Summer is coming to an end, and many of you are getting ready to report to college baseball programs and campuses for the first time. Transitioning to college baseball from high school life is not easy. That’s why Next Level Ballplayer compiled this list to help you make that transition as smooth as possible. My advice in a nutshell, “Show up early and always work your butt off.” That will get you far, but for some more specific ways to prepare for college baseball, here is a list of 10 things you can do to assure that you start off on the right foot.
This list was originally 2 posts published by Next Level Ballplayer about a year ago.
In general, the first few weeks of college as a baseball player is like drinking out of a fire hose. Getting used to your classes, receiving the dreaded H word (homework), getting adjusted to dorm life, finding the best dining halls, meeting new people, getting to know your teammates and coaches, practicing everyday and having your life revolve around baseball…I could go on.
In order to take a bit of the edge off, I met with current and former college players and coaches and put together this article. I hope this helps, and as always, my lists never cover everything. If you have any suggestions of things I left off, please leave a comment!
1. Show Up in Shape.
You would think that this would be a no brainer, but you’d be surprised how many freshman ballplayers show up thinking they’re in shape, when in reality they aren’t anywhere near where they should be. Most college baseball programs go through some sort of conditioning “Hell Week” before fall ball starts as a way to separate the men from the boys… Be a man!
Keep the following in mind from the mouth of head coach at University of Santa Clara, Dan O’Brien: “The incoming freshman needs to understand that high school baseball is relatively easy, and that a lack of preparation prior to getting to the next level will hit you like a ton of bricks when you arrive. Most of our freshmen think they’ve been working hard when in reality they don’t understand how hard you need to work to get ready.
2. Do Your College’s Weight Program Over the Summer.
Almost all college baseball programs will give their recruits baseball specific weight programs from their head strength coach. This is a great way not just to get into shape, but also familiarize yourself with the exercises you will be doing with the team in the weight room when you arrive on campus. If you haven’t been doing the weight training, it will be easy for others to see… If your coach doesn’t give you a summer weight program, be sure to ask him for one or contact one of the current players and ask what their normal summer lifting workout schedule entails.
Be motivated by the classic Andy Simunic (AA prospect for the Astros) quote, “Size isn’t everything but you still need to be able to fill out your pants.”
3. Embrace Doing Things That Freshmen Have To Do.
No matter where you play, freshman will no doubt be the ones bring the balls to the field, raking the baselines, throwing away dugout trash, doubling up on the bus, and all the other tedious stuff that goes along with it. Don’t wine and complain. That’s just how it is. Instead, go out of the way to do these things without having the upperclassmen or coaches ask you.
4. Prioritize Baseball Over Your Social Life.
I can’t stress this enough – don’t go crazy your first weeks at college! (I would suggest not going crazy ever, but ESPECIALLY not in the first few weeks.) The social scene will be there all four years; if you make bad decisions early on, there’s a good chance you won’t be there all four years. My freshman year, I had three teammates (all freshmen) get arrested before the first week was over! They were punished, stayed on the team through most of the fall, but all were eventually kicked off the team or failed out of school by the end of the year. They chose partying over baseball and class. It happens to freshman ballplayers every year… Don’t be one of those guys!!
5. Make a Good First Impression with Your New Teammates and Coaches.
This is crucial. Too many incoming freshmen show up on campus and look like deer in the headlights during fall conditioning and practice. There is a very easy way to earn respect from your new teammates and coaches – hustle and work hard!
University of Kentucky Baseball Coach Brian Green on how to make a good first impression:
“Get Dirty and be infectious with energy. Seeing players constantly talking on the field, or invested pitch-to-pitch on defense speaks volumes about their character.
6. Be Prepared to Play New Positions and Pitch in New Roles.
Few, if any, freshmen will arrive on campus with a starting position already locked up. Most programs make their players earn their spots. With that being said, the team might need you to play new positions even if it’s in a backup role. I received a scholarship to a D1 school as a shortstop. That’s the only position I had ever played and the only one I wanted to play. I was “forced” to reluctantly learn how to play 2B and 3B. This made me more valuable to my team and gave the coach more ways to get me playing time. If you have been a center fielder all through high school, make sure you take some fly balls from the corner outfield positions before you get to campus so you feel familiar wherever you’re asked to play.
Pitchers, the same concept applies to you. Just because you’ve always been a starter doesn’t mean you won’t pitch out of the pen once you get to college. Former D1 starting pitcher turned big league reliever, Matt Whiteside weighs in on this:
“When going from high school to college, you are probably going to step into a role you’re not familiar with. For the most part, freshmen are going to come out of the bullpen. Being able to acclimate yourself into the role you are given is a big part of successfully transitioning to the next level.”
7. Be Early to Practices.
In high school, on time is fine. In college “on time” is late. Every program is going to be different, but until you get a good feel for what is expected, a good rule of thumb is reporting to the locker room at least an hour before practice. When you first get on campus, follow the lead of the upper classmen and make it a point to be one of the first guys on the field… you probably don’t want to be the first, but shortly thereafter.
8. Go Out of Your Way to Introduce Yourself to New Teammates, Coaches, and Staff.
In your first few weeks of college baseball, you’ll get plenty of general introductions to your new teammates. Make it a priority to say hello and shake hands with new faces, such as teammates, coaches (position players – make sure you meet the pitching coaches and visa versa), trainers, equipment managers, compliance officers and anyone else associated with your program. Take the time at the beginning, and you will fit in and get adjusted more quickly than if you just keep to yourself and go with the flow.
9. Don’t Blow Off Your Classes.
Too many freshmen ballplayers will be so overwhelmed with baseball, social life, dorm life, etc., that schoolwork takes a back seat at the beginning of the year. Don’t forget that if you don’t maintain a certain GPA, you will be ineligible. Put some extra time into your studies early on to ensure you don’t fall behind and end up scrambling at the end to the fall semester to be eligible for the spring.
10. Handle Failure Well.
Guess what? Baseball is a game of failure. If you haven’t figured that out yet, you will. As a freshman going into a college baseball program, you need to understand that everything will not go as planned. The best players will grow from their failures early on and continue to improve. University of West Virginia Head Coach Randy Mazey says this:
“Freshmen have to find a way to separate themselves from their new competition, so they have to be able to handle it the right way if things don’t go well at first, which is what happens to every freshman who has ever gone to college. If they have a bad day, which they all will, and have the attitude to learn from it and get better, then they usually find a way to make it into the lineup. If they mope and pout when things go bad, it usually takes those guys a little longer to break into the lineup.”