Yoshino Interview

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Community College Baseball

Coach Mark Yoshino
Bellevue Community College College
Bellevue, Washington

by: David Harrison (Seadog)

Coach Mark Yoshino enters his fifth year as Head Coach, and fourteenth year of coaching pitchers. Of those fourteen years, ten have been at Bellevue. Yoshino was fortunate to take over a team that has only had one losing season in over 30 years. In a day and age where coaching turnover is high at all levels, the consistent success of the baseball program is partly due to the coaching stability at BCC. Yoshino follows a short list of baseball coaches at Bellevue, which includes Jim Harryman, Ray Washburn, Bob Albo, Jim Johnson, and his predecessor, Mike Kanzaki.
During the ten years as part of the Bellevue tradition, Yoshino has played an active role in the growth of an already successful baseball program. Since his inception into Bellevue Community College athletics in 1994, Yoshino has helped over 70 players move on to continue playing baseball and furthering their education at four-year colleges, set a school record for most wins in a season, and increased net fundraising revenue by 50%. He has also helped spearhead greater community involvement to numerous youth baseball leagues on the eastside from the Little League to American Legion level. His commitment to the eastside baseball community is evident by his attendance at youth baseball games for all age levels throughout the area in addition to his numerous coaching clinics as well. Yoshino has also helped cultivate numerous facility development projects for Courter Field in addition to an increase in the number of student-athletes graduating with a two-year degree while playing baseball at the college. The team is currently graduating approximately 70% of their sophomores, which is a major success for athletic programs at the community college level.

Question: Bellevue Community College competes in the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges which is the largest community college conference in the U.S. Many folks at HSbaseball web assume that the caliber of baseball played at an NJCAA school is not as good as that played at an NCAA Division 2 or 3 program. How do you respond to that?

Answer: Baseball is unique in that the caliber of athlete in 2-year college baseball is closer to Division I talent more than any other sport offered at both levels. This is supported by the fact that there are more professional baseball players coming from community colleges directly than any other professional sport. The way Major League Baseball’s June amateur draft is regulated basically is what causes this. Baseball players at the community college level have the option of signing pro after either their first or second year at a community college as compared to the end of their junior year at a four-year institution. Obviously this attracts many high-caliber baseball players who either want to have that option or who have academic admission difficulties at the four-year level. The addition of these types of players raises the talent at our level. Other sports simply don’t have that option for high-caliber athletes who are somewhere in between their amateur and professional levels of talent. There is talk of revising the rule into what is called the “0-2-4” rule which would only allow baseball student-athletes to sign either after 0 years of college (right out of HS), 2 years at a community college, or after all 4 years of college eligibility have been exhausted. The main sell on this proposed rule is to avoid the controversy between professional and four-year college baseball programs who battle over juniors who have been selected in the draft. Because juniors at four-year colleges have the option of returning for their senior year, it affects both professional and college baseball in many ways. Typically, but not always, juniors who are selected in the amateur draft in June command larger signing bonuses, which is much more financially demanding on a pro organization as compared to the “cheap senior sign” who basically has no options after four years of college eligibility is used, and therefore has to sign for whatever a professional team offers. The delays in juniors either signing or staying in school affects recruiting as well. Four-year coaches have to essentially “guess” if one of their juniors who is draft-eligible is projected to sign or not, and then early recruit accordingly. The instability of who stays and who signs pro (often down to the late days of summer) affects coaches at the community colleges as well. We recruit who is not being recruited by four-year Division I programs. But if the pro teams sign players who the four-year teams were banking on, then the four-years will look down at the junior college list of guys. It’s a trickle-down effect from the pro’s downward. Overall, the whole pro vs. college thing causes nightmares for everyone and instability in the recruiting. The good news for us junior college coaches is that as long as baseball players have any type of option to sign pro before their senior year, the talent level for us will always be a cut above the rest of the sports

Question: How many scholarships are available at an NWAACC school and do you blend athletic scholarships with academic monies to create a package for the good academic athlete?

