How to get recruited

Coaches across the country share recruiting advice

Todd Butler (Wichita State photo)

Todd Butler (Wichita State photo)

Todd Butler, Wichita State
Go to the camps and set foot on the campuses of the colleges or universities that you’re interested in. Meet the coaching staff, spend some time with them; it’s the first time in your life that you’ll get the opportunity to choose who you’re going to play for.

Another one is technology. Unlike 15 years ago, you have e-mail, texts, applications on the cell phone or iPad, YouTube and video. You have instant access to grab a coach’s attention at any university in the United States. Persistence is probably the biggest key there. We get to see so many players in showcases and traveling around all year, but there’s a lot of players that we need to be refreshed or reminded on.

Know the list of schools you’re interested in. Make sure you have the talent and the academics to play at that institution.

I’m looking for a guy that plays catch as soon as the ball comes out of his hand. Just warming up, as soon as the ball comes out of his hand pure and you can just tell that the guy’s going to be able to throw well and have location and whatnot. You kind of ‘notice’ those players before you know you notice them. You walk into a park and they’re wearing their uniform correctly, they’re stretching, they’re on time, they’re playing catch properly, they’re wearing their hat properly- you notice those guys right from the beginning. Then they get on the field and they play and they perform and there it is; there’s a recruited player that instantly starts to get involved and starts to go through the process.

Dave Esquer (Cal photo)

Dave Esquer (Cal photo)

Dave Esquer, Cal

I think the standards still remain; we still collect letters and e-mails for that pertinent information, but you’re looking for some reputable baseball people that can speak on their behalf. Recruiting services obviously are going to speak highly of every player, but if there’s one or two reputable baseball people- a high school coach, a scout in the area, someone who’s seen him- then it’s up for us to do our homework and find out if the guy is a good player or a good player, because there’s a difference.

You’ve got to be able to have some touch and feel for the people you respect, just to find out that information. If a coach is going to say ‘this is the best shortstop I’ve had in my 25 years of coaching,’ a lot of other coaches are going to listen! That just doesn’t translate as well on paper.

We’re gotten away from utilizing high school coaches as much as we used to, and I think that’s a big mistake. We go straight to that travel ball, showcase, BP and ground balls, which can eliminate that coach telling us things like ‘this guy is a gamer’ or ‘this guy’s one of the best players I’ve coached.’

Mitch Gaspard (Alabama photo)

Mitch Gaspard (Alabama photo)

Mitch Gaspard, Alabama

For one, you have to identify what you’re looking for. Whether that’s baseball, academically, or socially, what’s important to you? From there, you have to identify the programs that best fit what you’re looking for. Then you have to make yourself available to those programs, whether it’s doing the camps, reaching out to those schools, etc.

There are so many showcases and so many summer opportunities, it’s just mind-boggling. We’re trying to figure out all of those things daily, and I can’t even answer it anymore, there’s so many. But I think really it comes down to what you’re looking for, what best fits your personality and your needs for development throughout your four years.
After that, you’ve got to be aggressive to find the right fit for yourself. We tell every recruit that comes through here that whether it’s the University of Alabama, or a mid-major, or a small school: it’s the people that you surround yourself with that are going to make the difference for your growth. To me that’s the most important thing, the people you’re around. It’s not how big the stadium is, how many fans show up at the games, but it’s the people around you every day, because that’s what’s going to mold and create you into the man that you’re going to become.

Brian Green, New Mexico State

I think video is everything. As much information that’s sent our way all the time, emails, letters, etc.- we want to see video. My recommendation is to get video, to have it handy in terms of a side view, a front view, for hitters and pitchers. Having video readily available is going to get the coach to pick up the phone or come watch you play.

George Horton, Oregon
The first thing you look at is ability, and then you look for intangibles like competitiveness and hustle. The things that make a good team great are players that can interact with their coaching staff and their teammates. Taking that a step further, how they conduct themselves when they fail is important. Everyone can be a good guy when they’re winning and it’s going well, but the true measure of a man’s character is how you behave when you get knocked on your rear end.

