Time to put some “show” in the “case.” Showcases are indeed important when it comes to college baseball recruiting process. Whether it’s college camp showcases, travel team sponsored-showcases, or showcases run and operated by third-party tournament/showcase organizations (i.e. PerfectGame, ProspectWire, Prospect Select, Prep Baseball Report, etc.), these events will need to be a part of your player’s college recruiting blueprint.
Note that I wrote, “a part.” These events are not the end-all for recruiting but I can honestly say that these events helped to put my son on the radar screens of many college coaches who then continued to watch his progress over his next couple tournament seasons. That’s all you can ask for. However, a few of his friends received verbal offers within days after the showcase from schools who attended. But for the showcase, those offers would not have happened.
However, there were several showcases where my son didn’t “stand-out” very well. Overall he did fine, but the name of the game at showcases is to stand-out. If your player doesn’t have a tool or two that really stands out from others in his graduating class, then the timing might not be right for him to really leverage these events.
Sure, he can still participate in particular showcases to gain experience, but he should probably wait to attend some of the more important showcases until he is better able to differentiate himself from others. The last thing that you want is for all these top-level college coaches who attend these top showcases to start forming an impression of him that isn’t favorable. He’ll have to overcome those first impressions down the road which is more difficult than having waited to make a more positive first impression when the timing was better.
Plus, if he’s injured and not able to go full-speed, do not go to a showcase. Stay home, save your money, and have him get healthy.
That being said, you really have to be realistic about his skillset. You’ll need to know his baseline in various skills that will be tested at a showcase and do your homework as to where he would stack-up to others at this event. Most showcase events have some historical data available so that you can see how the top players at previous events performed in the 60-yard dash, exit velocities for hitting, POP times for catchers, as well as throwing velocities from either the infield, outfield, or pitcher’s mound.
Many showcases, however, won’t have this data. Particularly college camp showcases. But you’ll just need to understand how he stacks-up to others in his graduating class and possibly even the class graduating one year before him.
Then it turns to preparation. Don’t expect to see much change in his baseline data within three months time unless he has an incredible growth spurt. However, six months of training can be a much different story. In six months, your player can really move the dial with hard work. However, if your player is within striking range of some top results relative to others, then three-months preparation might be all that it takes. I’ll assume a three-months preparation time for his next upcoming showcase and break down how best for him to prepare.
You want him hovering around his personal best results when asked to perform on demand. If he is inconsistent (i.e. runs the 60-yard dash in 6.8 seconds one day and then 7.2 seconds the next) then he still has more preparation to do. If his personal best is 6.8 seconds then you want to know that he’ll be able to run a 6.8 at the showcase. In other words, you want him to run lots of 6.8-second 60-yard dashes prior to the showcase. That will maximize his chances of posting a 6.8-second result or better.
At T-minus 90 days, you need to take a baseline of his skills. At a typical showcase he will be asked to run a 60-yard dash, field and throw from either the infield or outfield to measure his throwing velocity, and to hit several rounds of BP to measure his exit velocity. Some showcases will have him hit off a tee to measure his exit velocity. Some won’t measure it at all, opting to just use their eyes and ears. If he’s a catcher, you’ll measure his POP time and if he pitches, then you’ll measure his velocity off the mound.
Thankfully, these are easy things to measure. Take him to the ball field and have him stretch and jog. You mark the field with a measuring tape and when he’s nice and loose, use a stopwatch and time him in the 60-yard dash. Start the clock on his first movement.
Next, have him warm up his arm and throw. Have someone hit fungo to him at short and have him throw to first. Stand behind first with a Pocket Radar and measure his velocity across the diamond a handful of times. If you don’t have a Pocket Radar, do yourself a favor and buy one. You will use it time after time. Being able to measure his incremental gains is tremendously motivating for him. Don’t be so worried where the ball goes. Just have him throw his hardest. Average his two best. If he’s an outfielder, hit fungo to him in right field and measure his velocity to home plate a handful of times. Again, average his two best.
In terms of hitting, have someone throw BP to him and from behind an L-screen (probably best to set up where the catcher would normally be) measure his exit velocity off the bat.
If he catches, then take his POP time to second with a stopwatch and if he pitches, have him measure his fastball velocity off the mound. It is important that you have him throw enough pitches to measure where he sits and where he tops. If he hits 86 MPH once but throws 82-83 MPH the rest of the time, then you know he sits 82-83 but has the potential to top 86. It’s good to know what he tops but coaches are going to be very interested in where he sits.
Between 60-90 days From Showcase
You’re going to want him to mostly focus on strength and conditioning, as well as arm strength. Not to the exclusion of batting or fielding, but you’re just not going to focus on these tools as much.
Strength and Conditioning with Speed Training
If you have a strength and conditioning coach for your player, then ramp it up. If you are looking to hire one to help him prepare, then read this post for some tips on how to hire the best trainer for your player.
