This section provides student-athletes and parents information on recruiting rules and regulations. It includes links to the NCAA baseball recruiting calendar and National Letter of Intent (NLI), definitions of key recruiting-related terminology, and a step-by-step timeline to help guide you through this exciting and yet confusing process.
The recruitment process in college baseball differs from that of other sports. For example, relatively few "full rides" are available in baseball. The 11.7 scholarship equivalencies in Division I have to be stretched out in order for programs to stay competitive. Currently, baseball rosters are capped at 35 players, with only 30 players being eligible to receive financial aid. Starting in the 2009-10 academic year, only 27 players can receive financial aid, each of whom must receive at least one-third of a full scholarship.
Contact. A contact occurs anytime a coach has any face-to-face contact with you or your parents off the college's campus and says more than hello. A contact also occurs if a coach has any contact with you or your parents at your high school or any location where you are competing or practicing.
Contact Period. During this time, a college coach may have in-person contact with you and/or your parents on or off the college's campus. The coach may also watch you play or visit your high school. You and your parents may visit a college campus and the coach may write and telephone you during this period.
Dead Period. A college coach may not have any in-person contact with you or your parents on or off campus at any time during a dead period. The coach may write and telephone you or your parents during this time.
Evaluation. An evaluation is an activity by a coach to evaluate your academic or athletics ability. This would include visiting your high school or watching you practice or compete.
Evaluation Period. During this time, a college coach may watch you play or visit you high school, but cannot have any in-person conversations with you or your parents off the college's campus. You and your parents can visit a college campus during this period. A coach may write and telephone you or your parents during this time.
National Letter of Intent (NLI). By signing a National Letter of Intent, a prospective student-athlete agrees to attend the designated college or university for one academic year. Pursuant to the terms of the NLI program, participating institutions agree to provide athletics financial aid for one academic year to the student-athlete, provided he is admitted to the institution and is eligible for financial aid under NCAA rules. An important provision of the NLI program is a recruiting prohibition applied after a prospective student-athlete signs a Letter of Intent. This prohibition requires participating institutions to cease recruitment of a prospective student-athlete once a National Letter of Intent is signed with another institution.
Official Visit. Any visit to a college campus by you or your parents paid for by the college. The college may pay all or some of the following expenses:
- Your transportation to and from the college;
- Room and meals (three per day) while you are visiting the college; and
Reasonable entertainment expenses, including three complimentary admissions to a home athletics contest.
Before a college may invite you on an official visit, you will have to provide the college with a copy of your high school transcript (Division I only) and SAT, ACT or PLAN score and register with the Eligibility Center.
Prospective Student-Athlete. You become a "prospective student-athlete" when:
- You start ninth-grade classes; or
- Before your ninth-grade year; a college gives you, your relatives or your friends any financial aid or other benefits that the college does not provide to students generally.
Quiet Period. During this time, a college coach may not have any in-person contact with you or your parents off the college's campus. The coach may not watch you play or visit your high school during this period. You and your parents may visit a college campus during this time. A coach may write or telephone you or your parents during this time.
Unofficial Visit. Any visit by you and your parents to a college campus paid for by you or your parents. The only expense you may receive from the college is three complimentary admissions to a home athletics contest. You may make as many unofficial visits as you like and may take those visits at any time. The only time you cannot talk with a coach during an unofficial visit is during the dead period.
Verbal Commitment. This phrase is used to describe a college-bound student-athlete's commitment to a school before he signs (or is able to sign) a National Letter of Intent. A college-bound student-athlete can announce a verbal commitment at any time. While verbal commitments have become very popular for both college-bound student-athletes and coaches, this "commitment" is NOT binding on either the college-bound student-athlete or the institution. Only the signing of the National Letter of Intent accompanied by a financial aid agreement is binding on both parties.
To see the baseball recruiting calendar for 2009/2010, go to NCAA.org.
It is important to have a plan for your recruiting process. Your individual timeline for recruiting will vary greatly depending on your level of skill and exposure and the types of schools you are looking at. You will need to approach the process in your own unique way. We recommend that don't wait until your senior year to learn about the recruiting process. You can start taking serious recruiting steps as a freshman.
Get the ball rolling early, because college coaches are recruiting nationally. If your competition is being proactive and you aren't, coaches will assume you aren't interested. The first step is to spend time learning and understanding the NCAA recruiting rules. Also, know what coaches are looking for position specific ... i.e. "the measureables": pop times for catchers; velocity and location for pitchers; size and stature; arm speed/strength; bat speed and power; foot speed; and how you defend your position.
