Mike Fox, head baseball coach at UNC, reached 100 and 200 wins faster than any other coach in school history and, in 2006, led the team to its first-ever National Runner-Up finish in the College World Series. With a history of evaluating and producing baseball excellence, Fox gives you his take on the recruiting process.
Since baseball is a spring sport, how important is it for an athlete to have a good junior season?
Fox: Extremely importantand not just junior year, but also the summer prior. Since we have our own season to play in the spring, we do most of our evaluations during the summerat the larger showcase events, where we can see most of the talented players at once. We're even starting to look at sophomores. Also, a player looking to go D-I signs in November of his senior year, which means he's committed before his senior season even begins.
What stats do you evaluate?
Fox: Rarely do we look at batting averages, because the caliber of competition varies throughout the country. But we do look at walks to strikeouts; if a guy is 1:1, he's probably pretty good. On-base percentage and RBIs are also critical.
Anything other than straight skill that you look for?
Fox: We look at attitude on the field, how fast they get out of the box and whether they encourage teammates when they're not playing. Do they walk past a coach, or stop and talk, looking into his eyes? There are all sorts of things unrelated to skill that are critical in the evaluation process. We want coachable kids.
How do you feel about athletes skipping college to go to the minors?
Fox: We are very pro-college. It's the best three to four years of your life. Unless you're signing for life-changing money, the value of a degree is much greater over the course of your lifetime. No matter what path you follow, it's very difficult to get to the Majors. You don't want to be a 25- or 26-year-old coming out of the minors with little money and no education. If you're talented, you will get the option to play professional baseball after three years of college, just like after high school.
What's one piece of advice you'd give to all high school baseball players?
Fox: Keep your options open. Everyone wants to play D-I, but I saw terrific players and baseball during my 16 years of coaching D-III. There is a place out there that fits your needs, athletically and academically. Use the Internet to research different schools and their costs. A lot of colleges have early applications for financial aid. Use them to find out if you qualify for assistance.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock