Should you be Playing Showcase Baseball?

Every year after school lets out, we hear about kids playing travel baseball and flocking to every showcase tournament they can find to be “seen” by college and professional scouts. Showcase baseball sounds like the perfect opportunity to get your kid in front of some high-level coaches and possibly get recruited to play at the next level. Parents are willing to throw as much money as they can afford to something that promises to help get their kids to the next level. This is where showcases come into play. They charge somewhere between $600-$1500 to put your kids in front of several college coaches and promise an evaluation on the player and their status in recruitment. Of course, if you want to get in front of the higher-level coaches and not some D3 level schools you have to pay for the top-level package. This quickly becomes very expensive, but many parents write it off as a necessary part of the process but is it really? The first thing you need to understand is that you will only get recognized IF you met certain conditions. What are those conditions you ask?

College coaches evaluating players at a showcase

  1. You are invited to the camp. I don’t mean someone reached out to ask for you to come to the camp. I mean someone reaches out and offers for you to come to the camp on their dime. Most larger camps invite high level players to come for free so they can guarantee that the camp is worth the scout’s time. Here’s a little secret, these players are usually put in the same group and a lot of scouts will only really pay attention to this group. It’s just like a scout that goes to a game. You’ll see a scout come, clock one pitcher and not even pay attention to the rest of the game. Just because you’ve paid for the top package to play in front of the scout doesn’t mean they are really paying attention. I’m going to stress that not all scouts do this, but it does seem to be a pattern.
  2. You’ve communicated with a scout prior to the event. This goes back to my prior point about scouts have certain players they will be looking for. By having a connection with the scout and letting them know when you will be playing it gives you a much higher chance of getting noticed.
  3. You have something to showcase. If you met the prior two conditions, then you probably already have this because you’ve already been noticed. If not, you need to make sure you have something that is going to catch their attention. What that something is completely depends on age, position, etc. but you need to be aware of what they are going to be looking for. For example, if you’re a JR in high school going to a showcase throwing 80mph you’re pretty much wasting your time and money.

Let’s be clear, this blog is not to trash talk showcases or showcase baseball. Our goal is to educate parents and athletes on when the right time for a showcase is and how they could be better served investing in their kid. Showcases definitely have their place in baseball. Baseball players do get recruited and do get useful feedback IF they are ready. However, many players simply aren’t playing at the appropriate level or don’t have the maturity baseball coaches are looking for in the recruiting process. Our point is what are you going to “showcase” your skills if they aren’t collegiate level skills?

Seth Keener throwing a pitch for East Surry Cardinals Baseball

Example A. Our best example is a pitcher we have been working with for the last 12 months. Seth Keener came to our program as a rising junior weighing 140lbs soaking wet and throwing in the low 80s. We formulated a plan with his parents and pitching coach to take the summer off from travel baseball and showcases. Instead, we were going to focus on developing better movement patterns and strengthening his lower half in order to increase his velocity. To be clear this was a decision they didn’t take lightly but after long consideration they trusted in the process. By taking this time off it allowed Seth to be in the gym every single day either working out or doing his throwing program.

Commitment is Key. I need to stress that the athlete has to have the desire to do this. Seth deserves all the credit for his success because he has unbelievable commitment. He doesn’t enjoy working out. He actually hates it with a passion, but he saw the results and knew to get to the next level he had to do this. This is how you know a kid is special, it’s not about doing what you want to do it’s about doing what you hate to do just to get better. He completely dedicated himself to becoming better and put in the work.

High School pitcher Peyton Brown building some leg strength with squats

Towards the end of the summer Seth decided to go to a Prep Baseball Report event and throw a bullpen. Seth left this event after topping out at a whopping 90MPH! This was pre-season after not throwing consistently for a year. Fast forward to this high school baseball season and Seth has top division 1 scouts at every game and MLB teams coming to do a profile. He has also now hit 92mph. Currently he has major offers from Division 1 Schools on the table including UNC Chapel Hill, NC State, and Wake Forest. He did all this and never attended a single showcase this year.

High school pitcher working on medicine ball drills with Backward K Academy

Conclusion. Showcases aren’t guaranteed to get you shown and it’s possible to be seen without ever attending one. Athletes need time off to rest and improve their bodies. If they are constantly playing year-round, they will never have the chance to develop to their full potential. We’re not saying to avoid showcases and travel ball but if you are going to do them be smart about it and don’t just throw your money away on them. The best advice we can give to parents is to wait to invest in showcase camps until your athlete has a skill or talent to showcase. Most players, especially at younger ages, are better off investing in strength and position training. Developing proper movements and strength at a young age will set athletes up to succeed and prepare them for the demands of playing sports in college at the same time.

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