Red Seam Planet is a website run by a group of former professional and collegiate baseball-players-turned-coaches who aim to help educate players on the college recruiting process and become students of the game. RSP’s mission is to integrate fundamental absolutes, educate that mechanics are not one-size-fits-all, and embrace the fact that every player is different, and that good coaches adapt in any way necessary to help them succeed. Kevin Zak, the site’s founder, is currently undertaking a “Recruiting Q&A with College Coaches” project and has reached out to hundreds of college baseball programs across all NCAA divisions with a simple Q&A on their recruiting process and recommendations for prospective players.
Inside Pitch: What’s your background in baseball?
Kevin Zak: In high school I received some lukewarm interest from DI to DIII schools. I wasn’t a standout prospect, which led to figuring out how to market myself and target schools I was interested in. I ultimately signed with Grand Valley State University, an NCAA DII school in Michigan. After a redshirt year I went on to start four years there and was fortunate to have a very fulfilling career at GVSU, highlighted by a third-place finish at the NCAA DII College World Series and All-American honors. I also played in the Northwoods League for two summers and was proud to represent a DII school in a league that had some of the best college athletes in the country.
After GVSU, I signed with the Lake Erie Crushers in the Frontier League. I played one season there before it was time to hang it up. I’m now an assistant varsity high school coach and a hitting and infield instructor.
IP: What was your vision and the process of building Red Seam Planet?
KZ: The idea for Red Seam Planet came from my experience as a high school player going through the recruiting process and the takeaways from my college career. I saw firsthand the benefits of finding a school that was the right fit, and that experience and opportunities were not limited by which division a school is in. I’ve also seen that players I’m currently coaching have many of the same questions that I had as a player.
My goal with Red Seam Planet is to build a resource for high school athletes and families to learn more about the recruiting process, how to approach it, and possibly offer some perspective that they haven’t considered. Unless a player is a top prospect, the recruiting process can be confusing. I also try to emphasize the importance of marketing yourself and how to properly do that. And with the recruiting survey, we’re trying to provide some insight directly from college coaches and recruiting coordinators to give players a clearer idea of where to start.
IP: What are the survey questions and how did you develop them?
KZ: The survey questions are meant to be simple, concise, and geared toward players that are in the process of contacting schools they are interested in and trying to market themselves as a prospect. I wanted to leave some of the questions slightly open-ended, and many coaches have graciously provided some really great advice and left some detailed responses. So, I really do want to share my appreciation for each coach taking time out of their day to answer these questions:
- What are your typical scouting methods?
- How do you recommend players contact you?
- If a player contacts you, what are you most interested in?
- Any general advice for players that want to play college baseball?
- Any other comments about your program you’d like to share?
After receiving a coach’s answers, I do a write-up on their program and school to provide a brief overview along with the results of the survey. In these articles, players can find links to learn more about the school, program, and fill out the questionnaires. There is also usually information about any upcoming prospect camps or events the program is hosting. All of these articles are available on redseamplanet.com.
IP: What have the results been so far?
We’ve received responses from dozens of schools across all divisions. Responses have come from nationally recognized NCAA DI schools in major conferences all the way to small private schools that compete at the DIII level. The most fascinating result of the study so far is the consistency in advice that coaches have provided, no matter which level they are coaching at.
Most coaches do the bulk of their recruiting during the summer and through showcases/camps, as expected. Many coaches mentioned that while they do like to see video, they prefer to see prospects in person and in games. A few of the one-off responses have been referrals, transfer portal, and Twitter, but most specified they use these methods simply as a first step to determine initial interest in a player.
Almost every single coach led with e-mail as their preferred contact method. The next most popular response was Twitter DMs, and a few mentioned that phone calls are okay. The popularity of Twitter as a recruiting tool has grown, and there are several forms of communication now. But it’s notable to mention that this is where many high school players seem to get stuck; they don’t know how to appropriately introduce themselves to a college coach; from the results, however, it appears email is a sure bet and always appropriate.
In terms of these introductions, coaches like to see video, schedules, grades, and coaches’ contact info. Most were not as interested in stats or accolades. I think the takeaway here is that coaches want to quickly gauge the player's athleticism and fundamentals (video) and make sure the player is a fit academically (grades/transcript). If at that point they are interested, they can easily take the next step which would be watching the player play in person (schedule) and due diligence involved with finding out more about character, work ethic, etc. (coach’s contact info).
Coaches have provided some really great answers here, and if there is one common theme, it’s finding the right fit. So many coaches preached the importance of finding the right fit academically, athletically, and socially. There was an emphasis on considering all levels, and not focusing on just playing DI. There was also a huge focus on grades.
Lastly, I wanted to give coaches the opportunity to address any additional thoughts on the process or their programs, whichever they preferred. Some plugged their upcoming prospect camps—it’s no secret that many programs and volunteer coaches rely heavily on fundraising through camps and similar events. But many coaches took the time to offer even more advice to prospective players, which I believe speaks to their character and integrity. Many shared advice on finding the right fit, the type of players they’re looking for, not just athletically but personally, and stressed the importance of building a team where everyone is playing for something bigger than themselves.
IP: This is undoubtedly a great resource for players, but what can coaches take away from your work?
Encourage players to be proactive, do their research, and target specific schools of interest. There seems to be a lot of debate out there for what a high school coach’s role in the recruiting process should be, but my thought is the player needs to take ownership. Of course, a coach can help guide a player and talk through things with them, but the player should be the ones doing the initial outreach and research.
Coaches can help players by opening up the discussion on the aforementioned topics. Many players have a hard time imagining what the college experience will look like at different schools at different levels, and coaches may be able to provide some insight on this.
Another thing I’ve gathered is the importance of self-evaluation and being realistic when it comes to the recruiting process. Players should take ownership of this, but it is also an area a coach can step in to provide some guidance and feedback. Players aren’t always able to tell where they may fit in at the college level. Here’s hoping some of these results can help with that! IP
For more information, visit redseamplanet.com.
For coaches: to request a survey/program spotlight opportunity, complete the form at redseamplanet.com/contact.