Prep players constantly wonder what it would be like to play college baseball, conjuring up ways that they might be able to show off their skills in from of their favorite program's coaching staff. Without question, the best way to realize these goals is to attend baseball camps, which continue to grow in popularity right along with the college game as a whole.
A testimonial written by one of our readers, who is the father of a current Division I, player and another prospective student-athlete:
My sons attended four camps on college campuses last year and received a significant amount of individual attention, much more than I expected. The camps played a huge role in [my older son's] recruitment. Coaches told him that he could definitely play Division I baseball, which was huge for him to hear from someone other than dad. Those words had a significant impact on his focus and motivation, and really were the beginning point of his recruitment.
There are a number of benefits to camps. First, you cannot beat the exposure. You play tournaments all summer and coaches only get to see you in action for a few at-bats or plays. They may not even be from the schools that most interest you. At the college camps my sons attended, they spent six hours or more in front of the entire coaching staffs of schools that they were interested in attending.
Another substantial benefit for my sons was getting a better feel at what level they could play in college. Between the feedback from the coaches, the outstanding instruction and the comparison to other players at the camps, this feedback was extremely helpful.
Without a doubt, the camps are fairly priced; especially when compared to the cost of travel teams and individual lessons.
Perennial power Florida State is well known for the quality and reputation of their camps. The man behind the scenes is FSU's Director of Baseball Operations Chip Baker, who is in his 29th season on the Seminoles staff.
"A coach may see a guy at a showcase hit one time," said Baker, who has more than a decade of experience in his current position after serving as a Seminole assistant for 18 years. "But at camp, you get to see him- how he interacts with players off the field, what he does after he makes an out. You just get a better look at a player."
Baker remembers some of the game's biggest stars attending past FSU camps. "Chipper Jones? Alex Rodriguez? Oh my gosh. Then a few years later, J.D. Drew is hitting balls into the trees in right field and we were trying to hide him."
"Some people will find this hard to believe in today's world of recruiting, but we average signing 2 to 3 guys from our camps on a yearly basis," said Seminoles head coach Mike Martin. In all, more than 120 FSU campers have gone on to wear the Garnet and Gold.
"Camp is your front porch to your school," added Baker. "Our coaches work with players and they get a chance to expose their skills with us. We teach why, not 'just hold a bat and swing it.' We're not trying to say 'do it our way,' we say 'this is what we do, and this is why."
"The biggest thing is for kids to learn to play the next grade, the next level up. A player may not be better the day he leaves, but what he was exposed to he can take home and that's a great selling point for our camps here. That's the thrill of it, seeing kids get better and wanting to learn."