Once a player realizes baseball is his passion, and that he wants to play beyond high school or even college, the next question is how to get noticed.
Showcases have become increasingly popular in recent years, as much a part of the recruiting process as travel ball and other camps. They provide the player an opportunity to find out what scouts look for, and it allows scouts to evaluate the tools of a prospect’s game through various measureables: running time from home to first, throwing velocity by position, hitting in practice and game situations, etc.
“You can have a scout go to a game, and the guy he’s there to watch walks three times and doesn’t get a ball hit to him, and you basically haven’t seen anything,” said Jerry Ford, president of Perfect Game USA, a leading scouting service that runs showcases throughout the U.S.
The first thing both players and parents need to know about showcases is they are tough to get into. While there are a small group of open showcases, the majority invite only the elite players. Perfect Game begins tracking many kids as young as 13 or 14, to project their progress over a period of several years. Ford offers five tips for players and parents who have visions of being selected for a showcase.
1. Be passionate about the game. It’s unrealistic for a kid to not be nervous about one of the most important events of his baseball life. But recruiters want to see players who look like they enjoy playing. If you’re more relaxed, you’ll most likely perform better.
“We want them to have some fun,” Ford said. That’s really what it’s all about. Smile, show that you love the game. The rest is what you’ve got.”
2. Run shorter sprints. It’s easy to pace off 60 yards and run dashes with a stopwatch. Ford recommends running 20-yard sprints, and do more of them. In baseball, your start is crucial; it can mean the difference of two-tenths of a second. “If you want the best shortstop, he’s likely to be the one that runs the quickest 10 yards, not the quickest 60,” Ford explained.
3. Play consistently at the highest level possible. The best way to thrive in a competitive environment is to pit yourself against the best. Rather than participate in showcase tournaments, where everyone plays, scouts and college recruiters want to see your desire, how you handle yourself when the stakes are highest. Find an elite summer travel team that will allow you to compete against the top players.
“If we can see somebody in a showcase, we can get all their measureables as far as baseball skills go,” Ford said. “Then, when we go to a tournament, we get to see them compete and play for keeps.”
4. Parents should take themselves out of the evaluation process. Ford acknowledges this is difficult to do. After all, what parent doesn’t believe their child is the next big star? The hard truth is, they aren’t usually objective enough to make that determination.
“I know major league scouts who have sons (that play),” Ford said. “These guys have been scouting for 30 years, and they’re top-notch evaluators. But they can’t evaluate their own son correctly. So parents are automatically the worst evaluators.”
5. To make sure you’re getting the best advice, surround yourself with trusted baseball people who will shoot straight, even if it’s not what you want to hear. This will indicate where your child is in his development now, even if it’s not where he will eventually end up.
Above all, Ford encourages parents to sit back and enjoy the experience. Be involved, but also allow coaches and scouts to do their job. “There are things a lot more important than baseball,” Ford said. “I think it needs to be looked at as an enjoyable thing, even though you’re competing and trying to get ahead.”