The following is a post by Jason Smith, baseball recruiting expert and senior head recruiting coach at NCSA Athletic Recruiting. Jason is a former coach at the Division I, II and III levels, and he regularly contributes to the blog.
At this point in the recruiting process many seniors are starting to narrow down their college options. Since most Division I baseball programs lock up their scholarship offers in the early signing period, the remaining opportunities are walk-on roster spots.
There are coaching staffs that recruit for and offer their walk-on roster spots, commonly referred to as “recruited” or “preferred” walk-ons. But the walk-on tryout is another way to earn a spot on the roster.
Are you considering attending a Division I college and want to tryout for the team? Keep reading to make sure you fully understand the opportunity and are prepared for the tryout.
How a DI baseball walk-on tryout would impact your place on the team
First, here is the breakdown of a roster at the Division I level.
A Division I baseball roster can hold 35 players in the spring semester; however there can be more than 35 practicing with the team during the fall.
Of those 35 players, only 27 can be on an athletic scholarship. If a coaching staff decides to carry 35 (some carry less) players, then they will have at least 8 walk-on players on the team. Programs that are fully funded have 11.7 scholarships and players on scholarship must receive at least 25 percent.
Here’s a checklist of “must-do” tasks before participating in DI Baseball walk-on tryouts.
- Register with the NCAA Eligibility Center. If a coaching staff is going to seriously consider you at the tryout, then you need to have completed the registration process. It is a big plus if you are a “qualifier” out of high school.
- Complete all the paperwork needed for the university itself and register as a “full-time” student. You must be enrolled “full-time” to participate in the tryout and be on the team.
- Get an updated physical during the summer before you get on campus. Make sure it is completed at least 6 months prior to the tryout date. Most tryout dates are early in the fall semester, so get it done in the summer months.
- Call the baseball office in July to find out the details of the tryout. There will be paperwork you need to fill out prior to the tryout. Ask if it can be emailed or mailed to you, or if you need to pick it up when you get on campus. Complete this paperwork as soon as possible and return it to the baseball office.
Here are steps to stand out from your competition during DI baseball walk-on tryouts
- Once you decide to attend the college, email the coaching staff to inform them of your decision. If you haven’t already, then complete their recruiting questionnaire (typically found on the college’s athletic website). Tell them you plan on attending the walk-on tryout in the fall.
- Send monthly update emails throughout your spring and summer seasons to update them on your successes.
- Create a new skills video in the summer months and send it directly to the coaching staff for review.
- Ask your high school and/or travel team coach to contact the staff on your behalf.
- Keep working hard to develop your strength, speed, and overall skills on the diamond. You may only have one shot to make an impression on the coaching staff.
- Once you get on campus, stop by the baseball office to introduce yourself to the coaching staff. This can happen when you go to pick up the paperwork for the tryout. Call before you head over to make sure at least one coach is in the office.
- Be prepared for the tryout! Dress like a baseball player (baseball pants, belt, cleats, high school or travel jersey and hat). Bring your own gear (glove, bat, catching gear if you are a catcher, etc.). Arrive early. Hustle and give your best effort.
- At the end of the tryout, shake all of the coaches’ hands, look them each in the eye and say, “Thank you for the opportunity.”
Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get a roster spot.
It is tough to make a Division I roster through the walk-on tryouts. However, you owe it to yourself to give it a shot.
If you do not make the team, then ask the coaches if they have a need for a student manager.
Athletic departments can offer scholarships to student managers. It can be a great way cut down the cost of attending the college, be a part of the program and build up your resume while in college.
Contact the club team or intramural office to find out if there are other options for playing baseball on campus. You can always tryout the following fall. But you will want to stay active and motivated to have a chance in the future.
Want to discuss your personal baseball recruiting journey with recruiting experts like Jason Smith? The best way to get started is with a recruiting profile.