!!! CALLING ALL PITCHERS !!!
No matter what NCAA Division you hope to compete in, college baseball is on another level from the high school and travel baseball you have been playing. One of the best ways to get a spot on a college roster is to attend a baseball showcase or college tryout. As a pitcher, this means you will need to throw harder, maintain your composure and hit your spots in front of college coaches if you hope to end up on their roster.
The most important things you can do to prepare for showcases and tryouts as a pitcher is to:
- Know what to expect – how the showcase will work and what coaches are looking for
- Know yourself – have an idea of your velocity, mechanics, and pitches you feel comfortable with
- Train to improve your weak spots!
Know What to Expect
What is a Baseball Showcase?
Showcases are baseball camps usually put on by third-party organizations that provide a place for high school athletes to individually showcase their talent in front of college coaches. Usually, baseball showcases consist of some kind of workout, followed by a scrimmage. Pitchers will be able to showcase their talents mainly during the scrimmage portion of the showcase. Depending on the showcase, some will offer other services like hitting and pitching clinics, sports psychology or mental preparation, stretching and warm-up techniques, and body assessments.
What is a College Tryout Camp?
Often times colleges will off a one or two-day camp for high school or junior college athletes to show up and play in front of their coaches and scouts. This is a great way to get individual exposure in front of a team that you may be very interested in playing for. The one downside to these camps is that teams are usually only looking for a couple of spots at specific positions, so it may not be the best use of your time if your position is not what the coaches are looking for. Luckily, for us pitchers, teams are usually always on the lookout for a great arm!
Showcases/Tryouts as a Pitcher
As a pitcher, college tryout camps and showcases are quite different from position players. A college showcase usually has a workout portion at the beginning and pitchers will usually take part in the 60-yard dash and the batting practice preceding the scrimmage. You might think it is odd that you as a pitcher would have to take part in batting practice, yet as a pitcher, if you can show that you can hold your own hitting, coaches will take notice of that. If you would like more information on the general outline of a showcase, please check out my other blog post where I go into depth more on the showcase as a whole: https://www.baseballislife.com/how-to-prepare-for-a-baseball-showcase-a-champions-guide/
Depending on the college tryout camp, the outline of the day might look somewhat different, however, from my experience at multiple showcases and tryout camps, the backbone remains the same.
As a pitcher, the bulk of your exposure pitching will be during the scrimmage portion of the showcase or tryout. During a showcase, there are likely to be more athletes in attendance, as showcases tend to attract a large number of ballplayers due to the fact that there are usually so many schools at each showcase. Unfortunately, because of this, you will get less time on the mound. Expect a maximum of 3 innings, but know that it might be as few as 1 inning, so when you get on the mound, show what you are made of! Tryout camps may allow you an inning or two more just because there tend to be fewer athletes in attendance, yet again, don’t expect to have an inning or two on the mound to warm up.
… From the Coach’s Seat
College teams usually have a staff of coaches and there will likely be one or two pitching coaches who have their eyes glued to the mound all afternoon. They will have a radar gun and will be clocking each pitch to try and get a good idea of your velocity on fastballs, as well as your ability to change velocity on off-speed pitches.
Coaches will be grading your pitches on a scouting scale, typically between 20-80, for each of your pitches, as well as writing down notes about your mechanics, delivery, and composure on the mound.
It is known among collegiate coaches that pitchers tend to show the greatest deviance in velocity during the tryout and later on, as pitchers are known for throwing as hard as possible during tryouts in front of college coaches. Although having a high velocity will initially get a coach’s attention, coaches are also looking at projectability. Will you be a guy that they can coach? Are you someone who already has solid mechanics and great off-speed pitches but just needs to get stronger to increase velocity?
The bottom line is that coaches want to see a pitcher who can pitch with decent velocity, who is accurate, and who most importantly has sound mechanics.
Know Where You’re At
It is important to know where you land in terms of your own skillset. A couple of months prior to your showcase or tryout camp, have one of your coaches record your velocity during a bullpen. If they are able to record your pitches while you pitch a couple of innings during a live game, that is even better. Have them record pitch velocity and pitch type for each pitch, and review your outing after the game with them. This is an important benchmark to know where you sit on the velocity for each of your pitches.
On top of velocity, pitch type is also a huge aspect of what coaches will be looking for. Typically coaches are looking for 3 solid pitches that can be located in the strike zone consistently.
The first is the fastball. The most basic pitch in all of baseball. Or is it? Recently, pitchers at all levels of baseball have become increasingly effective with having fastballs with movement. 2-seam fastballs and cutters are great pitches that can have nasty movement in addition to great velocity. This is a huge asset for a pitcher, so if you have one, make sure the college coaches know!
The second is a change-up. How much velocity difference is between your best fastball and your best change-up? Typically, a good change-up will be 8-15 MPH slower than the fastball, so aim for that!
The last is a good breaking ball. A pitch that you can throw with great command as a strikeout pitch or brushback pitch. One that you can throw that starts in the strike zone before dropping out of it. Curveball, slider, screwball, or any other variation of a pitch that has good movement is a great tool as a pitcher and a necessity to move to the next level.
If you are interested in learning more about specifically where your skillset projects you in terms of which NCAA Division, here is a great resource by Go Big Recruiting that lays out specifics for each division:
Like I mentioned above, coaches will be looking a lot at your mechanics. Entire books have been written about the optimal pitching mechanics, but here are a few things that coaches will be looking at:
- Lower-body use and power: Coaches want to see that you are drawing the majority of your velocity from your legs and core. A pitcher with a short, upright stride with a lot of upper body compensation is a red flag for recruiters, as these pitchers are usually at a higher risk for injury and typically have less stamina on the mound.
- Follow-through: Are you ending your pitching motion with your throwing hand at your opposite knee? Good pitchers will complete their throwing motion with a full follow-through.
- Time-to-the-plate/Holding runners on: Although this is less about your actual pitching mechanics, it is important as a pitcher that you prevent runners from advancing. If you don’t usually pitch from the stretch position, coaches want to see that you know when to stop pitching from the windup and how good your pick off move is!
Train to Improve Weak Spots
If you check out the page above by Go Big Recruiting and realize that you maybe aren’t where you want to be in terms of velocity or strikeouts or whatever it may be, it’s important to train to make that part of your pitching game better. After all, you are only as good as your weakest link!
As a pitcher, you should be throwing every single day leading up to a big event like a college tryout camp or a showcase, because you want to make sure that your arm is as strong as it can be. Throw a full bullpen twice a week. Throw long toss a couple of times per week. Weight train your lower body and core to get your velocity up. And most importantly, take good care of your arm. Studies show that athletes tend to be much more in tune with pain and discomfort in their body than non-athletes, so make sure that you are listening to your body, most importantly your arm, and give yourself breaks if you feel like you need it.
I am a pitcher but I also play outfield when I am not pitching, should I go with the pitchers or the outfielders at the showcase?
The short answer is that it is up to you. I would recommend going to whichever position you want to focus on going forward. However, as a rule of thumb, teams are usually looking for more pitchers than any other position, so joining the pitchers isn’t a bad idea.
When should I go to a showcase or camp?
During the summer before your senior year of high school is the prime recruiting season, however, going as early as your Sophmore year of high school, puts your name out there as someone to look for in the future when your time comes closer to graduation.
If you have not checked out my blog titled “How to Prepare for a Baseball Showcase: A Champions Guide” please go give it a read as it gives a lot of insight into the whole thing.