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Questions About College Baseball Recruiting

Coach Tony Skole
Head Baseball Coach
East Tennessee State University
Johnson City, Tennessee

Question: You are considered one of the best recruiters in college baseball, what do you consider your "strong points" or best assets when it comes to recruiting?
Answer: I appreciate the compliment. We take a great amount of pride in our recruiting here at East Tennessee State University. I firmly believe that our success in recruiting comes from the tremendous amount of hard work done by our staff. Recruiting is an ongoing process that never ends and you must be willing to put in the time if you want to attract quality people and players to your program. We take a different approach than most universities, in that we do not recruit a large number of athletes. We are very specific about which young men we are going to pursue and then we make a commitment to go after them as hard as we can. We do not recruit in mass numbers. Some coaches may believe this is risky, but we believe this is the best way for our program. We really try to develop a relationship with the players and the parents of the players we are recruiting. We only want that young man to come to East Tennessee State if he knows in his heart that ETSU is the best place for him, and ETSU is where he wants to continue his education and baseball career. If you are recruiting in large numbers it makes it very difficult to develop relationships with all the players you are recruiting. When a young man decides to come to ETSU, he and his family are very secure about his future. There are no secrets. They know that by coming through our baseball program their son is going to be prepared to be successful for the rest of his life, whether he plays professional baseball or not.

Question: You have been involved in recruiting at an NCAA DII program and now at Division I - East Tennessee State. What would you say are the differences in recruiting a potential student-athlete for each of these schools to be?
Answer: The only major differences for us recruiting on the Division II level and the Division I level were in the NCAA requirements. We still wanted to try to get the best quality person and player as possible. It was somewhat tougher recruiting at the lower level because all kids want to play Division I baseball, and that is a hard sell to get them to come to a Division II school, especially if they are Division I eligible. We were very fortunate to have some great players while I was at LMU (two are now in the big leagues). I can never understand when coaches or scouts classify players as Division I players, Division II players or NAIA players. I've seen a lot of players at the Division II level and NAIA level who could play anywhere in the country. One major difference at the time was that we could bring kids on campus and watch them workout. This was very advantageous if for some reason we were not able to see that young man play during the course of the year.

Question: In talking with parents of high school players and potential college baseball student-athletes I many times feel that a college coach may have to recruit the parents as aggressively as the player. Do you find that to be true?
Answer: For us it is definitely true. In today's age of youth, high school and summer baseball, parents are more involved than ever before. I think this is great. I would much rather it be this way than to have it where the parents had no interest in their son's future. I think it is very important for the parents to have an influence on their son's decision. Helping guide your child to make good decisions is an important responsibility of being a parent. I believe it is unfair to expect a 17 or 18 year old boy to make a decision (which is probably the most important decision of his life to date) without some parental guidance. We believe at ETSU it is very important to keep the parents of our players informed and involved about what is going on in their son's life, good or bad. I know if my children are ever fortunate enough to play athletics in college, I definitely want to know what is going on in their life.

Question: With regards to recruiting - Do you have a specific geographic area that you recruit from, or do you recruit "nationally?"
Answer: We will recruit kids from anywhere in the world, but most of our emphasis is in the state of Tennessee and the Southeastern United States. If you want to be successful you must be able to recruit the best kids in your area/state to come to your school. We want to win with kids from Tennessee, but there are so many good players out there, that we would be shooting ourselves in the foot if we did not recruit nation-wide. With all the quality summer programs and showcases nowadays, it makes it easier to see kids from other areas of the country.

Question: If a player were interested in ETSU when would be the time for him to send a brief letter of introduction? Which grade in school / what time of year?
Answer: The fall or first semester/quarter of his junior year in high school.

Question: Are the "online" internet recruiting services taken seriously by college coaches? Would you recommend them to a high school player and his family?
Answer: We don't use them at all.

Question:Which of the following things would be good for a player to include with a "first letter"? (Note: just a yes or no next to each of the following is fine)

Answer: Season Statistics - Yes
Photo of Player - Yes
Newspaper Clippings - No
Videotape - Yes
Names / #ís of Scouts - Yes

Question:What other items, if any, would be helpful in a first contact letter?
Answer: Their email address and would also be helpful.

Question: If a tape is beneficial to you and your staff what suggestions would you make to the player? Such as all game situations? Some individual fielding and batting situations? Pitchers in games only, or is throwing to a catcher good also?
Answer: We don't really like to recruit off videotape. There are so many unanswered variables when you see a tape of a baseball player. The better tapes I have seen have included some game action and also some footage of that player in practice that allow you to see if the player has some basic fundamental skills and talents.

