Should you sign a professional contract straight out of high school, or should you go to college first? If you are good enough to have to face this decision, then this article is for you.
1. The Tough Reality of Going PRO out of High School
My high school self would have said “yes” to any professional offer to play baseball. I mean come on, it’s professional baseball, right? It’s what I’ve always wanted to do.
Choosing to sign a professional contract straight out of high school may seem like a dream come true. However, it's crucial to understand the challenges that come with this decision.
As an 18-year-old entering the world of professional baseball, you'll be surrounded by seasoned players - grown men with more experience than you - who are out to take your spot. Your job is on the line every day. It can be challenging to fit in and adapt to the competitive professional environment. Additionally, being away from home and the constant pressure to perform can be emotionally demanding.
2. The Joys and Benefits of College Baseball
College baseball offers a unique experience that combines athletic development with unforgettable moments and camaraderie. The hotel stays, karaoke bus rides, and the intense competition of summer ball can create memories that last a lifetime.
Beyond the camaraderie, college baseball provides a chance to grow as a player and a person outside the pressure of professional baseball. It gives the opportunity to enjoy the college experience while honing your craft.
Once you go pro, there is no going back to college baseball. You were a professional. Your baseball career has gone as far as it will go. By skipping college baseball, you’re missing out on what might be the most enjoyable time in your baseball career.
When I was 18, I would have signed a professional contract in a heartbeat. In hindsight, I would have different advice for my high school self. I think going to college was the best decision, for both my career and my life-experience.
3. Weighing Your Options
That being said, going to college is not always the best option. There is no guarantee that you will receive a later offer, just because you received one out of high school.
I’ve witnessed this first hand many times. I’ve watched players turn down offers for professional contracts, opting to attend college instead. Often these guys get injured and never receive another offer from a professional team.
There is a place, therefore, for skipping college and going directly into pro ball. So how do you know which decision is right for you?
4. Making Your Decision
If you receive a contract offer in the top five rounds of the draft, I advise you to seriously consider taking the opportunity. Being a high draft pick signifies significant investment and commitment from the organization, resulting in higher priority, increased playing time, and valuable development opportunities.
You’ll get more at bats, more opportunities, and the organization will likely keep you around for at least three years. And on top of all that, top draft picks usually take home $1M+ as a signing bonus.
In the best case scenario, by the end of the three years, you’re already playing in the big leagues. In the worst case scenario, you got to play baseball for three more years, and then you likely get to attend college on the organization’s dime.
Conversely, if you are not offered a substantial signing bonus and are considered a free agent or low signee, attending college is a more viable option. If this is your situation, an organization is likely to release you at any time. You might find yourself at 19 years old, released, and no longer able to play college baseball. Nobody wants that.
College provides a platform to refine your skills, gain exposure, and enhance your draft prospects. By dedicating yourself to continuous improvement throughout your college years, you increase your chances of securing a higher draft position and earning a more substantial contract.
5. The Bottom Line
Assess your circumstances, draft position, and potential signing bonus. Consider the level of commitment from professional organizations, the opportunities for development, and the experiences offered by college baseball.
If you are not a top five round draft pick out of high school, it’s probably best that you go to college. Keep developing your skills at college, so that by the time you’re eligible for the draft again, you can get an even higher draft spot. This will give you a better shot at more money, more opportunities, and the experience of playing college baseball.
I’m Coach RAC. Let’s grow.