Answer: The athletic scholarships vary within our conference depending on which state the school is in. Oregon community colleges can offer up to 9 full in-state tuitions for scholarships in baseball. Washington community colleges can only offer 9 partial tuition scholarships ($200 per quarter for in-state, $600 per quarter for out of state athletes). In addition, job opportunities as part of a scholarship are limited to $1,000 per year. In summary, if tuition only at Oregon and Washington community colleges costs roughly $1950 per year, an Oregon community college could give up to $2950 in scholarship (full tuition plus a $1,000 job) whereas a Washington CC can give only $1600 in scholarship monies for in-state athletes. Basically, there is no such thing as a “full-ride” scholarship in the NWAACC, where all expenses including tuition, books, room and board are covered. The cost of going to a community college in the region is a bargain, even with small partial scholarships. It’s just unfortunate for us that some recruits look at the scholarships we are allotted and are not excited by the offer. But in reality, expenses mount up when a student-athlete leaves the area when they think they are getting a better deal financially. The number of local student-athletes who transfer back to the local 2-year college is astronomical, for all sports. I would imagine that this is a trend nationally, not just in our area. It’s just one of those things recruits out of high school have to learn from if they make that mistake. prospects

Academic scholarships at the 2-year level vary from school to school. For the most part, they don’t play a prominent role in the recruiting of athletes, since many of the high-caliber athletes considering a 2-year college don’t have the grades out of high school to get an academic scholarship. Otherwise, they’d be looking at 4-year schools for the most part. Significant academic scholarships at the 2-year level are usually from rural junior colleges which quite frankly, need bodies to keep their institutions going.

Question: How important are the grades of a potential player to a college coach? I am not talking about eligibility but in terms of grades that would qualify for academic money as well?

Answer: See above. Grade quality at the community college level helps with academic money and can sometimes get a student-athlete to qualify for an out-of-state tuition waiver when being recruited by 4-year schools from junior college. Again, this trend is usually seen with four-year schools that don’t have huge student populations. I doubt you’ll see major universities like the University of Washington or University of Texas at Austin give tuition waivers to entice athletes from out of state – they just don’t need extra students in their enrollment. You’ll find more tuition breaks from smaller public institutions.

Question: How important is it for a high school player to attend a college team’s summer camp?

Answer: It can help when attending camps at division I universities. For anything smaller that that, they don’t play much of a role.

Question: When should a player write a letter of introduction to a college coach?

Answer: At the beginning of their junior year. The letter should include the bare essentials that we can plug into our data base. Things like address, e-mail, phone, height, weight, position, lefty or righty, academic and athletic stats, coach names and numbers for both school and summer, and most importantly, names of pro scouts who have seen you play. We really don’t want to know absolutely everything about you from outside hobbies to little league honors. This is college recruiting, not the Miss America Pageant.

Question: Do you view unsolicited tapes from showcase directors or players themselves?

Answer: As far as UN-solicited tapes, not really. There’s usually a reason why someone is sending random tapes out to schools all over…they’re not that good. An exception might be a guy from a small rural area. As far as solicited tapes (i.e. from high school coaches of their best guys), yes we do look at those. Tapes from showcase directors depends on which showcase it is – I’ll get into which ones on a later question.

Question: Do colleges in your area take the online recruiting services seriously? Would you recommend them to a high school player?

Answer: Although I have gotten calls on them and have free memberships, they are relatively new and have not really looked into them yet. I can’t really comment on whether I recommend them or not.p>
Question: If a tape were beneficial to you and your staff what suggestions would you make to the player? Such as…all game situations? Individual fielding and batting situations? Pitchers in game situations or is a bullpen session helpful?