Start your athletic profile, noting the essentials. Coaches want to know how tall, strong and fast you are and what you are doing academically. Start building those relationships with coaches. This is the year you should begin calling D-III coaches, who, unlike D-I or D-II coaches, aren't prohibited from calling you back. Fill out some online recruit forms at the end of your sophomore year at schools to simply get your name in coaches databases. You will find instances where coaches go to games to see seniors and juniors perform and if they have your name and know what school you play at, they may take a look at you as well when the time comes. While your skill-level will not be ready for college, college coaches can spot athleticism, size, and potential, and if they like what they see, they will keep you in mind for next year.
Some families decide to have players participate in tournaments and showcases during the summer before their Junior year that college coaches will be attending.
It's not a good idea to start contacting coaches your junior year, IT'S ALMOST IMPERATIVE YOU DO SO! Division I coaches may make one phone call to a prospect during the month of March of a prospective student-athlete's junior year. It is permissible for coaches to make one in-person off campus recruiting contact on the recruit's high school campus during the month of April of their junior year. Additional phone calls may not be made until after July 1 following their junior year. College coaches always have their eye out for talent and will follow juniors very closely to see how they progress. It is also permissible for recruits to call coaches on their own time at any time during high school, and while the NCAA has strict rules as to when coaches can call you, you are free to call a coach at any time in high school, even your freshman year if you want. However, if the coach does not answer, and you leave a message, the coach cannot call you back until the proper time, but you can keep calling him. In other words, if a coach doesn't return your call, don't take it as a rejection, keep calling!
Junior year is really a time to research as many colleges and athletic teams as possible and start to formulate a plan as to what your approach is going to be, what type of school and athletic program you want to be a part of and think you can be a part of. Start sending letters and emails to coaches or filling out online recruit forms on team web sites and get your name in front of coaches by any means possible. Don't be afraid to make phone calls to coaches either. Calling a coach is a good way to make an impression on a coach and doing this will have a lot of benefits down the road. The initial phone call is not to tell a coach that you are the next coming of Ken Griffey Jr., it's simply meant to introduce yourself and tell a coach that you are "possibly" interested in their program. Something like..."Hi Coach Fielder, my name is Ryan Schmidt, I am a junior at (school name). I play catcher and am possibly interested in your school." The coach will ask you about your GPA and any test scores you have (PSAT, SAT, ACT) to see if you are possibly qualified for acceptance, and then they will get into more specific school and baseball stuff, positions you play, skill-level, what type of college you are possibly looking for and so forth. You are not going to get recruited off this first phone call, but then again that is not the point. In this case, you want to alert the coach who you are, where you are, what you do, and that you are interested in playing at the next level, and interested in finding out what information the coach needs from you in order to recruit you (schedule, tournaments/showcases you are participating in, player profile, etc.). The coach will tell you what to do next, but if he doesn't ... be prepared to ask.
At the end of your junior year, you will need to register with the NCAA Clearinghouse if you want to be eligible to play at the D-I or D-II level.
While many seniors may have already finished the recruiting process and given verbal offers to schools in the summer, others can use their senior season to influence college coaches. Fall ball and showcase tournaments offer you the opportunity to impress college coaches one last time before applications are due and recruiting decisions are starting to be made. For coaches that haven't received verbal offers yet, the fall season is their opportunity to further evaluate talent. As far as contacts go, you need to call as many coaches as you think you may need to, and push your recruiting process on your own. Don't wait for letters or phone calls that might not come, rather, take control of your process and force coaches to either recruit you or tell you they are not recruiting you.
It is important to recognize that the path you are following in the recruiting process is most likely very different from your fellow teammates. Evaluate what "activity" you are generating from the schools you are interested in. Talk to your club coach, ask him for an honest evaluation as to what will be the best fit for you at the next level. Don't get discouraged if you didn't get the offer you wanted. Many D-III coaches are waiting to see who signed D-1 and who didn't. Student-athletes who weren't recruited by D-I schools will now be pursued by coaches from other divisions. Keep in mind that the idea is to "play" college ball...not sit for four years!
Upon graduation from high school, your counselor must send the NCAA Clearinghouse a final copy of your transcript that confirms your graduation from high school and will determine your eligibility for NCAA D-I and NCAA D-II athletics.