The following is a post by Adam Nemo, baseball recruiting expert and head baseball recruiting coach at NCSA Athletic Recruiting. Adam was a baseball player for Ohio State University before going onto work in the Milkwaukee Brewers organization and coaching baseball at the high school and collegiate levels in Cincinnati. You can talk to Adam and other experts about your baseball recruiting needs.
Many players go into the college recruiting process with a “Division I or bust” mentality. They only want to pursue opportunities, contact coaches and attends camps at the Division I level. There is a stigma placed on non-Division I programs where some student-athletes and families are unwilling to consider them as possibilities.
That line of thinking holds them back from some great opportunities that exist at the hundreds of programs out there that can provide an outstanding education and baseball experience. Even if you are fortunate to make your way onto a Division I roster as a non-scholarship player, there are no guarantees for you.
I played at the Division I level at Ohio State University. As an 18-year old, it was cool to tell my friends and family that I was on the baseball team at Ohio State because it sounds great on paper. I was a “preferred walk-on,” meaning that I had a spot on the roster but received no athletic scholarship money.
I was on the team for two seasons and never made it onto the field.
There are a lot of harsh realities for players that find themselves in these situations and you don’t know how tough it can be until you find yourself experiencing the situation:
- You immediately start on the bottom of the depth chart. You are behind upperclassmen, returning players and scholarship players.
- Forget about earning playing time in games. You have to outperform other players at your position for practice reps so that you get an opportunity to show what you can do.
- There is a chance that you will have to redshirt. You have been the best player or one of the best players on your team since t-ball for the last 12 years and played almost every inning. Now you have to go an entire season without playing in a game and it is harder than you can ever imagine.
- They are going to bring in scholarship players at your position who are younger than you. After redshirting my freshman year, two scholarship players were brought in at my position the next year. Both of them jumped me on the depth chart from Day 1, and that’s the way it has to work. Both players went on to get drafted.
Let’s take a second to put Division I baseball programs in perspective.
- There are around 300 Division I baseball programs in the country.
- Roster limits prohibit Division I programs from carrying more than 35 players on their roster.
- Assuming that each program brings in 10 new players per season, that’s 3,000 new roster spots per year at the Division I level in the entire country.
- There are over 100,000 high school baseball players in each graduation class competing for those 3,000 roster spots, plus junior college players who want to play at the Division I level.
Looking for the best possible fit
The student-athletes and families that are the most successful in the college baseball recruiting process are the ones that are looking for the best possible overall fit and take the division level out of the picture. They are looking for the best fit academically, socially, culturally and athletically.
Things like campus size, proximity to home, rapport with coaches, playing time, academic reputation, and financial aid should heavily factor into your decision when picking a school.
Would you rather be at a school where you are playing for a strong program, studying in the area of your preferred major and on a campus that you like or would you rather be redshirting at a school where you are less comfortable and further away from home?
There are so many “non-Division I” baseball programs and institutions out there that have a lot to offer their student-athletes. There is a significant amount of scholarship money available, there are powerhouse programs at these levels and players routinely get drafted from the Division II, Division III, NAIA and Junior College level on a yearly basis.
Here are some facts about these division levels and programs:
- There are around 240 Division II programs in the United States and each one of those programs gets up to nine athletic scholarships (2,160 athletic scholarships).
- There were 84 players drafted from the Division II level in the 2015 First-Year Player Draft.
- There are around 365 Division III programs in the United States. There is a great amount of academic financial aid available at these institutions for student-athletes with good academic qualifications.
- Click here for more information on Division III Financial Aid.
- There were 11 players drafted from the Division III level in the 2015 First-Year Player Draft.
- There are around 200 NAIA programs in the United States and each of those programs gets up to 12 athletic scholarships (2,400 athletic scholarships).
- There were 41 players drafted from the NAIA level in the 2015 First-Year Player Draft.
- There are around 500 Junior College programs in the United States and each of those programs gets up to 24 athletic scholarships (12,000 athletic scholarships).
- There were 101 players drafted from the Junior College level in the 2015 First-Year Player Draft.
Avoid being a “Division I or Bust” family
My advice as a former Division I athlete is to be open-minded when entering the college recruiting process about the opportunities that exist at all levels of competition. If you spend all of your time in pursuit of a Division I opportunity, there may be some life-changing opportunities that will pass you by. Pursue the best overall fit for yourself and for your son (or daughter). The best overall fit for you may not be at the Division I level, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Our scouts are here to talk to you about the options you have to play in college. The best way to get started is with a recruiting profile.