Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The past few weeks are among my favorite times over the course of the year. While the rest of the baseball is excited for pitchers and catchers reporting, I'm excited because games that mean something are now underway. College baseball has hurled it's first pitch. We can start to see if the fruits of our labors from the past 6+ months of recruiting will likely bear fruit.

The recruiting mix at this level is interesting. You see, each player is a free agent, so you can literally offer a contract to any collegiate baseball player in the country, without restriction. Some players from great programs just fail to pan out. Some players from schools you've never heard of will become great players at our league level. How do whittle down to find the right players?

First - you get on a plane. Or in the case of this past summer, in a car. From Walla Walla, WA to Riverside, CA, with 15 stops in between, and a return trip through Fresno and Stockton, CA. All in all, we met with over 20 NCAA D1 programs, two JUCO showcases and the best BBQ we've ever had in "Hills have Eyes" country in Northern California. In order to build (or develop) relationships

with key programs, we drove nearly 5,000 miles in 8 days. The route is in the pic here. Now imagine another 12 hours drive from Stockton, CA to Walla Walla, WA on the back end of the trip. And I don't let anyone else drive.

This is really the route that we took this fall recruiting.

After the many, many visits (and the great hospitality from some of the best coaches in NCAA history), we create our wish list of 75-100 players. We rate the players according to where they fall in our wish list, and then we start to work with the head coaches of the programs. In some cases, like UCLA or Cal Poly, we get their best, or at least who everyone thinks will be their best. That comes from years of long-term relationship development. In other instances, we are signing players from programs for the first time, based on either a recommendation from a relationship in the game (scout, coach that has followed the player, one of our partners who saw a particular player) or on specific numbers. When it comes to pitchers, the magic ratio is 4:1. When it comes to hitters, we are looking at a number in the range of 2:1, but can take closer to 1:1 (problem areas occur when those numbers are flipped - like 1:2-3). Sometimes we really pick well - like our 2013 class, that included (6) players selected in the 2015 MLB draft. Other times, we just miss. But I can assure you the effort is consistent.

As we are deciding which players to offer, I work most closely with our GM and our manager. Working the phones, developing relationships, communicating regularly, updating the white board in my office - for all the stuff about the WCL that drives me insane, this is the part of the business that I love.

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