You aren’t the biggest or the fastest or the strongest anymore but one day you can be.
College baseball is a different animal. Coaches have recruited the best 35-40 players in the world that fit their program based on need, fit and availability. Yes, I said world. College baseball is an international sport. Think about that. Coaches aren’t just recruiting a state, or a region, or the United States. They are recruiting the best players they can find in the world.
High School baseball was one of the most memorable moments of my life. I grew up with my same group of friends, all of us played baseball and we thought we worked hard. As a senior we did end up winning the state championship in Kentucky and my younger brother pitched the championship game so that was pretty cool, plus, we were pretty good. It was something I will never forget. A lot of hard work and dedication went into our high school baseball program and we were successful for it.
1st lesson learned. In high school baseball you work hard from February-August for most kids. Obviously some kids play other sports or play more than others but most kids work “hard” from February-August. In college baseball you work hard from August-August and if you don’t you get replaced or left behind.
Don’t get me wrong though, I love recruiting guys who play more than 1 sport in high school. It shows/creates athleticism and lets you create strengths and movements that baseball alone does not. You just have to be ready for the amount of time put into the game of baseball in college and, if you want to be successful, it won’t be just during practice time.
2nd lesson learned. Great players manage their time well, on and off the field. What you are doing whenever nobody is watching is just as important as what you do when people are watching. Our typical day consist of our guys having class anywhere from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. for the most part. We usually have early-outs (early practice) for guys who are done with class at 2 p.m. with practice starting around 3:30. On most days we finish up around 5:30. Most of our guys then go eat, go back to their dorms and rest and then we have weights at 7:30 4 nights a week. After weights it's 9:00 p.m. and you’re just now done with mandatory stuff for the day. This doesn't include homework, social life, etc.
3rd lesson learned. Trust the process. Sometimes things click at different times for different people. Put your nose down, work hard, compete in everything you do and dominate whatever you’re doing, wherever you are.
Strength is the magic bullet. 99% of good college baseballs players are strong. Being physically ready for college baseball is something that comes with effort and sometimes time. Good players become great because of strength. The weight room and library can be a golden ticket to more playing time. In high school I lifted weights 3 times. I showed up to campus at 160lbs. I went to our first team practice and I knew then I had to work to do if I wanted to be successful. I see how beneficial the gym is every day.
For example 2 years ago we signed a really good Kentucky high school player. Physically, he wasn’t ready but he had some tools that caught our attention. Unfortunately, he broke his hand during summer ball coming into his freshman year here so we decided a red shirt was a good option for him. He spent his first year here working hard to get healthy and getting physically stronger. In high school he was a decent runner with a good arm for a high school kid but wasn’t your typical Mid-South Conference outfielder at the time. After one year in the gym and with time he ran a 6.4 and threw 94 from the outfield at our pro day his Red Shirt freshman year. It was incredible. This kid didn’t just show up to the weight room and do what was asked of him. He worked his tail off and put in extra work and turned himself into one of our most talented players. It can happen for anyone.
Lastly, limit the distractions. It doesn’t matter what college you attend, whether it’s a big time public school or a small private college there will be distractions. Some more than others but there will always be things outside of baseball and academics that can be a distraction to keep you from your goals. College coaches want players who represent their programs with class. We all want high character kids. With the amount of good baseball players in the world, nobody is irreplaceable. My high school basketball coach always told us, “Nothing good happens after midnight.” It sounded dumb at the time but now it makes a lot of sense. Think about it.
If you are about to start your journey into college baseball, be ready for the best 4 years of your life. You will meet people from all over the country who love the game just as much as you do. You will make friends of a lifetime from places you most likely have never heard of. You will be taught things that will make you a better player. You will be coached hard every day. You will get an education that lasts a lifetime. You will spend the next 4 years being prepared to be a successful adult.