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What is it like to try to walk on at a Division I program?

If you have read our FAQ section, you know that we generally do not recommend the walk-on option at U.S. Division I schools for Canadian players. In addition to very long odds of actually making the team, you also have to go through the entire admissions, registration, and visa process without any help from coaches. If your goal is to play college baseball, you will almost always be better off adjusting your expectations at the right time (meaning during your last year of high school) and going for either the Division II/III or the JUCO option. For those who are still not convinced and think they should try anyway, here is a little more detail about the process. Just to be clear, we are only talking about unrecruited walk-ons in this discussion.

 

Many Division I programs allow walk-ons in the fall, and signing up is generally straightforward. All you have to do is ask one of the coaches. You have to be a student at the school to be allowed to practice, meaning you cannot just go to practice in the hopes of making the team without actually being enrolled in classes. Division I coaches have strict limits on how much they can practice in the fall, but they are allowed to schedule small group sessions in addition to those times. As a walk-on you will not be able to participate in those sessions, so the only time you will have to prove yourself are the official team practices.

 

Understand that fall practice is also the time when all the scholarship guys are going to be competing for starting spots. Even if you do well, earning a roster spot will not be easy. Coaches spend a lot of time recruiting their scholarship players and do not want to see those efforts wasted. Unless you have a specific tool (e.g. extraordinary speed) that is missing on their roster, it will take much more than a decent showing in the fall to actually make the team.

 

Unless you really stand out right at the beginning, trying to walk on can also be difficult to handle mentally. From the perspective of the other players, you are either a threat who could cost them their roster spot, or somebody who will not be around for long anyway. None of these is a particularly good position to be in. Even though most players will be respectful enough to not openly show any animosity, there is certainly potential for some uncomfortable situations.

 

The most important point is that by trying to walk you are likely to end up in a situation where you do not play and waste a year of eligibility. Obviously it is not impossible to make the team, and some unrecruited walk-ons have had great college careers. But considering that the odds are so heavily stacked against you, especially as a Canadian, you are probably better off working hard for a scholarship at a program that is the right fit for you.

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