In recent years, there’s been an explosion in the number of baseball showcases, combines, and other recruiting-centered events put on across the country, mostly by those trying to mirror the success of organizations such as Perfect Game and Team One. The concept is simple and seems like common sense- gather a massive group of high school players and college coaches will gravitate to them. Unfortunately, this isn’t as automatic as the promoters make it out to be, and often times few, if any, coaches attend seriously looking for prospects. Considering that most baseball showcases cost in the range of hundreds of dollars, many parents and players feel buyer’s remorse after these events do not live up to their expectations. I remember from my days as a high school player being bombarded with letters and emails from various showcases, and after attending some of them it was clear that while a few are legit, there are definitely a good number that aren’t worth the money. Unfortunately it is these less than adequate events that have given much of the baseball showcase “industry” a reputation as being strictly a money making venture out to take advantage of young players, but this is not entirely fair. Luckily, now more than ever there are plenty of ways to research these events over the Internet so you can make an informed decision. Here are a few criteria to decide whether a showcase is worth your time and money:
- Organization reputation: You can tell the most about a baseball showcase by who is behind it. A quick look at the organization’s website (if they have one) can tell you about past events, any associated coaches or sponsors, and testimonials from college coaches or former participants. For example, on Perfect Game’s website you can find statistics such as in 2008, 1,164 PG event attendees were drafted. Most can’t boast numbers like these, but being able to identify past success is a good indicator of whether attendance will be worth your cash.
- Format: First, figure out whether the baseball showcase is open to all or is invitation-only. Many will claim in their advertisements that they are searching for “elite players” or something along those lines, but this is not the same as being truly invited to a select showcase. College coaches and scouts are much more likely to be in attendance at an invitation-only event, given that the talent is somewhat more assured to be at a higher level than at open events, which accept anyone who can afford to pay the registration fee. Next, look at how long the event lasts and how each player will be participating individually. Most baseball showcases take the form of a pro-style tryout (60 yard dash, infield/outfield, and batting practice) and sometimes a round of scrimmage games. Make sure if there are games that each player will get sufficient playing time, which can be a problem if there are a large number of kids in attendance. Only one inning on the mound or 1-2 at bats may not be worth the time and effort.
- Sponsors: Often times a baseball showcase or combine event attaches the name of a famous company to their event name in an effort to add legitimacy to the product. These events often attract the biggest volume of kids, and because of the financial backing of these large sponsors, can also attract some big name coaches and instructors. The only problem created here is that it becomes easy to get lost in the crowd. Unless your going to run that blazing 60 time or hit towering home runs during BP, it’s tough to make yourself stick out amongst hundreds of other players. In some cases, these can be all about generating revenue, so do not immediately assume that a big name sponsor equates to a top-notch event. Always do some background research on any event, regardless of who is sponsoring them.
- List of Schools Attending: A selling point of many baseball showcases and other similar events is a list of schools and coaches who have attended the event in the past or who have presently committed to attend in the future. Notice what type of schools the showcases are boasting- whether they are DI, DII, Juco, etc. However, this does not mean that you should immediately write off any event that only has smaller schools in attendance, as these programs tend to more seriously recruit such events as opposed to the larger schools that get their choice from the cream of the crop. At the same time, if you are looking at paying top dollar and possibly travelling a good distance, make sure that the kind of schools you are interested in are likely to be in attendance.
- Price: The registration fee can be the most influential factor when determining whether to attend a showcase or not. However, do not assume that more expensive automatically means better. Some events out there set their fees close to the price points of what the industry leaders are charging, yet do not offer anywhere near the quality of product. Lower-scale local baseball showcases that attract smaller schools may provide much more of a direct evaluation from coaches, and could be much more beneficial for the cost.
Showcases and related events can be a very valuable recruiting tool for both players and college coaches. However, not all baseball showcases are created equally. Outside of the established leaders such as Perfect Game, USA Baseball, ProspectWire, and Team One, it can be difficult to determine which events are worth the time and money, therefore it is crucial to always do your homework before deciding to attend.