The College World Series came to a conclusion after UCLA was able to sweep Mississippi State for its first ever baseball national championship. Despite having over 100 national titles across all its sports, the UCLA baseball team will still have less than one percent of the school’s total titles. That is an amazing number to fathom with the level of baseball in California and the quality players they have produced over the years.
The Bruins may not be the most well known team in California, but that could be due to the other successful baseball programs in the state are more of a one sport school. Cal State Fullerton is a traditional baseball powerhouse and has produced winning teams for decades. You would be hard pressed to find a high school baseball player who wouldn’t be excited about getting a recruiting letter from the Titans.
They may not be the best every year, but that is college sports in general. One year your team wins it all, and the next they are struggling to make it over .500. Long Beach State is another California baseball program that is well known for its baseball team. One of the best left sides of the infield consisted of Evan Longoria and Troy Tulowitzki, who were LBS teammates in the early 2000’s.
College baseball may be one of the hardest sports to recruit for as coaches have hundreds of other programs to compete with on top of the best players usually being selected in the Major League Draft each year. Most top 30 baseball programs are bound to lose a few signees to the draft, depending on the pick and round the player is selected in and the amount of money offered by the team. UCLA had 8 high school commits drafted this year alone.
A school can merely offer a scholarship – full rides are not common as baseball is only allotted a certain number of scholarships depending on the school and level it competes at. A coach cannot offer 25 full rides to the best 25 players every year. Nor can he offer anything above what is covered by a scholarship, which can include room, board, books, and a meal plan. A college coach can make guarantees about playing time, scheduled opponents, and other factors not directly tied to the player as an individual.
A Major League team can offer anything and everything. Before the recently restructured slotting system for draft picks and allotted money, teams could offer their draft picks an infinite amount of money. They still can technically, but would be subject to penalties from the league. After Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper signed ridiculous lucrative contracts, one as a college pitcher and one as a high school player, the league thankfully responded by introducing the cap limit on signees based on round and pick number.
College World Series not a factor in recruiting
College coaches may only have to replace a few players lost to the draft, but having to wait and see which players are going to sign or report to school in the fall can put a hinder on the rest of the recruiting trail. Although every recruit’s needs are different, many top players commit early. With early commits unavailable, another poplar option is picking out players from junior college programs.
JUCO players can be very good or very bad; the ones that are great typically went to a junior college to be draft eligible each year after high school (4-year schools’ players are not draft eligible until after the 3rd year). Many do get drafted, and many are good enough to play for 4-year schools after they complete their junior college career. There are JUCO showcases specifically for those players wanting to continue their careers for a few more years. These provide a great opportunity for college coaches to look at the players who can come in and have the experience needed to compete right away.
Baseball rosters for college programs change from year to year and semester to semester. They could even change week to week and game to game based if the school has a junior varsity team or expanded roster. The great thing about recruiting for college baseball is that there is never a shortage of players available. There are always players out there who want to put on the spikes and play college baseball. Whether or not these players have the ability to play at the college level is at the discretion of the coach, especially if a player is going to be on a scholarship.
There are strict rules about the increase and decrease in monetary value of a scholarship. For the most part, a school cannot retract or reduce a player’s scholarship unless there is justification to do so based on the conduct of the player. Performance on the field does not count as conduct. A scholarship is a binding agreement and cannot be voided by either the athlete or coach without the other’s consent.
UCLA has one other advantage that many other schools and baseball programs cannot offer – the school is in Los Angeles! It is in a media heavy city, close to the beach, and offers a highly desirable trait for student-athletes with its location. After winning its first CWS title, the recruits will be sure to flock to be a part of the Bruins tradition, as UCLA can also boast having top picks Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer pitching in the Majors. Although they will usually always have a strong recruiting class, this could be the start of a major swing for them the way that Alabama has done in football and Kentucky has done in basketball the last few years. The Bruins may win a few more titles soon enough, but they’ll always remember their first.