Rich Hill (USD photo)

Rich Hill (USD photo)

Rich Hill, San Diego

YouTube is a great avenue. The more video- QUALITY video- that we can get on guys, the better. If I get a call, a text, a personal e-mail from a coach or scout that I know that can really break down the young man’s ability and character, that’s the best way. Like anything else, if you’ve got a sponsor you can trust, that’s still the best way with coaches.

Like everyone, we get bombarded with e-mails. I can’t tell you how many hundreds of e-mails I get a year that say “Dear Coach, I want to play at your school.” You dismiss those immediately. The other ones that you get from a personal connection, a personal relationship? You really dive into those.

Stephen Kirkpatrick, Christian Brothers University

Figure out what level you want to play on; D1, D2, etc. Then speak to coaches or current players at that level to figure out what skills are required. If you have those skills, then go and showcase them. If not, do everything you can to develop those skills. All the showcases and select teams will not do you any good if you do not have the right level of ability.

Kyle Peterson, ESPN analyst

The best thing anyone ever said to me during the recruiting process was when Dean Stotz told me, “Go to the place you want to be if baseball doesn’t work out.” I think too often, the only thing that kids look at is baseball. I don’t care how good of a player you are in high school; you have no idea what’s going to happen in college- from an ability standpoint, from an injury standpoint and any of the other unknowns.

I think one of the things that gets overlooked the most is everything aside from baseball. If you can separate baseball out of the equation as one of the pros or cons, if you can say ‘this is a place where I want to go even if baseball doesn’t work out,’ then I think it makes the decision a lot easier.

AP photo

AP photo

Dave Serrano, Tennessee

What a lot of people don’t understand in the recruiting process are the needs of our program. If we don’t need a second basemen, he could be the best player at that position, but we don’t have a need for it. A lot of times people get offended that we don’t think they’re good enough, but that’s not the case. It’s like going to a store- if I don’t need shirts and I’m only buying pants, it doesn’t mean I didn’t like any of the shirts, I just don’t need them at this time, I don’t have money for shirts right now.

We look for hustle. How passionate they are. How they deal with failure. I tell kids all the time that it’s not about going 4-for-4 or throwing 90, it’s about skill level. I trust our system and our coaching ability, so it isn’t about results; if I recruited guys that went 4-for-4 every time I saw them, I wouldn’t have a team. It’s about how they take at-bats, how they’re running 90 feet down the line, how they go back to the dugout and get with their teammates when they fail, how they compete on the mound when they’re pitching.

It’s important to talk to high school coaches and guys that are around [our recruits] every day, to see how they are in the classroom, on the field, how they are as a teammate, as a person. Another thing that’s vital is that when kids sit in the office and I’m talking to them about our program, if a kid’s not looking me in the eyes, I have a tough time recruiting him. If he’s having a hard time looking me in the eye when I’m giving him information he should be drooling over, how is he going to respond when we’re out on the field doing tough things?
I want kids that are passionate to come play for this university and this coaching staff, more than the kid that’s passionate about how big his scholarship is and how many chances they’re going to get to play here; those don’t work out as much as the kids that don’t care how much you’re giving him, they just want to go out and show you that he’s worthy of being a part of your program.

Rob Smith, Ohio

You really have to find guys that believe in what you’re trying to do when you’re building a program. When we’re trying to recruit, we put a premium on the kids that will show some investment in us: they’re willing to make that unofficial visit, come to a camp, come watch you play. I think that says a lot if a kid and his family are willing to invest their time, gas money, maybe the hotel room and food cost, to come invest in you and look at your program. Especially when you’re trying to figure out how and where you’re going to spend the recruiting dollars to go out and see a kid play, I think it is good to know that [the player] has also invested time and/or money into the process of learning about your program. It certainly is a very important aspect of how we’re recruiting kids.

Alabama’s Mitch Gaspard

The journey

I grew up like a lot of kids, I obviously loved sports. I was fortunate to play at a big high school in Texas, Port Arthur Thomas Jefferson. Kind of a refinery town, big time football. I grew up playing football and baseball and came through at a really good time when there were a lot of good athletes in school. We won a state championship in my senior year of high school in 1983, and I signed with LSU to pay baseball.