Answer: Several recommendations. A combination of both game and individual sessions is good. Indoor footage is ok, but coaches aren’t idiots…every hitter looks like they can hit a ton and every pitcher looks like they throw 90 mph in an indoor setting. Individually, footage of hitters and pitchers should be taken both directly behind/front/to the side. We can see everything from both ends of a 90 degree angle on the action. For example, pitching footage from directly behind home plate gives us an idea on movement, arm angle, arm action, and mechanics. Having a radar in front of the camera for all pitches, not just the fast ball, will help as well. Avoid taking footage from strange angles such as way down the RF line. Keep the music, personal greetings, and other “flair” out. This relates to an earlier question about what to include on a letter – just give the essentials. A recruiting coordinator at a division I university and I laughed one time over a tape that had music from “Rocky” on it with footage of the potential prospect working out (running, weights, etc.). Adding things like that only make a mockery of the player, they might hurt your cause instead of help it.

Question: With the increase in the number of talent showcases in recent years how important is it for a player to attend this type of event. Do you or your staff attend any showcases? If so which ones do you attend?

Answer: With the increase in showcases across the country, each college (both 2- and 4-year) has their own list of which ones they attend. We simply cannot attend all of them. On a national level, Team One and Perfect Game are known to several coaches, and the Area Code Games is still one of the best. Unfortunately, what’s happening is that parents are aware of this and are deeply offended if their son isn’t asked to participate. What they don’t understand is that the original purpose of the Area Code Games was to bring together top PRO prospects from certain geographical regions. Even though that’s still the criteria for selection at this event, it’s known to most parents and high school players as “the chance for me to get looked at by a big school”. Even though there is good representation from college coaches there, that’s not how players are selected. Scouts who put together rosters for the Area Code Games don’t look over grade point averages and say “this guy’s a qualifier through NCAA clearinghouse, we should invite him so he can get some looks by big DI schools.” It’s all based on the five tools that pro scouts grade out prospects with…and it’s the same five tools four-year and two-year coaches grade out recruits with. We’re (pro scouts, 4-year college coaches, 2-year college coaches) all looking for the same thing…the guys who can run fast, throw hard, hit, field, and hit for power. Nobody who recruits at the higher level cares about stats like batting average. If you run the 60 yard dash in 6.6 seconds and can hit, we’re all interested. If you’re a right-handed pitcher who throws 78 miles per hour, we’re probably not interested. That’s not to say there’s not a place for you to play college baseball, just don’t expect the phone to be ringing off the hook. Although most potential college athletes and their parents don’t understand that the five physical tools is what it’s all about, some do. I helped out at a showcase this summer and saw a guy actually put on track shoes to run the 60 on the outfield grass. I was helping with the starts and I joked with him about the shoes and he said “I’ve been to enough of these, I know what they want.” Now that I’ve told this story, I’m sure the sales of track shoes will go up. Unfortunately, if you’re still a plow horse who plays a position where they need a thoroughbred, nobody’s going to be interested anyways.

Question: How important is a player’s physical appearance? I don’t mean is he 6’-1” tall and weighs 200lbs. What I am referring to is tattoos, odd or longhair styles, manner of dress etc. Are any of these items a “negative” when a college coach sees a prospective player?

Answer: Yes they are a negative. Unfortunately, those types of items are becoming so commonplace now with amateur players because it seems like every big leaguer has something odd about their appearance. However, recruiters still say the same thing when they see that stuff “you’re not that good yet, you’re not in the show”. I heard at least ten division I coaches say that this summer at games and tourneys. What players don’t understand is that while we recruiters are all trying to find the best guys, we’re also looking for ways to weed out guys as well. In other words, once we all get our list of prospects, whether it’s for the Seattle Mariners or Bellevue Community College, we’re looking for ways to separate individuals as well. I’m not an old school coach, so I’m kind of halfway on those types of issues. But I’m honest with our guys, that they’re not helping their cause with that type of look. If they want the look that’s in style with their peers, they have to realize four-year coaches and pro scouts aren’t their peers. I don’t recall seeing the national cross-checker for the Oakland A’s wearing saggy jeans and hoop earrings this summer.

