At what age would you recommend starting to attend showcases?

There is one Jr. High showcase next month but at this age does it really matter where you rank or is there more to it than that?

Good question, munster.

There is probably no “one-size-fits-all” answer to this. My son (15 yo) has not yet attended any of the business-run showcases, Baseball Factory, Area Code, etc, so…beyond giving players the opportunity of displaying their skills to the coaches/recruiters who attend those, I’m not sure what the younger kids might get out of that.

My impression is that the commercial showcases might better serve the needs of Junior and Senior level HS players, who are really the ones being actively recruited by college coaches.

On the other hand, my boy has attended “prospect camps” at two different universities starting when he was a newly minted 14 yo. I think those experiences have been very valuable for both of us.

While he was on the field, I mixed with the other parents who attended and learned a lot from them about the multi-year process of preparation for success in collegiate-level athletics. (I was not good enough in HS to even consider playing a sport in college, so other peoples’ experiences along these lines have been extremely valuable for me).

Since the serious recruiting at those prospect camps was being done among the Juniors and Seniors, there was basically “no pressure” on the kid to out-perform anyone. He thoroughly enjoyed his opportunities to “play up” in this environment and the older guys treated him very well. At each of the prospect camps he attended, there was a very small group of kids his own age who were also there to get experience “playing up” in a showcase-type environment.

Because there was never any pressure on him, the relaxed kiddo actually did perform well against older competition and he gained a lot of confidence from that.

Even though the two prospect camps had a very different feel in terms of size , they both had some outstanding features:

The coaches took a lot of personal time with small groups, and sometimes 1-on-1, to educate them about the academic requirements of their schools, the qualities they were looking for in prospective players, strategies for planning for a college career that may include high-level sports, etc, etc.

On the field, these prospect camps included many hours of conditioning work, drills, and training led by the college coaches, in addition to several scrimmage games that allowed players to show what they can do under competitive game conditions. Prospect camps typically run for 2 or 3 full days, so there is just lots of opportunity to soak up experience in that setting.

One of the universities also provided a campus tour as part of the prospect camp, which was very inspiring to my son. The other one did not provide a tour, but we stayed at a hotel next to campus and did our own self-guided tour–that was fun, too. (Screw Disneyland and Seaworld, this is our idea of a big vacation…)

The cost of HS prospect camps varies, but all D1 programs have 'em, as far as I can tell. Yes, they make money for the college programs. No, neither the absolute percentages of kids who are recruited from prospect camps, nor the percentage given lucrative athletic scholarships, are large numbers…but that is true of any showcase format, I imagine…there are always more ‘hopefuls’ than ‘successfuls’.

On the other hand, yes, the coaching staff will track your son’s progress through HS if they have any interest in him as a youngster.

Exposure works both ways, I think: Coaches get to work with your son and evaluate his talent level, projectability, etc and you and your son both get exposed to the expectations those coaches and colleges have for their players. The way I look at it, they are providing a very specialized service that is valuable for kids who may see that pathway as their future.

One of the most valuable things that both my son and I have learned: Grades are important!! Even if you’re the next Randy Johnson, colleges will not be able to recruit you if your HS grades and SAT/ACT scores are below their standards for admission.

Also, prospects need to be aware that academic scholarship money is more widely available than athletic scholarship money–several college recruiters made this point: Good student-athletes who can play at that level, but for one reason or another may not absolutely need athletic money, are very attractive prospects for 35-man college rosters. All D1 colleges get 11.7 scholarships to spread around among their baseball roster, and the number of full rides on any college team is going to be very, very small.

At your sons age, camps run by universities are probably more helpful than anything. Try to find camps that have quality instructors and coaches coming in from other colleges. This is the best way to expose your son to more people in one weekend. Sometimes indoor facilities do this as well, bringing in a few college coaches to run an instructional/showcase camp.

I would say however, that the recruiting process is starting earlier every year. By the time he finishes his HS Freshmen year, it is time to really finding ways to get him as much exposure as possible. This can be from camps, showcases, summer league games, high school season games, and aau travel treams.