Difference between High School and College Baseball
There is a big difference between having the talent to play college baseball and having the mindset to be successful at the next level. College baseball is a completely different animal than high school baseball. The sooner the athlete realizes that, the less of a surprise that will be if they wish to continue their playing career past high school. College baseball brings forth many new challenges. A prospective athlete not aware of (or ignorant to) this could unknowingly ruin their college experience. Here are a few of the biggest differences between high school and college baseball:
During the week, the average high school baseball player will wake up and go to school at 8am, then have practice after school for two to three hours or a game if you are in-season. On the weekend, they will probably have a practice on Saturday and then have the rest of the weekend to relax. In the off-season, most players will work at their own discretion to get better, whether that be with a separate program or your high school team. This is generally optional.
College baseball is an entirely different commitment. You are expected to be at the field at least six out of the seven days a week year-round, in-season and out-of-season. An average week for a college baseball player consists of three to four mandatory lifts, which can start as early as 6am. After finishing classes for the day, practice will usually go for at least 4 hours focusing on every aspect of baseball. Catchers, infielders, outfielders and pitchers will all work separately before all coming together to work on team defense and then some form of batting practice or intersquad. All of this is ON TOP of work you are expected to do outside of practice, such as cage work or other defensive reps. After those hours at the field, you need to complete your studies and coordinate anything you need to be successful in the classroom. This includes communicating missed classes due to games/travel with your professor, attending study hall and completing all of your work for the next day. Then you get up and start this cycle again the next morning.
The competition goes beyond playing against other teams. A collegiate baseball player must compete within his own team for that one starting spot. At the high school level, it is easier to find playing time if you are talented, so there is no tough battle to get at-bats or innings if you put in a little work. However, at the collegiate level, everybody was one of those talented players from their high school.
The playing field is as balanced as possible, and the reality is the starting role can be won or lost in a single day. You need to have that drive to compete against your teammates all day every day, in intersquads, practice, lifts, extra work, and everything else. Each day, you need to ask yourself “did I beat my teammate today” and then think “how many more times do I need to beat him before I can solidify that starting spot.” If you did not win that day, you need even more conviction to go out tomorrow and win. And if you aren’t the one playing on game day, you shouldn’t ask yourself “Why isn’t that me?” Instead, you’ll need to use it to motivate you even more to take that spot. The hard reality is that your opponent probably outworked you and you need to work harder. A great example of a college athlete who worked through this adversity would be Mac Jones, the quarterback for Alabama, who went from third-string to a Heisman finalist.
Culture of the program
This aspect is the biggest difference between high school and college baseball. In high school, leadership comes mainly from the coaches with the help of some accomplished upperclassmen who try to lead the way for younger players. The coach will preach the culture of the program, but the reality is that a culture does not come to fruition unless every single player buys into it. Sadly, there will always be high school players who find the culture as something that’s “extra” and not necessary.
In college, how the culture is laid out and how much you buy could single handedly enhance or ruin your career. While the culture is set by the coaches, it is reinforced by the players. As a member of a program, you are in charge of holding yourself and everybody else accountable to continue to move in the right direction. My college coach would always say “culture is the boss when the boss ain’t there,” meaning it was not his job to reinforce the culture, it was ours all the time. There is no option to ignore the culture and just think your talent will make you successful. By committing yourself to a program, you are committing yourself to the culture and all the players that live that culture. And if you let the culture down, you let yourself and all of your teammates down.
Who will come out successful?
College baseball is full of challenges, but there is always a path to success. Everybody on the roster wants to be the guy, wants to get the playing time or pitch in high leverage scenarios. If you complete every day, hold yourself accountable to the standards of the team and take pride in the work you put in, you can set yourself up for success. None of these keys to success take talent…it is merely your effort, which you can control. So the question is, do you want to put in that work?
Here’s a link where you can read more of his writing.
Noah coaches a travel team for us.
His passion for the game of baseball is unmatched!