My claim to fame is that I was Skip Bertman’s first recruit. I was so fortunate to see how Skip got in there and resurrected the program. Especially being in the early stages of that and seeing the foundation, my coaching bug started there. It’s amazing how much you reflect to things like that in your life.

When I finished, my first real coaching job was at UL-Lafayette, where my former high school coach was the assistant there. I was fortunate enough to start recruiting, to get on the road at a young age. I really enjoyed that side of it, and probably the best thing that happened to me was after four years there, I hooked up with Jim Wells, who was at Northwestern State. I was with Jim for two years there and came with him to Alabama as an assistant for seven years. We had a really good run together, went to three College World Series, and I felt prepared to become my own guy. I was fortunate enough to come back to Northwestern State as the head coach for six years. After that I actually came back here [to Alabama] for two years as an assistant, and now I’m in my fifth year as the head coach here.

Like anyone who is fortunate enough to be in the position I’m in, there’s a lot of guys that have really laid the foundation for me. Obviously Skip Bertman and Jim Wells are at the top of the list for me, guys that really molded and shaped my philosophy in coaching and how to run a program.

gaspardsabanUtilizing Alabama football as a resource

You have to understand where you’re at, first of all. Alabama is a football school and always will be, and we relish that. We love football like everybody else. When Coach Saban came in, just the way he put together the program has been amazing to watch: the recruiting side of it, the development side of it. And it’s not just football. The way they’ve developed their student-athletes as young men has been really amazing and it’s such a great plan: if you just follow it you’re going to have success, whether it’s in the NFL or out in the real world, whatever you choose to do. They make sure you get your degree and do the right things.

Obviously the University of Alabama speaks for itself; it’s a tremendous academic institution and athletics university as well. A lot of it sells itself, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to bring in recruits on Saturdays, take them to a big time football atmosphere, show them great facilities and resources, and let them know how you’re going to develop them as young men.

We’re very fortunate; we have great support from our administration in all of our athletics. And obviously it helps with football and the brand that they are. They’re going to be on national TV every Saturday, and we try to take full advantage of the resources that they create for all of us. Continue reading

Todd Butler: the Wizard of Wichita

butlerThe player

Todd Butler played at McNeese State (1985-86) and was a team captain for Oklahoma (1987-88). He still holds the OU single-season record for stolen bases, when he swiped 46 of 50 bags in 1988. In that same year, he was named an all-region, All-Big Eight Conference, and third-team All-American player. Later that year, he signed with the Cleveland Indians, playing one season of professional baseball.

“That was a great time, playing for head coach Enos Semore and his assistants Jim Fleming, Stan Meek and Joe Jordan. They all became scouting directors years later, so that was a fantastic staff. I played one year of minor league baseball, and went back to McNeese State to graduate, which is where I’m from.”

The coach

Butler has made several stops in his coaching career, learning and gaining valuable contacts the whole way. His journey began as a student assistant at McNeese State, spending two of his summers in ‘the Last Frontier’ of Alaska:

“I graduated and I started coaching. Right out of the gate, Jim Fleming- the hitting coach at Oklahoma- contacted Bo Hall and I started coaching with the Kenai Peninsula Oilers [in the Alaska Baseball League] the summer after I finished school. I met a lot of people that I’ve relied on with recruiting through my 24 years of coaching. I coached in Kenai in 1991, and for the Anchorage Glacier Pilots in 1992.”

“I also started at Blinn Junior College in 1992, with Kyle Van Hook. We went to Grand Junction and finished third [in the NJCAA World Series; Blinn also won the Texas State Junior College Championship that year]. I think I made $6,000 and lived in the dorms with the players and I was happy as a lark. Then I went to McNeese State the next year for a ‘double bonus’ – I made $12,000. Then I went to Alabama as a restricted-earnings assistant coach and I can definitely say that I paid my dues as a coach.”

In the summer of 1993, Butler managed the Liberal Bee Jays of the Jayhawk Summer Collegiate League before accepting a role as an assistant coach at the University of Alabama in 1994.