If you’re going to go at it alone, then come up with a 60-day plan that involves lots of legs, core, and agility exercises for workouts 3x a week. For speed training, you’ll need to break down his 60-yard run into three phases: the start, transition, and next gear. Focus on him getting explosive starts by measuring his time from start to 10-yards. Do something like 3 sets of 5 starts 3x a week. Then have him do interval training from foul pole to foul pole by breaking up the distance into 1/3’s. Have him start jogging from one foul pole towards the other and have him focus on his arm pump (ear to ear) and stride. Once he gets 1/3 of the way, he starts sprinting using the same technique until he gets 2/3 of the way, then he dials it back into a jog while still focusing on using good technique. Have him do 10-15 of these 3x a week. This will help him with transition speed and conditioning.
Have him run an actual timed 60-yard dash at seven-day intervals. Make sure he is fresh and well stretched prior to any sprinting. No room for injury. You may not see much improvement in the first 30-days but if he can turn his personal best into a routine run, then he will no doubt be lowering his personal best in no time.
Arm Strengthening Exercises
This is all about small-fiber exercises. Three days a week, when he isn’t leg, core, speed training, use armbands to do a small-fiber exercise routine to work his shoulders, back, and arms. Use super-light dumbbells (1-2lbs) and a weighted ball (not for throwing but for other exercises) to continue working his small-fiber muscles. You can even incorporate a yoga ball with his super-light dumbbells to add a core element to his work. Mix in a long-toss routine at least a couple times a week while still warm after working his small-fiber muscles.
Batting and Fielding
Make sure he takes at least two BP rounds per week and at least two fielding sessions per week. It probably makes sense for him to hit BP after his strength and conditioning workout and to take ground balls after his arm-strengthening sessions. I would put less emphasis on throwing the ball to first (maybe have an L-screen half-way) and put more emphasis on volume of ground balls to get more fielding reps.
Between 30-60 days From Showcase
The focus for this 30-day interval is still strength and conditioning as well as arm strength, but we will mix in more fielding and throwing for the position player.
Strength and Conditioning with Speed Training
Continue with the same 60-day plan for strength and conditioning of legs, core, and agility 3x a week.
In speed training, continue the focus on him getting explosive starts by having him start at one foul pole and staying low and driving his legs for about 1/4 of the distance and then transition into a longer-stride with his chest rising up slightly for another 1/4 (now 1/2 way across), and then putting it in another gear for another 1/4. Have him dial it down into a jog for the last 1/4 run to the other foul pole. Have him do 10-15 of these 3x a week. Keep having him focus on his arm pump (ear to ear) and stride.
Again, have him run the 60-yard dash (at least 2x) at seven-day intervals. Make sure he is fresh and well stretched prior to any sprinting. You should start to see both his personal best and his routine times improve. Take video and see if there is anything mechanical that may help him get another .1 second lower.
Arm Strengthening Exercises
It’s still about small-fiber exercises. Three days a week, on opposite days of leg, core, speed training, use armbands, super-light dumbbells (1-2lbs), and a weighted ball to continue working his small-fiber muscles. You can still incorporate a yoga ball with his super-light dumbbells to add a core element to his work. His long-toss routine should now follow each of his small-fiber workouts. Plus, his long-toss routine should really focus on getting that long-stretch of his throwing muscles to maximize looseness and ball carry.
Batting and Fielding
Make sure he takes at least three rounds of BP per week and at least three fielding sessions per week. His three rounds of BP should take place after his strength and conditioning with speed training workouts. With his BP, make sure he focuses on using all fields. Start by throwing him outside and having him drive the ball opposite field. Slowly work your way to the middle then inside. Then just throw him down the middle. Just do a full bucket. Don’t let him do more. He needs to learn to do more with less in BP. During the showcase, he’ll only get 8-10 balls pitched to him.
His three fielding sessions should take place after his arm-strengthening and long-toss. Have him focus on fielding balls straight at him, to his backhand, to his forehand, and slow rollers. Hit a half-dozen at a time while focusing on a single location. He should also be making the throw to a first baseman. Have him throw with only 70% arm effort to first base. No sense throwing max effort to first at this point, especially after long-toss. Focus more on footwork and throwing accuracy.
Between 0-30 days From Showcase
The focus for this last 30-day interval will be more on working the actual skills he’ll need to demonstrate at the showcase as well as showcase simulations. It’s important that he doesn’t overwork himself at this point but rather his work should be more centered around maintaining his past gains while staying well-stretched and flexible.
Strength and Conditioning with Speed Training
Light legs, core, agility training for 2-3x a week. He should cut his training time in half from what he was doing earlier. His speed training should consist of purely running the 60-yard dash two times at the end of his light workout. This means that he’ll run the 60-yard dash 4-6 times per week or 16-24 times during the last 30-day interval. Track each 60-yard dash. You should have a very good feel what he will run at the showcase after he finishes these final runs. I gave you a range because if he is tired, don’t hesitate to skip a day or if he is actually running slower for two consecutive workouts, then skip the next and rest. You’ll need to gauge how much is too much or not enough. After each workout, incorporate a 15-20 minute stretching routine in order to maximize his flexibility and looseness. This is very key.
