Guest writer on today’s blog — Drew Kidd. Drew is an assistant coach at Concordia University in Ann Arbor, MI.
As a college baseball coach, I have found that there is no shortage of talent when it comes to recruiting baseball players.
Nowadays, there are hundreds of “recruiting companies” and “services” that assist players and families in the recruiting process and help “place” them at the right school.
These “services” can assist coaches in finding players, but the videos they provide only display so much information about who a player is.
It is impossible for a college coach to evaluate and determine the most important skills and qualities when recruiting future college baseball players using solely these services and videos.
Therefore, it is essential for coaches to personally evaluate a player in order determine the most important qualities a player can possess: his intangibles.
Newly recruited players will join the already established program and are entrusted with the future of the respective university and its baseball program.
College athletics, and college baseball specifically, has rapidly grown in its popularity and has quickly been thrust into the public eye, through television, Twitter, and Facebook.
Because of this, coaching staffs, along with universities as a whole, have also been brought into clear view.
This, combined with the fact that college baseball no longer takes a “back seat” to other college athletics, coaches have begun to recruit players with more than just talent and ability.
College coaches must recruit players that have talent, ability, and possess the necessary intangibles.
Intangibles are the “hidden” qualities a player possesses that are not evaluated by velocity, batting average, and other statistical categories.
These intangibles indicate to coaches more about who a player is, rather than how he is capable of performing on the mound, at the plate, or in field.
The following five intangibles are a few of the most important qualities a player can possess, among others.
1. One of the first intangibles that a coach will seek to learn about is a player’s work ethic:
This will look differently from player to player, but coaches look for players that have a relentless and driven work ethic.
Players that sprint down the line on a comebacker to the pitcher, sprint out of the dugout at the end of an inning, or dive for a marginal groundball in the infield probably will not need to be motivated to work hard in the weight room or motivated to work hard during early season practice and conditioning.
Coaches can observe and evaluate a player’s work ethic by his determination to continuously play the game hard.
A player with a relentless work ethic sprints everywhere, dives, slides, and never stops playing hard. The less a coach has to motivate players to work hard, the more time he has to prepare his players for a championship season.
2. Another “hidden” quality or intangible a coach will determine is a player’s passion for the game.
This may be one of the easier intangibles to evaluate because passion is evident in how a player plays the game.
Does he play with emotion? Does he hustle?
A player’s passion is epitomized in his body language.
Coaches can tell the level of passion a player has for the game by the showing of positive emotions. These emotions include being engaged in the game in the dugout, a pitcher’s fist pump after a strikeout at the end of an inning, or teammates chest bumping after a big defensive play.
If it looks like a player is having fun playing the game and being on the field with his teammates, coaches will see passion exploding from his body.
3. The third intangible coaches look for while recruiting is a player’s “heart.”
This may be the quality that takes the longest to determine.
A player will always reveal his “heart,” but it may take a few times of watching the same player for a coach to properly determine a player’s “heart.”
A player with “heart” absolutely loves to play baseball.
He starts the game with a clean uniform, and ends the game with a dirty one. He has a tremendous amount of respect for the game of baseball and has an uncontainable desire to play it.
Players with “heart” put themselves well below the team and do whatever it takes to make their teammates better.
They bunt, get hit by a pitch, wear a groundball off the face, and do anything to help their teammates. Self-sacrifice and desire are the most evident characteristics of a player with “heart.”
4. Coaches will also recruit players who compete.
Across the country, regardless of the level, college baseball programs have relatively the same level of talent.
However, the teams that separate themselves are the ones that compete the hardest.
Coaches recruit players that relentlessly compete on the field because once they get to campus, they will compete in the classroom, in the weight room, and in the community.
Competitive hitters continuously foul off close pitches in 0-2 counts and competitive pitchers routinely throw their best pitch when it 3-2 because they aren’t afraid to walk a hitter.
Player’s compete when they sprint down the baseline or out of the dugout or dive for groundballs that may be just out of their reach.
Competitive players compete from the first pitch to the last and aren’t afraid fail.
They play for their teammates and their coaches and aren’t worried about striking out or giving up a hit.
When the game is on the line, competitive players want to be at the plate or want the ball on the mound because they know they can get the job done.
They bring their absolute best to the field each day and demand from themselves and their teammates that their best be enough.
5. The final and most important intangible coaches look for is character.
Coaches will recruit players of high character because they want their programs to be represented in the community, on the field, and in the media by players with a high makeup.
On the field, a player with character carries himself with a sense of responsibility.
A high character player is driven by a sense of responsibility to his family, his coaches, his teammates, and himself.
He handles failure with grace and humility, but still may show a hint of emotion. Emotionless players give off the idea that baseball isn’t important to them, but players of character fail with grace while controlling their ever-present emotions.
Players of character possess mental toughness and aren’t rattled by adversity. These types of players make their teammates better and may possess leadership qualities.
These intangibles are crucial and necessary for players to have to play at the highest collegiate level.
Intangibles have nothing to do with a player’s batting average, pitching velocity, height, or weight, but have everything to do with who they are as a teammate and a person.
Many times, players cannot control their arm strength, running speed, or their height or weight. However, every player can control, manage, and train their intangibles to be the best player and teammate possible.