The idea that high school baseball is falling by the wayside to travel ball and showcases in terms of recruiting is one that is held by many of those “in the loop,” and also by this blog. However, this idea is often met with staunch resistance from parents and others who are strong supporters of Little League and high school ball. In fact, some out there consider it blasphemous to say that high school sports are inferior to anything. School and town pride, along with our Top 5 Travel Ball Myths, are the usual justifications. The belief that this idea is only being advocated by those who stand to make money off of showcases, tournaments, etc. is also prevalent. Of course, some of these people have little recent baseball experience , so it becomes frustrating trying to convince them. Thankfully, large media outlets have begun to report on this trend, most recently the Los Angeles Times in their article Playing in high school is no longer vital for college scholarship seekers, written by Eric Sondheimer.
This article initially focuses on a young baseball player committed to University of San Diego, who they say “is an example of the changing landscape in college recruiting” after foregoing his sophomore through senior years of high school to focus on club ball. A summer tournament in Jupiter, FL is credited for kickstarting his recruitment (probably a Perfect Game or USA Baseball event). The article can be summarized in this one paragraph:
With few exceptions, playing high school sports is no longer considered a vital pathway toward obtaining a college sports scholarship. College recruiters are relying more on club competitions, combines, camps and showcases to identify the majority of their recruited athletes.
Additionally, the strongest support for this concept came in the form of:
Kelly Inouye Perez, the softball coach for 11-time NCAA champion UCLA, said she “can’t remember” the last time she attended a high school softball practice to evaluate a prospect.
“It’s all about travel ball and watching summer training,” she said.
Baseball is specifically noted, along with football and basketball, as being slightly behind the curve due to constrictive NCAA regulations regarding recruiting dead periods, but are considered to be “slowly tipping in the direction” of the other sports mentioned, such as soccer, softball, and volleyball. The author goes on to say:
In baseball, summer showcases and tournaments keep expanding, resulting in college coaches traveling around the country to evaluate prospects at such events as the Area Code Games in Long Beach, the Junior Olympics in Arizona and the USA 18U and 16U trials in North Carolina.
And from there goes on to lay out more specially how the process plays out:
Perfect Game charges more than $500 to have players participate in its baseball showcases around the country. Nike and Adidas help sponsor camps and tournaments, drawing large numbers of college coaches who pay entry fees to watch and obtain names, addresses and phone numbers of prospects.
In the big picture, I think it is important to remember that this only applies to the recruiting process. Ideas such as this are not meant to denigrate or attack high school baseball in general. In our article How to Maximize Your High School Season, we laid out why high school baseball can still play an important role in the development of the player. UCLA Head Coach John Savage emphasizes this and is quoted in the article as saying, “You can’t undervalue what the high school coaches teach. He’s there with the player every day. Some of our best resources are the high school coach, and anyone who doesn’t think so is missing the boat.”
Even so, there is a developing trend out there, and it seems the media outside of the baseball world has begun to pick up on it. Everyone should read this article and take it into consideration.