Question: With the increasing number of high school talent showcases in recent years how important is it for a player to attend this type of event? Do you and/or the coaching staff attend any showcases?
Answer: I believe it is important for players to attend some of these showcases. Our staff does attend a few of them. The more people that see your son play, only betters his chances of someone liking him. The bottom line though is that if your son can play, then colleges and scouts are going to find him. Very few kids are going to slip through the cracks. If you feel that your son is not getting the exposure he needs, then I think these showcases are great in that particular situation. I advise all parents to do their research and make sure the showcase is reputable. Every one of these showcases is a moneymaker so parents need to be cautious.

Question: Which of the current high school baseball talent showcases do you feel are the best?
Answer: Team One, Perfect Game, Area Code Games are some of the better ones we have attended.

Question: Do you hold summer and/or holiday camps at ETSU? If so how important or beneficial would you consider it to be for a prospective player to attend?
Answer: We do have summer and holiday camps at ETSU. I believe these camps are a great tool for the college and for the prospective student/athlete. By coming to camp it gets the young man on campus, around the coaching staff and around some of the players currently in the program. Coaches can evaluate your son firsthand and up close, and he can also evaluate his surroundings firsthand and up close. We just started having these types of camps at ETSU and we are already recruiting some of the kids who have attended.

Question: Do you attend tournaments during the summer months to watch players on the better travel teams?
Answer: Yes, we attend many tournaments during the summer months.

Question: How important would you consider it to be for a player to play on one of the better summer teams? One that competes at the highest levels of competition regionally and nationally.
Answer: I think it is important for your son to play in the summer. The better team he plays with and the better competition he plays will be a good indicator of where your son stacks up against some of the better players in the country. There are many quality summer programs, but if your son cannot land a spot on one of them, he needs to make sure he is playing somewhere, and then he might need to attend some showcases in order to get the exposure he needs.

Question: Do you prefer to watch a player in a game with a travel team, at a quality tournament, or at a top high school showcase?
Answer: It really doesn't matter to us. We just want to see the young man perform in a game situation.

Question: What is the typical roster size for your program? What is the approximate breakdown of pitchers versus position players?
Answer: We are very different from most Division I programs in that we like to keep our roster size down. I believe many kids get lost in the shuffle at schools who carry 35 to 40 man rosters. We take a chance with depth and those types of things, but to combat that we make sure our players take a lot of pride in staying healthy and being physically ready to play. We never recruit on top of another player. We are going to live and die with the players we bring into our program. So many college coaches have gotten away from developing their players and making them better. This is the part of coaching I enjoy most. Watching our kids turn themselves into better players and better people gives me great satisfaction. Too many coaches nowadays want the finished product. They want the kid, who already throws 95 mph, runs a 6.5 sixty-yard dash and can hit it 500 feet. I sincerely believe that it is not in the best interest of the your players if you carry twenty pitchers or six shortstops. Kids will simply get lost in the shuffle, have to end up transferring and will not reach their potential.

Question: Professional baseball seems to have a "love affair" with bigger players. In other words pitchers over 6' tall ... Derek Jeter sized shortstops, etc. What are your feelings on this when it comes to evaluating and recruiting players for your program?
Answer: Obviously we like to recruit players who are strong and athletic looking, but by no means is this the only thing we are looking for. It is rather simple for us. We want talented kids who love baseball, love to work hard, love to compete and want to win. If we can get those qualities in our recruits then I like our chances. I want kids in our program that are tough and are willing to get after it a little bit; I don't care how big they are.

Question: When watching a player how important is his "attitude appearance" to your overall evaluation and future recruitment of that player?
Answer: Very important. You only get one chance to make a first impression. The last thing a coach wants to see is a player with a bad attitude. We don't allow kids with poor attitudes in our program. There are too many players out there who would like to have their roster spot. I guess I'm old fashioned when it comes to this but Attitude, Hustle, Work Ethic and the Will to Compete are things we refuse to coach in our program. These things are expected out of my players. If you do not have them then you will not survive at ETSU.

Question: When watching a player how important is his "personal appearance" to your overall evaluation and future recruitment of that player?
Answer: Very important. The players in our program are very visible on campus and in our community. We expect our players to be clean cut and to conduct themselves as gentlemen when off the field. We recruit kids who won't find this type of behavior or lifestyle to be a struggle

Question: There has been some discussion in recent months about college baseball programs possibly returning to using wooden bats. Do you have any thoughts or comments?
Answer: It doesn't matter to me what kind of bat we use, as long as they are the same for everyone.

Question: Do you have any other comments or advice for a player that has aspirations of playing college baseball?
Answer: It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to reach this level of baseball. If playing college baseball is important to you, and you are willing to pay the price to make it, then there is a program out there which will take you. Follow your dreams and remember, Good things happen to good people, especially good people who work hard.

Coach Tony Skole
Head Baseball Coach
East Tennessee State University

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