By Stuart Sweetow of Audio Visual Consultants © 2006
Originally published in Event DV Magazine
Baseball has been very, very good to a very, very small number of young men. But however remote the chances of eventual major league stardom may be, the dream of playing college ball is very much alive for high school seniors who love the sport. Parents looking for athletic scholarships for their children or who simply want them to play ball in college need to get college recruiters to see their sons in action.
While recruiters from some NCAA Division I schools have the budgets to actually visit promising young athletes, Division II and III schools rely on videos to evaluate the budding baseball players. Parents can contract with an expensive school sports promotion company to make a video as part of a marketing package, they can videotape their sons themselves, or they can hire a professional videographer.
School sports videography is a market niche worth exploring. The National Collegiate Scouting Association, one of the larger promoters, reports that their students receive an average grant in aid worth over $14,000. Parents know that their investment in their youngster can pay off with a handsome scholarship. The boys simply want the chance to play ball at colleges that will help them develop their games.
If you are already videotaping graduations or school performances, you have a foot in the door. If not, just call the athletic directors and coaches at local high schools to find out the best way to contact the parents of their most promising athletes. Perhaps offering to videotape a game at no charge can help encourage the coaches to help you.
Coaches know the value of video: They can run a play in slow motion to analyze a swing or a pitch. They can navigate to a particular chapter to see how the prospective player fields grounders or to check a pitcher’s fastball. DVDs are a vital tool for evaluating and training athletes. While coaches might be able to see a player’s performance on a homemade video, a professionally produced DVD can give the aspiring athletes a distinct competitive edge.
The Baseball Recruiting Industry
To learn how to produce a recruiting video, simply go to one of the promotion companies’ websites. It was our client, the mother of a high school ballplayer who wanted to get an athletic scholarship, who recommended that I visit www.baseballfactory.com. There I saw how Baseball Factory’s web videos demonstrate their clients’ hitting, fielding, and pitching.
They create entire packages including the players’ stats, still photos, and a video of different plays. Along with footage of hitting, pitching, and fielding, the video includes interviews with the athlete, and maybe even with his current coach. The student discusses not only his interest in baseball, but also his academic and vocational goals. Schools want to see a well-rounded recruit, not just a jock. Video gives the viewers a chance to get a close look at the boy’s personality and his manner of presenting himself.
Baseball Factory claims that 1,600 college coaches from across the country have access to the company’s online videos through a searchable database of web pages. They state that they will send emails to 1,000 coaches encouraging them to “point, click and recruit.”
According to the NCSA, nearly 1,500 colleges and junior colleges nationwide have baseball programs. On average, each NCAA Division I and II school offers about ten scholarships. Both NCSA and Baseball Factory post students’ videos on their websites and send DVDs to college coaches.
Producing Video for Recruiters
Parents can videotape their baseball-playing sons, edit the video into clips of the best plays, and author their own DVDs. Then they can try to figure out the best way to make streaming or downloadable video files. At the same time, they need to be compiling their sons’ statistics, contacting college coaches, and putting together a package in order to present their boys to the colleges. Taking on all these tasks can be very time-consuming, if not intimidating.
Wise parents will hire a professional videographer to make the DVD and web video files. One such family is the Greenwalds, who called my studio to make a promo video of their son, Eli, a high school senior.
They wanted a professionally produced video, but didn’t want to take on the expense of hiring a recruiting company. While I have 20 years’ experience producing a variety of videos, I had no experience with sports recruiting video. I called a school sports photographer I know, Joe Mulloy, and offered to hire him as the director of the video.
He knew the kind of shots we needed, and we developed a proposal for the Greenwalds. Joe put in two unanswered calls to a friend at the local high school to try to reserve the baseball diamond. When that didn’t work, he visited the public parks in the area that have diamonds.
On the shoot day, the park we selected had a game in session. As we waited for the game to conclude, we conducted the interview in a wooded area to the side. Then another game started, so we decided to move to a different park. In retrospect, it might have been better to conduct our site survey on the same day of the week and at the time of day that we planned to shoot the video.
Prior to the shoot day, we sent Eli the list of questions, and we asked him to prepare brief, succinct answers. Joe decided that we should conduct the interview prior to shooting the plays. While I was talking with the parents about the overall production and DVD, Joe chatted with Eli to help him relax. He asked Eli to look at the camera when he gave his answers, as if Eli were speaking directly to the college coaches. In addition to his love of baseball, Eli answered questions about his academic performance and other interests.
Once we got on the field, Joe directed Eli to throw a few of each kind of pitch in his repertoire to his catcher. We logged such pitches as fastballs, curves, sliders, and change-ups. We shot Eli pitching from three different angles and included pick-off moves to first base. Later, we would let Eli decide which of these throws he wanted on the final DVD.
So that the coaches could see Eli hit, Eli’s catcher then pitched to him. He demonstrated how he could direct his hits to left and right fields and even slugged a couple of homers.
Lastly, we recorded shots of Eli fielding flies, line drives, and ground balls. We logged all the footage and sent a window dub to Eli and his family. Joe made recommendations about which plays and interview answers to include, but we wanted Eli and his parents to make the final decisions. We asked them to list Eli’s stats so we could include them as a title screen in the final DVD.
We edited the video and sent the family a copy for their approval. The decision was made to drop the stats from the video. Since Eli’s senior season was still underway, those would change; the family simply included them in the cover letters to the schools. On the DVD, we created chapters for each play, and placed the interview answers in between the plays. The Greenwalds contacted prospective schools, put together cover letters with stat sheets, and generally performed much of the work that a sports promotion company would do. We made 10 DVD copies with labels and packaging, and the family sent them directly to schools they selected.
When I phoned the Greenwalds several months later, I learned that Eli had been accepted to Allegheny College in Pennsylvania. While this Division III school is not allowed to offer sports scholarships, they did offer Eli an academic scholarship.
We could have gone an extra step and interviewed Eli’s high school coach. Some boys create their own websites and post the video files to them. Some post to sites such as www.youtube.com. Then the college recruiters have a choice of watching the DVD or logging on to the website.
The opportunity to play college sports keeps alive the dream of playing professionally. The competition to get into a high-profile college program is fierce. That’s why college sports promotion companies have sprung up. One of their best tools to expose high school players to college recruiters is video.
Parents can pay a pricey promotion company to videotape their sons and send the video to colleges, they can take on all the marketing and video production themselves, or they can do themselves and their children a favor and hire a professional videographer to make a DVD and web video files that show the players in all the sharpness and clarity they deserve. Make the right contacts in your community, and you can help them reach their goal, adding some new pitches to your repertoire in the process.