“I coached [at Alabama] from 1994-2000 with Jim Wells and I learned a lot on how to READ THE REST

3 up, 3 down- what’s the worst weather you’ve ever played/coached in?

TODD BUTLER, HEAD COACH, WICHITA STATE

HOTTEST- Baylor Super Regional 2012. We were in the first base dugout and when I stepped off the bus it felt like it was 150 degrees. And the Baylor bats were even hotter, we took a kicking that day. That’s one of the hottest days I can recall in the last ten years.

COLDEST- Arkansas got pretty chilly. I can’t remember exactly but you try to move around and stay warm as much as you can!

ADJUSTMENTS- I don’t talk about it, to be honest. Whatever the weather, we need to attack the day we have and not worry or complain about it.

MITCH GASPARD, HEAD COACH, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA

HOTTEST- when I was the head coach at Northwestern State, 2004(?), we played Rice at the LSU Regional and it was probably 100 degrees and the humidity was unreal. There was sweat dripping off your hat. We’ve had some hot ones down in Baton Rouge when the humidity comes off the Mississippi.

COLDEST- Georgia, 1997, SEC opener. Everyone else canceled that day and a cold front came through, it was in the 20s and the wind chill was probably about four degrees. I remember Jim Wells was the only one left in the dugout at the end of the game, all the assistant coaches and players were huddled up around the heater in the locker room.

ADJUSTMENTS- we always talk about being mentally tough. You try to focus and stay with it. The hot days obviously you really want to stay hydrated and do all the things you can do in preparation for the hot days. In cold weather, you have to really prepare for it mentally and try to dress accordingly, try to make it a little more comfortable and do some things to keep you in a positive frame of mind.

ROB SMITH, HEAD COACH, OHIO UNIVERSITY

HOTTEST- Conference tournament, Wichita State, 2008. It was in the 90s and it was pretty hot in late May on that turf!

COLDEST- “The Ice Bowl” in 2007 at Rosenblatt Stadium, Creighton vs. Nebraska. The temperatures were really really low but what made it terrible was the wind, it was just crushing. It had to be in the teens. It was a knock-down, drag-out game- they scored nine on us in the first two innings and we came back and tied the game. When it was all said and done it was a four hour game.

ADJUSTMENTS- when it’s cold it’s more mental adjustments (attitude) and when it’s hot it’s more physical adjustments (keeping guys hydrated, being smart about pregame, etc.)

Butch Thompson interview

butchthompsonCoaching journey…

I’m from Mississippi so it’s been pretty neat being here at Mississippi State. It’s kind of come full-circle, because I’m from Amory, Mississippi. I’ve just been fortunate to be around great people, I know three of the four head coaches I’ve worked for have been national coaches of the year.

The first one was Brian Shoop at Birmingham Southern, who I probably spent ten years with as a player and a coach. He’s now an assistant coach at UAB. He’s probably been the biggest influence on my life- not just with baseball, spiritually as well- he’s been kind of like a dad to me. I think he’s one of our best coaches in the country. He prepared me, and when we won the 2001 NAIA National Championship, I had the opportunity to go to Georgia with David Perno, and that was all because of Coach Shoop and Daron Schoenrock, who was my pitching coach in college.

I was at Georgia through 2005 and had a chance to go be with Tom Slater at Auburn from 2006-8 before coming to Mississippi State with John Cohen.

You can trace everything back to one degree of separation: John Cohen played at Mississippi State and Brian Shoop was an assistant at that point under Ron Polk. John and I had never worked together until I got here, and I’m just thankful he gave me the opportunity to come back home.

Every “break” that I’ve caught is from being around really good people, because of relationships and people being good to me. In business or any other profession, it’s about being around people that are better than me. Les Brown is a great motivational speaker, and he said “if I’m the smartest man in the group, I need to get a new group,” and I’ve never been the smartest in my group!

