The DI Fixation
Two years ago I was approached by a very talented young man who had both flunked out of college and lost a full baseball scholarship along the way. While in high school, he had been recruited by over thirty schools and had finally settled on a full scholarship at a very strong Division I program.
He was miserable. Forget about playing well. He wasn’t playing. Period. Not at all. Nada. Zero. Zip. Worse, nobody would tell him why he wasn’t playing or how to fix it.
Ready for the best part? The coach played him (defensively only … no at bats) one half of an inning in the last game of the season. According to NCAA rules he lost a whole year of eligibility gone … for one half of an inning.
Frustrated, he ended up transferring to a Division I program that had recruited him very heavily and had even offered him a full ride.
However, there was to be no happy ending on this horizon. Unfortunately he discovered that he had actually gone from the frying pan to the fire because, once again, he didn’t play and was (also once again) being offered no guidance as to why not.
Not surprisingly the scholarship offer had vanished as well; pulled completely off the table.
Ooops!!! Now how did that happen? I’m going to guess that they reasoned that they shouldn’t have to pay for something that they (now) were going to get for free. And, to be fair, since he was transferring out of another competitive program, his character and ability to commit was probably also deemed questionable. Unfairly or not.
The player was going nuts. Baseball had not only always been easy but fun. He loved it.
He could not figure out why baseball was so suddenly not loving him back and ended up flunking out.
He and his father sat down to meet with me and the first words out of the young man’s mouth were to question about how to get into pro ball.
“Whoa,” I cautioned. “You haven’t had a single at bat in college. You need to be thinking about getting an education. Also, with no college playing time on your resume, you have absolutely no leverage to sell yourself professionally.”
The second words out of the young man’s mouth were to direct all efforts toward DI schools.
“No offense …” Once again I stopped him. “… but haven’t you seen that movie? Twice?”
I finally had his attention.
“Let me ask you a very simple question. Are you happy?”
He replied in the negative on that one.
“Then why don’t we all start on that point? Why don’t you go to a school and a program where you’re happy? Go to a school and a baseball program that not only really wants you but will take care of you, nurture and direct your passion, and help you pursue and achieve your goals of education and, if possible, playing professionally?”
I went on to explain to him that the issue of deciding where to play baseball in college was like a wheel with spokes coming out of a hub. The spokes consisted of the following issues: (a) appropriate academic programs and areas of study, (b) financial considerations, (c) geography; i.e., if a student wants to live close to or far away from home, (d) big or small; i.e., the size of the school and (e) the baseball program. The hub in the center of the wheel is the most important element of all—the student’s happiness. Are you going to be happy at the school? Because if you’re unhappy, you’re not going to perform in the classroom or on the field.
Relative to baseball, the question is simple and revolves around the coaching staff. Do they want you? Will you have a real opportunity to play and continue to develop as a player.
The player’s focus and priorities changed immediately and so did the results.
Literally within weeks I was able to find an appropriate program for him; a school where he was not only going to get an education in his very specific chosen field but a baseball program where he was going to play and be allowed to get better.
It is a Division III program.
In his first year, he achieved a 3.0 grade average and was “conference player of the week.” Twice. This year he is leading the nation in stolen bases at the DIII level, will very likely make all conference and, going into his senior year, has an excellent chance of getting signed to play professionally.
All out of a DIII program.
There are almost 50,000 college baseball players in the country participating in over 1,600 college baseball programs.
There are 298 NCAA DI programs, 238 NCAA DII programs, 205 NAIA programs, 512 junior college programs, and 365 DIII programs.
Do the math. There are a lot of opportunities available to play college baseball.
Here are some more numbers. There are (approx.) 1500 players chosen in the amateur draft each year.
Again; do the math. The odds are steep to play professionally. Therefore, although it is an incredible goal to strive for, professional baseball should not be the priority. Obtaining a college education and enjoying a once in a lifetime experience should; an experience that will enrich a student athlete for the rest of his life.
Go back to the concept of the five-spoked wheel relative to playing college baseball.
Third time; do the math. Baseball is only one of those wheels. A student athlete’s educational goals, his and his family’s financial situation, geography, and the size of the school and the program all need to be considered.
Finally, cut to the bottom line; the ultimate number; number one; the player himself.
Do the math.
Will he play at a particular school? Will he be allowed an opportunity to compete? to improve?
Does the school want him?
Whatever school that is … is the RIGHT school; no matter what division it is in.
“If you are struggling with a performance issue that just isn’t responding to more instruction and hard work, then call me now and let’s fix it. I’ve got a systematic process that takes care of any interference you have to your ultimate performance potential that you have seen short bursts of…and want to see it show up in competition consistently! Call me or email me right now while you’re thinking of it!”