After each light workout and speed training session, have him take a round of BP. Focus on throwing 8-10 baseballs at a time. Throw him 5 rounds and focus on excellence. Make sure he takes his time and makes the most of each swing. Focus on using all fields. Have a line-drive approach. Make sure he mixes in some “loud” hits for distance. If he can hit home runs, then make sure he focuses on hitting mostly “loud” hits for distance. He can’t just go conservative here. But he also can’t pop-up 50% of the time unless the other 50% go over the fence. Make sure he understands that he can move around the box if he needs to. For example, if the BP pitcher keeps throwing inside but your player would rather crush a ball over the middle or outer third of the plate, then make sure he knows to back off the plate so he doesn’t feel jammed with each swing.
Make sure he takes two fielding sessions per week. Spend a longer amount of time stretching and throwing to warm up. Have someone hit a “round” of 6 balls to him. 2 straight at him, 2 backhand, 1 forehand, 1 slow roller. Make sure he throws the first two balls with maximum velocity. He needs to gain momentum towards first and fire those first two as fast as he can. Stand behind the first baseman with your Pocket Radar to track his speed on the 2 throws. Those are the primary throws that will be clocked for his infield velocity. Keep in mind that it is actually better to throw 85 MPH over the head of the first baseman than 75 MPH right to his glove. Don’t play it safe here. Show the arm strength that he’s worked so hard to improve. No matter where it goes. Do 5 to 8 rounds. No more than 50 throws max. If he’s having trouble with one of the fielding locations, then after the session hit him a dozen to that particular location and have him field it without throwing.
One day each week, do a showcase simulation. You will do 4 simulated showcases in this last 30-day interval. If your real showcase starts at 8:30am, then try to start your showcase simulation at 8:30am. Make sure you wear what you plan to wear at the showcase. Eat a very light breakfast and hydrate. Make sure you hydrate starting the day before as well. Usually, they will have a stretching routine but if they don’t, then make sure you have your own stretching routine that leads into the 60-yard dash. Practice some short-burst runs following your stretching to stay warm. Then run a timed 60-yard dash. Run it twice. Some will take your best. Some will only allow you to run it once. If his second run is always faster than his first, make sure he spends more time on stretching and getting more loose and warm prior to his first run.
Progress to the infield where he’ll field 5 baseballs total: 2 straight up, 1 backhand, 1 forehand, and one slow roller. Make sure he unleashes terror on his throw to first on the two that are straight up. Try to max out the radar gun.
Then go over to home plate and start warming up the swing. When you’re ready, hit your 8-10 BP balls. Take a quick break and then hit 8-10 more. Some showcases will only allow you one round, some will allow two.
Go home a rest.
The Day Before the Showcase
Hydrate big-time and rest. If he wants to take some swings in the cage, fine. Make sure he gets a good night’s sleep. Try to eat a light dinner that’s easy to digest.
The Day of the Showcase
Eat a very light breakfast. Maybe just a plain half-bagel and some fruit. Drink a glass of water. Bring several sports drinks and waters in small cooler. Pack a PB&J in the cooler along with some protein bars for snacks. Parents, do not run to the concession stand for drinks and food for your player during the showcase.
Arrive early and fully dressed. Check-in. Make sure the player looks at all coaches in the eyes when speaking. Lots of confidence when identifying himself at the check-in table. Speak clearly and confidently.
Have him get onto the field as soon as he can in order to start getting loose. Light stretching and jogging will get the blood flowing. If they have a large stretch where all players participate, then great. Otherwise, he should use the same routine he used during his simulated showcases along with some short-burst sprints to get him in the groove for firing off the start line. Once they gather the groups for the 60-yard dash, he should try to drink part of his sports drink to give him a quick boost of energy. Then just fly.
Hustle everywhere. Don’t walk between stations or sessions.
Always address the coaches with a “yes sir.” Show respect at all times.
Prior to the fielding work, they will allow the players to warm up their arms and throw. However, your son might be in a group that doesn’t field for another 20-30 minutes. Make sure that he knows he can and should get a buddy to throw with to keep his arm loose and warm during this 20-30 minutes. One of the biggest mistakes I saw was with players cooling down too long after their warmup and then watching their first throw go somewhere else besides the first baseman. Again, stay loose if possible right up to the moment of his turn. And it is better to throw 85 MPH over the head of the first baseman versus 75 MPH right into his mitt. Accuracy should build during the session with the backhand, forehand and slow roller, but don’t sacrifice velocity for accuracy on those first couple throws. And if he let’s a ball get by him, he should just calmly jog back into position and wait for the next fungo hit. They may or may not give him another ball in the same location. But he will need to collect himself and take deep breaths to stay loose and relaxed for the next opportunity.
With the batting practice round, have fun and make sure he gets some”loud” hits that travel far and a good mix of other line drives that canon to all fields. If the player is getting pitched away and can only hit oppo shots, then he need to adjust and move closer to the plate so he can pull a couple or rifle them back up the middle. Same goes if he is getting pitched inside and only pulling the ball, he needs to back off the plate so he can show his ability to hit oppose back up the middle.
When all is over, make sure he thanks as many coaches as possible before leaving the field. This is his last opportunity to make another good impression on a coach. Plus it’s a show of respect and appreciation for their time. They could be doing any number of things besides attending a showcase!