By Jake Chapman, Showcase U Co-founder
I have spent the better part of this summer watching a lot of baseball, specifically travel team tournaments and showcases. The players I've seen this summer have varied greatly in speed, size, arm strength and overall baseball talent. And depending where I sit each game, either near the parents or with the college coaches and scouts, I find that although everyone may be watching the same players - we all see them from a different perspective. It is interesting to listen to the college coaches talk about players, coaches and parents. It might surprise you to learn what "little things" they take very seriously. So without further ado, here are just 5 simple tips to help you, your teammates, and coaching staff make a good impression to coaches at the next level.
1. Have your updated information available.
I learned from college coaches and scouts that that one of their biggest pet peeves is an incorrect roster or a team with no roster at all. Let's face it, some coaches are great on the field, but not very good at administrative duties. If this is the case for you and your travel team, take control of the situation. Make sure for every tournament your team plays, your roster includes current, correct info. Include player name, number, grad yr, ht, wt, position(s), academic highlights and relevant contact info for the team AND each player. Coaches take these rosters and make notes on them. It is to your advantage for them to be able to contact you if they like what they see. Keep extras available and proudly pass them out to coaches in attendance if the tournament promoters have not already done so.
2. Get out of the box and hustle down the line.
This may sound like a no brainer, but I've witnessed countless examples where good players take bad swings and jog down the first base line. Any baseball player should know that scouts bring 2 main tools with them to baseball games. The obvious one is a radar gun...the other -- a stop watch. They use it for many things, but in this case they want to measure how quickly you can get out of the batter's box to first or second base after you've put the ball in play. I sat next to 2 Division I coaches who both raised eyebrows and nods of approval after they saw a player ground out sharply to second base, but ran home-to-first in 4.1 seconds. With every at-bat, you have an opportunity to showcase a skill - power, the ability to drive the ball the other way, speed down the base paths to name a few. By not hustling out every play, you are giving the scouts a reason to not like you. The serious player won't allow this to happen.
3. Take your infield/outfield round seriously.
There may not be a more important tip than this one. If you are lucky enough to have college scouts in attendance during your infield round, this may be your only chance to showcase your skills. You may not get a ball hit to you all game, and if you do, it may not be a play in which you'll be able to showcase your range, hands, or arm strength. Remember there are eyes on you at all times. Hit your cut-off man, throw accurately, and NEVER unleash the rainbow or "grenade toss" from the outfield. While it might feel good to bypass the cutoff man and throw it on the fly to 3rd or home, if you can't do so on a low line, you are only hurting yourself. Practice like you play, for it could perhaps result in a scholarship for you over the guy on the other team.
4. Take care of your body.
As many travel ball season are long and played during the hottest time of the summer, fatigue can set in. Don't let those long rides and extra inning games beat you. The mentally tough players separate themselves from the others in these conditions and scouts certainly recognize it. Some simple things that you can do might be considered obvious, but worth mentioning.
* Eat right.
As a former minor leaguer of 8 years, I know how hard this can be while on the road. You often find yourself in hotels near fast food joints or you can't find anything open after a late game - so you order pizza. Feed your body the best fuel you can find.
Before, during and after your games replenish those fluids on a regular basis. Dehydration can play havoc on the human body, so always come prepared with water of your own. Don't assume the venues you play at will have adequate facilities.
Take a night off from the PS3 or XBox battles in the hotel and watch the early version of Baseball Tonight. Sleep is an important component of recovery and mental sharpness.
5. Exhibit stellar baseball behavior.
Don't allow you and your team be part of any game that results in college coaches and scouts saying those dreaded words --"that was some bad baseball." You want them to leave saying, "those kids play the game right" or "that team was well coached." This makes them want to come back and watch more games. If you are a player that exhibits some of the behavioral traits listed below, you might be on the right track.
* Make routine plays and eliminate mental errors
* Execute bunts, get a runner over, and play unselfishly
* Run the bases with aggression but intelligence.
* Hustle on and off the field between innings
* Remain poised after a bad call or bad play
* Respect yourself, your opponents and the umpires
* Play with enthusiasm and energy
* Take care of the venues you play at. (take care of the field, keep the dugouts clean of trash and stray equipment, etc...)
* Look college coaches and scouts in the eye when you talk.
* Compete harder than anyone else on the diamond
Jake Chapman is a co-founder of www.ShowcaseU.com and a former professional baseball player of 8 years. His passion for helping student-athletes and their parents stems from a very unsatisfying experience in his own, personal college recruiting process. This blog includes helpful dos and don’ts, personal stories and anecdotes, and heartfelt advice to families looking for ways to help themselves.