- This post offers an in-depth exploration of the evaluation process as well as insights into the post-tryout selection process, how teams are formed, and how both players and parents can navigate this crucial stage in the baseball journey
- This is post is part of an nine-article series covering every aspect of a baseball tryout. If you arrived at this page via search, I highly recommend that you first read my post, Baseball Tryout – Complete Reference Guide
Pull up a bleacher seat, grab a hot dog, and settle in.
In this post, we’re pulling back the curtain on the intricacies of baseball tryouts.
I’m your guide, as a veteran league commissioner for a local youth baseball league, to share my insights, peppering the path with stories from my time in the field.
What’s Inside this Post
As a yearly ritual, baseball tryouts usually occur twice: one in late September for 12U and under teams and during the weeks of February or March for middle and high schools and college.
The timing is anything but arbitrary. It’s a delicate dance, choreographed around several moving pieces.
First, the league needs to ensure the availability of baseball fields (fall) and indoor gym (spring). Is the field ready for those eager footsteps, the whizzing balls, and the intensity that accompanies every tryout session?
It’s not just the physical arenas but also the people involved. Our evaluators must adjust their busy schedules to lend their expertise.
Similarly, we account for the plans of our high school, Legion ball, and other coaching staff.
The tryout is as much a part of their year as it is for our aspiring athletes. And while we aim for the perfect slot in our baseball calendar, we are also mindful of the sporting ecosystem, taking care to avoid overlapping with other events as much as we can.
The objective? To ensure that every player gets a fair shot, without the stress of conflicting commitments.
Players should attend attend all tryout sessions unless an excuse is approved in advance through the league.
In the case of an injury, illness or unable to make tryouts for whatever reason, most leagues will attempt to schedule a separate tryout for that player.
I know sometimes we can’t help but every effort should be made to attend the tryout on the scheduled date.
Why? Because unless your child is a five-tool, lights out player, getting evaluated under this circumstance will not be advantageous to your child. In addition, since most teams would have settled on the number of players on their roster, your child might not be placed on a team that closely matches his/her skillset.
As coaches evaluate future stars in the tryout, most league’s philosophy revolves around three core aspects: fostering a love for the game, nurturing budding talent, and creating a synergistic team.
My favorite story involves a young boy named Alex, who came to the tryouts with little more than an old glove and a heart full of dreams. His spirit, determination, and camaraderie remain a testament to what our program stands for.
Evaluators and Selection Committee
Who assesses the performance of these fledgling players?
A team of seasoned coaches and baseball aficionados, all skilled in identifying and nurturing talent, participate in the evaluation and selection process.
I recall a summer afternoon when our selector, Peter, a former college baseball star, spotted a skinny kid named Max with a wicked curveball. His expertise allowed him to discern Max’s potential, who has now blossomed into one of our finest pitchers.
As you walk into the tryout, the adrenaline rush from both players and coaches will be palpable. The journey begins with a series of warm-ups, designed not merely to prime the muscles but also to gauge the players’ commitment.
Players check in to each tryout session and receive an assigned a numbered; player names are not disclosed to the outside third-party, or the selection committee.
Objective Ranking All evaluators are given a ratings form to numerically rate each players based on certain tasks, like hitting, fielding, pitching, etc. To minimize the undue influence among friends, each player is given a pinnie with a random number and coaches are asked to evaluate without knowing the player's name. Also, evaluators are coaches from older or younger teams. At the end of the tryout, the tournament director collects these evaluation forms then tallies up the numbers to rank each player among his/her peers in a spreadsheet.
The grading process isn’t about the strongest arm or the fastest feet alone. It’s a holistic approach that considers a player’s technical proficiency, potential, attitude, and sportsmanship.
Most leagues leverage a form to that contains the five-tool player model as the guide.
I'll let you in on a secret. It is often the less conspicuous tools that create the brightest diamonds. A player who may not be lightning-fast, but above-average fielding acumen and consistency at the plate will be more than compensate for the lack of speed!
After the tryout dust settles, the selection team (usually made of a tournament director and several senior league board members) dive into a comprehensive evaluation process, combing through the qualitative and quantitative data to select the future stars.
Many parents and players feel that the selection process is more nerve-wracking than the tryouts themselves!
It’s often a painstaking process, replete with debates and heart-to-heart discussions, as we decide on how best to shape a team that will stand tall and play hard.
Generally, most league will have two teams or more at each age group.
For 7U and 8U Teams
Assuming that 8u league has enough players to form two teams, most leagues will evenly distributed the “talent” between teams.
For 9U through 12U teams (assuming multiple teams at each age level will be formed)
For players in this age bracket, a combination or top ranked players and coach’s kids are infused to form teams.
Let’s go over this topic with a hypothetical example.
- 38 kids attend the tryout for three 11U teams. Since each team will most likely pick 11 players (total of 33 players), five kids will not make the team (unless one or more team decide to take on more than 11 players).
- Team Avalanche will have the most number of “skilled “best” ranked players. Team Blazers will have a mix of best and and above-average players. Team Cyclones will have a mix of above average and average players.
