By: Mike Boling
One of the factors that go into the recruiting process, especially in high school, is the school in which you attend. For example, being an average player at a large, well-respected high school will sometimes get you more scouting exposure, as opposed to a great player who attends a school that has less students and notoriety. People involved in the game of baseball will say that if you are talented enough you should be able to achieve the goals that you set for yourself, but I think contrarily.
Being an undersized outfielder in high school, who attended Guerin Prep, a small, Catholic preparatory high school in River Grove, Ill, it was very tough to gain exposure from colleges and universities that weren’t near the Chicagoland area. As successful as I may have been as a high school senior at Guerin Prep in 2008, the ability and opportunity to expose myself to schools that I had interest in was tough. This would ultimately lead to a great opportunity.
As mentioned before, being undersized was an issue for me. As well as, not being as completely skilled for an immediate jump to the collegiate game. I was drawn toward Triton College, a nationally respected JUCO that started the career or most notably Kirby Puckett, a MLB Hall of Famer. I saw this opportunity as a chance to better myself as a player and to gain strength and size in the efforts to play at a university after two years.
Truly one of the best decisions that I would happen to make because there is so much to learn about the collegiate game and this was a great outlet to learn and grow simultaneously without necessarily having to play behind another player for my first couple years. The idea of playing at a junior college may scare some athletes and parents alike, but the truth of the matter is, there is a multitude of players from all parts of the country, as well as all skill levels that look to the JUCO route as a stepping-stone for greater things in the future. Playing at a JUCO does not at all mean that you are incapable of playing at the university level and I see that as a common misconception.
After spending a couple good seasons at the JUCO level, another decision had to made and that was whether or not to pursue an opportunity at a Div I, Div II, or Div III program. At that juncture, after being a two-year starter, going to a program to play behind someone would’ve just been hard to do. Eventually, the decision came down to proximity to home, in the efforts to have family be able to attend games, and mostly what I would mean to the program’s future.
These factors were better found in a Div II program, which is why I chose Lewis University in Romeoville, Ill. My recruiting process was probably a bit different than the common player because I wasn’t so much worried about scholarship money but more with how my final years of being a collegiate athletic experience would be. The coaches told me very honestly that there was not too much money left to give to position players but that with me in the program, we could get back to the winning ways that Lewis University was used to back in the 70s.
This honest recruiting method drew me to make the decision to sign because I wanted the experience of being a part of a successful program. Lewis is a member of the GLVC, which year in and year out, is one of the top Div II conferences in the nation. Making my experience there great, as we were able to travel to great programs and face great competition every week.
One thing that remains true is the fact that Div I is the top of when it comes to competition and experience, but that doesn’t mean that athletes should rule out Div II, III, and NAIA programs because at the end of your career, when you ask yourself how your experience was, you can have the same and/or better experience at a college or university that best suits you. For some, money is a big factor, but in my opinion, there was no dollar amount that would be greater than the coaches I would interact with, the athletes I would play along side, and the success I would be a part of. Those things can be found on any level, the beauty of the recruiting process is that it is up to the athlete to be honest enough with themselves to find the perfect fit.