The life of a college baseball player – Freshman Year/Fall
Recently a few high school players asked us about our day-to-day experiences playing college baseball, so we thought it would make sense to write a series of blog posts about what it is actually like. We will start with the fall semester of your freshman year. Note: This information is based on the time we spent at various Division I schools in the South. Your overall experience will vary with location, schools size, and quality of baseball.
Of course the biggest difference between college athletes and professional players is the fact that you have to attend (and pass) classes. For some people that is just a nuisance, while others actually manage to get a quality education while still getting the most out of playing baseball. We are not going to preach to you about taking school seriously in this post (hopefully your parents are already doing that), but it is probably worth pointing out that plenty of players manage to balance both, often even without missing out on any parties.
One thing you have to understand is that college coaches have strict rules regarding how much practice time they can spend on the field with the entire team. That means you will only have a few weeks of full team practices in the fall. But there are a few loopholes that allow coaches to spend time with small groups in addition to regular practices, and many coaches take advantage of them in the fall. Each player has to voluntarily “request” these group sessions, but of course nobody ever decides not to do that. So your first few weeks in school you may just have small group workouts, which is not a bad thing since you are still getting situated, trying to pick the right classes, and maybe figuring out living situations. Plus of course there will be many new people to meet. At many programs, some of the older players organize unofficial practices, which is fine as long as no coach attends, so make sure you participate in those.
A few comments on picking classes: Many players make it a point to pick the “easiest” classes that will allow them to get through school without spending too much time on it. Yes, it will probably take you less effort to pass Knitting 101 or Tree Climbing (those are actual college courses), but unless you have a full scholarship you are paying a stupid amount of money for education. Why waste your time and money for classes that don’t really do much for you? Suck it up, pick a major that you are interested in, and make sure you get your money’s worth.
Towards the end of fall practice, many coaches will split up the team and play a series of games that are a little more serious than the typical intrasquad games. Sometimes there is a prize for the winners, or a penalty for the losing team. Keep in mind though, that everybody, from full-time scholarships guys to walk-ons, is fighting for a starting spot in the fall. That starts with the first group session and goes all the way to the end of fall practice. If you do not perform in the fall, it will take you much longer to establish yourself as a starter in the spring. Fall practice goes by fairly quickly, so work as hard as you can during these months.
Once fall practice is finished, the rest of the first semester will be spent on conditioning and time in the weight room. If there is a pool on campus your coach might even throw in some swimming sessions, especially for pitchers. During these weeks there is usually a little more time to focus on classes, which helps since finals are just around the corner. When you come back from Christmas Break, the season will be right around the corner.