Pitching philosophy… Continue reading

From the Bleachers, Spring 2012

“INSIDE PITCH is an outstanding new magazine developed by Keith Madison, the former baseball coach at Kentucky, who had an ABCA Hall of Fame coaching career and who is an even better person. This unique publication covers a number of different angles in every edition with a variety of interviews, video and mechanical breakdown instructions, rules discussions and other cutting edge ideas and articles from high caliber people.

The high expectations for a Keith Madison publication or production may have been exceeded already and my only disappointment is that he has a quarterly magazine that has not yet progressed on to monthly or bi-monthly. It is a GREAT resource for all levels of baseball players, coaches or families.”

– Joe Roberts, Armstrong Atlantic State University; 2010 ABCA President

“Received my first Inside Pitch. Loved it! The ‘Larry Doby story’ was great.”

– John Borie, Louisville, Ky.

“I’ve followed the game for over 65 years and I’m sure Inside Pitch will make you a better coach, teacher of the game, player and fan; and, unlike most other sports publications – a better person.  A great magazine.”

– Rex L. Bailey, Retired (Weak arm, bat and glove, but love the game), Lexington, Ky.

“As a former player for Coach Madison, I am grateful to have played for someone who taught and led by example on how to play baseball the right way and used the game of baseball to teach valuable life lessons. I’m so excited that Coach and his staff are now sharing this type of knowledge and perspective with others. Inside Pitch is a resource for anyone that loves the game of baseball and wants to continue to learn to play ball at the highest level, as well as be encouraged by the many positive examples of baseball coaches and players that teach and play this great game.”

– Manny Cervantes, Assistant Coach, Oklahoma Christian University

“What has been missing has now been provided in this great new magazine for the baseball fan and advocate. Articles undertaking intricate aspects of baseball and affiliated issues of the game authored by authentic experts; witnesses of living the faith filled quality whole lives; perspectives by worthy leaders and entertaining captivating stories are all present. No sports fan should ever miss an issue. Thank you for providing such a fresh new approach through “Inside Pitch.”

– Carroll Land, Former Head Coach, Point Loma Nazarene University, Former President of the ABCA, NAIA Hall of Fame, ABCA Hall of Fame

“What a great concept Keith Madison has put together with Inside Pitch…I have been coaching for 26 years- 21 at the Division I level- and I feel that this magazine is exactly what college baseball has needed over the years.  It gives a fresh perspective of what goes on behind the scenes in college baseball, but at the same time covers our national pastime from different angles.  For me personally, I really enjoy the interviews given by my colleagues, and getting a chance to learn from them…”

– Tim Montez, Associate Head Coach, Jacksonville University

“I finally found a place where real baseball people are breaking down the game…great interviews, very informative analysis, interesting stories…a must read for any baseball junkie.

-Tim O’Neil, Scout, Minnesota Twins

“Inside Pitch is exactly what the baseball world has been waiting for. The information contained in Inside Pitch is informative and thorough. There is something for everyone who is a player, coach, or fan of the greatest game ever invented. Beyond baseball, Inside Pitch includes features that emphasize character and volunteerism, which I find to be particularly encouraging.”

– Rusty Stroupe, Head Coach, Gardner-Webb University

“Inside Pitch is a welcome addition to the baseball community!  I look forward to reading it each month.  The combination of personal interest stories, performance enhancing tips, and focus on all levels of baseball make it a must read.  Two copies of every issue go in our locker room and our players love it.  Keep up the great work.”

– Jan Weisberg, Head Baseball Coach, Birmingham-Southern College

“Inside Pitch is a great baseball magazine. The detailed information included is a must for any coach at any level. This magazine is first class, and I’m already looking forward to the next issue!”

– Justin Cunningham, Central Christian College Head Coach

“Inside Pitch gives a unique perspective inside the careers of players and coaches at all levels. The magazine is an encouraging and uplifting look inside the game! It’s a true blessing to the game of baseball.”

– Andy Phillips, University of Alabama Assistant Coach, former MLB player

“The quality and content of this magazine is impressive. Good, crisp, well-written articles that relate to those who care about more than just the x’s and o’s of the sports. Looking forward to the next edition!”