Why draft only 11 players? Although not optimal, it is not that uncommon to see a team with 12 players. However, most, if not all, travel teams will not carry 13 or more players on the team at this age level. Since four kids will be sitting at any given time, it takes a lot of effort for a coach to juggle the line up so that each player gets fair playing time. In addition, constantly rotating positions is not good for the development of young players.
- Let’s say that Theodore is the Tournament director. Theodore will pick a parent from top 10 players to be the team manager for Team Avalanche (Alex)
- Alex will pick an assistant coach (Alan); Alan’s son is one of the players in the the top 15 ranked players
What do you look for in a team manager? You try to pick a father for a child who is "average" for that team. You don't want to pick the father of a best player because as a best player, his kid will most likely get higher playing time so other parents may not like it. You don't want to pick the father of a least skilled player on that team because many parents will feel that their child is better so they should get more playing time. As far as the personality is concerned, you want a team manager who is calm, has high baseball IQ, and able to maneuver around volatile parents. The team manager will then be asked to pick a child belonging to his future assistant coach.
- Theodore, Alex and Alan start to call players from the ranking list to invite him/her to Team Avalanche.
- In most leagues, Alex will be mandated to draft first five so top ranked players. If any of these players decline the invitation, Theodore and Alex will simply move down the list and making calls. This rule is mandated by many youth leagues to ensure that Alex does not draft lots of kids that are only his son’s friends
- After five players have been drafted, Alex and Alan will be allowed to fill the remaining open spots from kids ranked from 1 through 20. Assuming that five best players were drafted plus two players under Alex and Alan, there will be four open spots (based on 11 person roster)
- Once the roster is set for Team Avalanche, Theodore repeats the process for Team Blazers and Team Cyclones.
Drafting Tips Coaches should be mindful about picking quality pitchers AND catchers for their teams.
Middle and High Schools
The “drafting” process in high school baseball is a bit different than youth baseball teams.
Like the younger tryouts, the middle and high school coaches will select players for the team based on their performance and the team’s needs.
In middle school, there is one team, comprised of 7th and 8th graders with 8th graders taking up around 70% of the roster (around 13-15 players).
High School team is usually broken down into Freshman, JV and Varsity with each team rostering about 12-20 players.
12-20 players seems like a lot of players, but this range allows for at least one player for each of the nine fielding positions, plus additional players to allow for substitutions, injuries, specialized positions (such as designated hitters or relief pitchers), and strategic flexibility. It's important to note that each school or coach may have their own philosophy about roster size. Some might prefer a smaller roster to ensure that each player gets more playing time, while others might prefer a larger roster to provide depth and versatility. Ultimately, the decision about how many players to carry on a team will depend on a variety of factors, including the skill and health of the players, the length and intensity of the season, and the strategic preferences of the coach.
Ultimately, the aim of our tryouts isn’t just about filling positions.
It’s about finding individuals with the potential to be a part of something larger than themselves: a team.
It’s about players who, years from now, will reminisce about their time with their youth baseball team with a smile and a heart full of cherished memories.
So here’s to the dreams, the talent, the heart, and the game!
What skills are evaluated during a youth baseball tryout?
Coaches will evaluate fundamental baseball skills like hitting, pitching, fielding, and base running. They will also assess position-specific skills, physical conditioning, and Baseball IQ, which is a player’s understanding of the game’s strategies and rules.
How important is a player’s performance in tryout drills to the final selection?
Performance in tryout drills is important, but it’s not the only factor coaches consider. They also take into account a player’s attitude, potential for improvement, and fit with the team. It’s about the overall package, not just the raw skills.
What is Baseball IQ and how is it evaluated during tryouts?
Baseball IQ refers to a player’s understanding of the game, including the strategies and rules, and their ability to anticipate plays based on various cues. Coaches often evaluate Baseball IQ through situational drills that simulate specific game scenarios.
What role does physical conditioning play in the selection process?
Physical conditioning is essential in baseball, as it impacts a player’s endurance, speed, strength, and agility. Coaches often evaluate physical conditioning through various drills and may consider it when making their final selection, as it can indicate a player’s dedication and potential for improvement.
How are pitchers evaluated differently during baseball tryouts?
In addition to the general skills every player needs, pitchers are evaluated on their pitching mechanics, control, velocity, and variety of pitches. They may also be assessed on their composure on the mound and their ability to handle pressure in game-like situations.
How soon after tryouts can players expect to hear about the results?
This can vary, but generally, players can expect to hear back within a few days to a week after tryouts. This gives coaches enough time to thoroughly review their notes and make informed decisions.
What happens if my child doesn’t make the team? Can they try out again next season?
If your child doesn’t make the team, it can be an opportunity for growth and improvement. They should consider seeking feedback from the coaches to understand which areas they can work on. Most leagues allow players to try out again the following season, and continued practice can increase their chances of making the team in the future.
How can a player stand out positively during the tryout process?
A player can stand out by showcasing not only their skills but also a positive attitude, good sportsmanship, and a strong work ethic. Coaches notice players who listen well, are respectful, and demonstrate a willingness to learn and improve.
Is the evaluation only based on performance during the tryout?
While the tryout performance is a significant factor, coaches often consider other aspects as well, such as the player’s attitude, potential for improvement, and how well they might fit into the team dynamics. Past performance in games or previous seasons may also be taken into account if the coaches are familiar with the player.