This article originally appeared in Baseball Parent magazine. It concludes an eight-article series on pro baseball tryouts and pitching in college.
Many questions - some trivial - others not, will occur to you before, during, or after your campus visits. Will your son have anything in common with the student-athletes he meets? Will he be able to handle the snowy winters at the school, or would he rather play in the South with its longer playing seasons? Does the coach have a vision for your son... for his playing time, his position, and his potential?
Your son's high school coach may send the first letters expressing your son's general interest in certain baseball programs during his sophomore year. Then the coach may call a few college coaches. Next, you or your son will call those coaches to arrange visits. After all, even top college coaches may spend an hour with you talking about their baseball philosophy, the university, and their recruiting strategy.
If your son's an ace, he'll probably be able to command time from a college coach most anytime. However, for players who may not be impressive on paper yet, an informal trip to a college sometime other than during the spring baseball season or fall workouts might assure a better chance for an audience with the coach.
Prepare your questions in advance. Does the school have mandatory study hall off-season? Do tutors travel with the team to games? If your son misses a class, will the coach let him play the next game anyway? Do players have to be in by midnight? Even in the off-season?
Talk to your son about the questions he should ask. As a Southern boy, will he be happy in the Snowbelt? How far does he have to walk to class? Coach him on how to present himself to the point of reminding him to sit up straight during the interview.
After visits, recruits may regret not having talked to players away from coaches. That's often the best way to get a feel for what their future teammates are like, to gauge their views of the program, to find out what practices are like, or to discover how much running the team does in practice. Players can make visits and like the baseball program, yet have little in common with the players they meet.
College coaches and pro scouts talk to each other about players. Prospective players never know who a coach might know. For this reason, keep as many doors open as you can by having your son take all calls from college coaches and respond promptly to all questionnaires, even though there may be no possibility he'll attend that school.
The Unofficial Visit. It's never too early in your son's high school career to begin visiting colleges and assessing their baseball programs. The more information he gathers about various universities, the more informed he'll be when it comes time to make his decision about what school to attend. For example, at one school, he might be eligible for academic aid, while at another he might struggle just to meet their academic standards. You may learn that a coach can submit a list of preferred players to the academic office as early as September, whether or not the coach is allotted any "exemptions" for lower-than-normal SAT scores, and what positions he's now recruiting.
A coach may suggest you meet him at the baseball field rather than at his office. By doing so, he can give you a five-minute briefing, while also giving you the once-over to determine whether the meeting should be continues or whether he should end the conversation after a short, polite visit. If you're asked back to his office, among the many things you may hear about are the first-rate players the school has received commitments from for the next season, who their backups are, and who the backup's backups are. But keep in mind that such plans can change. Some prospects get drafted, others decide at the last minute to attend a different school.
The coach may say he will keep an eye on your son, he may say he'll try to see him play, or he may say a lot will depend on the kind of season your son has during his senior year.