– Tom Roy, former professional player and college coach, President of UPI

“Inside Pitch is one of the best magazines for covering college baseball that I’ve read. I get excited every time my new copy comes in the mail. It’s a must-read for everyone that follows college baseball.”

– Greg Goff, Campbell University head coach

“I’m always trying to expand my knowledge base, and was delighted to be introduced to Inside Pitch magazine. I was instantly impressed and captivated with the depth of the articles.  Each article/interview had information that I will be able to use within my own program.  Simply put, Inside Pitch is a great resource for baseball coaches at any level.  I look forward to future editions and learning more about the game I am passionate about, baseball!”

– Gary Adcock, California Baptist University head coach, NCCAA champions

Inside Pitch is absolutely the best “baseball guys (and gals)” magazine I have ever looked at. It will help people of all ages increase their knowledge of the game and is extremely worthwhile to look into.”

-Larry Redwine

“With all of its recent technological advances, I was really looking for a way to ‘stay ahead of the curve’- no pun intended- with what is going on in baseball today. Inside Pitch does a great job of informing its readers of the innovations that our game is undergoing. I love it!”

-Drew Robinson

“The only thin i reed most of the time is my stats. But i reed the furst ishue and i can no put it down. Es the smartest thing i ever reed. Definitlee no semi pro!”

-Domingo Ayala (domingobeisbol.com)

 “I just downloaded the app in the iTunes store and it is UNBELIEVABLE! I spent all day going through the content, links, and other features of the first issue of Inside Pitch. I can’t wait until the next issue comes out!

-Matt Reynolds

I just finished reading my first copy of Inside Pitch.  What a great magazine.  It reminded me that everything Keith Madison touches turns to gold.  I had the pleasure of coaching with Keith for only one season at Kentucky but I learned a great deal and that time helped turn me into the coach that I am now.  He is a great leader and has so much influence in the coaching profession.  I have no doubt the magazine will be a huge success.

-Scott Malone, Head Coach at Texas A&M University Corpus Christi

I want to let you know how impressed I am with the magazine! It was a pleasure to read and also conveyed just the right message. Thank you for helping us not only become better coaches but more importantly, better people. It is an honor to serve the ABCA alongside such men of quality.

-John Casey, Heads Coach at Tufts University

“I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Coach Madison over the past two years on baseball/mission trips with SCORE international. When I heard that he was starting a magazine, I was pumped. From the people he knows in baseball and the things he stands for, there’s no question that Inside Pitch will be a huge success. I think that it’s going to instantly become one of the best resources for all levels of baseball players, coaches, and families everywhere. I can’t wait to read it!”

-Andy Pettitte, New York Yankees

“I could not be more excited about Inside Pitch. As a former swimmer and tennis player, I had no idea about how much went into being a baseball parent until my son starting playing. Different kinds of gloves, rules about bats, recruiting regulations, what terms like ‘showcase’ and ‘travel ball’ meant- it’s been a challenge to learn just what I need to know to give my son the best opportunities.

With Inside Pitch, parents now have a place to go for all of this information. I’m looking forward to this magazine being a fantastic source for up-and-coming players and parents!”

-Anonymous

“I’m excited and thrilled that Keith Madison and his staff are publishing a new, fresh and relevant magazine for college, high school and travel coaches. Inside Pitch will not only be an asset for coaches at all levels, it will be a great resource for baseball players and their parents. This informative magazine will provide coaches, players and parents with “cutting edge” articles and coaching tips.  There is no other publication in the marketplace that shares the knowledge and insight that Inside Pitch provides. I only wish that this magazine could be weekly instead of quarterly!”  

-Ron Polk, ABCA Hall of Famer

“Keith Madison and I have been friends for over 30 years.  His is an outstanding coach and even a better person.  He is a college baseball Hall of Famer who left a very successful coaching career to join SCORE International, and now devotes his time and life to spreading the Word to thousands of young people.  With the new publication, Inside Pitch, thousands more will now be reached. We are excited about Coach Madison’s work, the new magazine and the great things that will continue to happen though SCORE International.”

– Dave Keilitz, Executive Director, ABCA