showcase, college coaches cannot speak or give any type of instruction to a player. At clinics, however, college coaches can be on the field, talk with and instruct the players, and even see a game.”
In a clinic, you can experience how a coach coaches. “When a coach gives you feedback and you interact with him,” McKnight says, “you get to evaluate his teaching ability and see how he works with players.”
At either a clinic or a showcase, expect to see mostly college coaches. “I would say it’s 90/10, college to professional coaches,” McKnight says. “Most showcases are geared towards college coaches, because their recruiting season is so short and college programs have limited budgets. You’ll see some pro scouts, but professional teams hold their own tryout days.”
Finally, start heading to showcases and clinics early. “You’re allowed to go any time [during high school],” McKnight says. “But I usually tell players that they’re good to go once they’ve made varsity. Or, if your school doesn’t allow freshmen or sophomores to play varsity but you’re an exceptional athlete, I’d recommend going as early as you can.”
McKnight’s keys to a successful showcase are talent, hustle and fun. “Most college coaches, they’re not looking for a guy who can hit 10 balls over the fence,” he says. “They’re looking for guys who have good mechanics, who understand the game and who love being on the field.”
McKnight’s Tips for a Successful Showcase
Don’t get discouraged early on: “Sometimes the kids get discouraged if they go out there that young and they’re competing against older players. But I think if you’re on the varsity, if you’re a freshman and you’re on the varsity it’s good to go get your feet wet and see what it’s all about. Then next year, the next time you go, at least you’ll have a better understanding of what to expect. And like anything else, once you do something you feel a little more comfortable at it. That’ll just help the player down the road.”
You can still go if you’ve graduated from high school: “I think we see the majority of sophomores and juniors. There are some seniors of course going to these but usually summer after your senior year, you’ve made a decision on where you’re going to school; there are some seniors that are still undecided at that point and they see showcases just as an opportunity to see if they can land with a college.”
Act professional while you’re there: “Make sure you dress properly, have all the proper equipment. And make sure your arm is in good shape, your legs are pumped and stretched and you’re ready to roll. Too many times players go there and they haven’t been throwing a ball for a while, haven’t been hitting; you only have two days to go out there and showcase your skills.
If you’re injured, don’t go: “If you’re injured: reschedule. Because that’s your first impression to college coaches and if you’re not 100 percent, if you have an injury, that’s going to affect the way you play.”
You can still get into college without going to a showcase: “There are so many different opportunities now between Divisions I, II and III, JA, the NAIA and Junior College that I think there’s a college out there for everybody if they have a genuine interest and passion for the game and they really want to play. It really depends on what level you want to play at, what you feel you can bring to the table and how dedicated you are.”