Question: As the head coach of a smaller college what are the major differences in recruiting compared to the Div.1 or larger schools?

Answer: The timing is much later, after the early signing period in mid-November for NCAA. Especially with the June amateur draft, things change drastically during the course of the spring and summer. Small colleges have a good idea who to recruit right after the early sign period. But waiting later can sometimes pay dividends. It seems like each year I can field a great recruiting class in the summer by waiting for guys who wait until the very end for a division I scholarship and don’t get it, transfers from division I programs, and drafted guys who need a junior college to play at. The June draft makes the timing of the whole recruiting process unstable.

Question: How do you “go about” finding players for your program? Are the scouting and recruiting processes similar to the 4 yr. Schools?

Answer: The processes are identical. What parents and players don’t understand is that in baseball, scouts/coaches at all levels (pro, 4-year, 2-year, and high school) are constantly on the phone communicating with each other about prospects. In addition to seeing the athlete play in person, this is essentially how most of the recruiting is done, by cross-referencing with people that are involved in the game who we know, people we trust, people we respect. Even though showcases and videos and things of that sort are helping, bottom line is that if you’re that good, someone will find you, and the word will get out. I get a lot of calls from parents asking how they are supposed to “promote” their son. In reality, that’s not how it works in college athletics, even though on the surface that’s what it appears to be. The false impression is that high school players and parents now feel like they are supposed to do the work in the recruiting process when in reality it’s the other way around. The best edited video tape won’t make a pitcher throw 90 mph.

Question: So many high school players have the attitude that if they do not play at one of the Div. 1 top 40 programs they have failed. What advice would you offer a high school player regarding the “big school” stigma?

Answer: First, remember that baseball is one of the few college sports that gets good representation from all college levels (div. I, II, III, NAIA, JC) in professional baseball. You just don’t see representation like that in sports like football or basketball. Good programs from smaller levels have decent records against division I schools in baseball. A top NAIA program such as Lewis-Clark State, Albertson College of Idaho, or Oklahoma City University have pretty good players that are basically division I guys who may not have had the grades to play at a division I school. Their records against upper-level foes speak for themselves. In reality, there are very few division I teams that separate themselves from the rest of the pack. It’s just so competitive and evenly balanced because of pitching rotations. You’re going to see more teams basically beating up on each other, in baseball more than football and basketball, because the matchups aren’t the same within a series of baseball games. The chances of simply dominating record-wise is much tougher in baseball. The way this relates to your question is that the difference between a top 40 team and a .500 club isn’t that much, probably an extra key pitcher in the rotation.

Question: What advice would you give the Northwest player that feels he needs to go south to find a quality program?

Answer: I would say different things to prospective players who are looking at various regions down south. These pertain only to junior college athletes. Some Northwest players look to California junior colleges for a better opportunity at a scholarship to a school in that area. In reality, their chances are reduced…just do the math. There are about 100 junior colleges in the state alone. The ratio of junior college athletes to 4-year colleges in the state is no better than up here. If each team has 30 or so on the roster, you’re basically competing against 3000 other guys who have the same aspirations of transferring to a California 4-year university. Also take into account that the COA (California CC Association) reduced the number of games to less than what Washington and Oregon play. This comes as a huge shock to the Northwest HS player who thinks there are more games down there. Some have been enticed by hearing that they play 70 games down there, only to transfer back to the NWAACC after realizing that the 70 games was 36 in the spring and 30 intrasquad games. Think about it…what college administration would allow a team to play 70 games in a real schedule? There would be no time to go to school. We play on average 45-50 games in the spring, including playoffs. Comparing that to national junior colleges in Texas and the like and to division I universities, that’s pretty close. It’s that same old stereotype northern climate schools get…that they don’t play as many games when in reality the number of games isn’t dictated by weather, it’s by what association the college is a part of. They set the rules, not the National Weather Service. Bottom line is that there’s competition everywhere you go. Just because you’re playing 2-year ball in the state of California or Arizona or wherever doesn’t help your chances at all. We’ve seen a tremendous number of northwest guys go down to 2-year schools down south and come home to go to Washington or Washington State and got no looks from 4-year schools…and these are guys who actually played a ton at these out-of-state 2-year colleges. It’s just unfortunate so many think that the grass is greener on the other side. A close associate of mine who is now the west coast scouting supervisor for a pro club recently saw the California CC showcase at Sacramento City College. Being a former scout based in Seattle, he was able to make an honest comparison, stating that CC guys down there were basically the same guys he saw up here, only there’s more of them simply because there’s more 2-year schools down there. If a player in this area wants to be someone special in a college program rather than “just another guy”, then he should probably avoid going into a state where there’s such a large player pool…the odds are simply against you.

Question: The NWWACC is one of the few college conferences that use wood bats. Has this been a good change and how do the economics play out when compared to using metal bats?

Answer: For us it has been a great change. We are on our fifth year with wood and have found many benefits from it. First, and most obvious, games are much quicker. For the opponents of wood who say fans want to see home runs and excitement of offense, they also want to see quicker games. Many of the recent rule changes in college baseball are geared towards cutting down game time. The use of wood cuts it down dramatically. Games are faster, closer, is beneficial for the development of both hitters and pitchers. It’s helped increase the number of drafted players staying in the area as well. It’s the only sport out there where the implement material is different at the amateur and pro levels. Economically, it hasn’t been that big of a deal. At most of the schools up here, the cost of purchasing bats hasn’t been a huge burden since players are so particular about their bat, they usually end up buying their own custom bats. We don’t force any player to buy their own bat since we provide them with composite-type bats to use for practice and / or games. What they want to use is totally up to them. The wood bat market is huge now. It’s no longer just Louisville Slugger and Rawlings Adirondack. The calls we have received from other coaches at the 2-year level usually admire our conference for making the change. From my conversations with coaches from outside leagues, this trend is on the rise. It’s becoming apparent to almost all the junior college conferences now that the use of wood bats basically feed into the same strengths of what our level has to offer – close associations and a faster pipeline into professional baseball

Question: What other advice would you give to a high school player that hopes to play baseball in college?

Answer: First and foremost, go to a pro tryout camp in the summer of your sophomore and/or junior year so you can get your five physical tools evaluated by a scout and ask how they compare to baseball players at various college levels. They will be very honest with you. A showcase can also help for the same purpose – tool evaluation so a high school player can see how they stack up against others. They basically do the same things performed at a pro tryout camp – they evaluate your fielding, hitting, how hard you throw and how fast you run. If a player/family pays money to be in a showcase and doesn’t get recruited by anyone, don’t get mad at the showcase director, look at the running times and arm strength results from the event. You’re not buying a scholarship at these events. You’re getting a chance to get evaluated and compared to others. Recruiting interest will be dictated by this evaluation and comparison to others. Another piece of advice is to become accustomed to one position that your physical tools fit best and stick with it. Pro scouts and college coaches don’t recruit utility players who play everywhere. If you are a high school player who can run fast and has a good arm, get in the outfield and get off of the corner infield positions. If every player out there knew what their good tools were and how they stack up against others out there, it would eliminate a lot of the crushed egos, upset parents, and angry high school and summer coaches whose players aren’t recruited. People are paying and doing almost everything to get a college scholarship (which are small compared to the two revenue sports, football and basketball) when most don’t even know what we recruiters/pro scouts want to see. We’re all looking for the same thing – guys who run fast, throw hard, can field and hit. Players/parents need to ask their HS coaches, pro scouts at tryout camps, and showcase directors how the five physical tools grade out and where it puts them in regards to appropriate level of play.


You can contact Coach Yoshino at:
Bellevue Community College
3000 Landerholm Circle S.E.
Bellevue, WA 98007-6484
425/ 564-1000
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