Owen Socher is currently a sophomore outfielder at the College of William and Mary. Last year he was a part of the William and Mary team that won the CAA Conference Tournament, appeared in the UVA regional, and ultimately beat the defending National Champions. Owen shares some thoughts on his perspective throughout the recruiting process.
I started playing baseball when I was four. I grew up in a small town with a great baseball atmosphere and knew at a young age that I wanted to play under the Friday night-lights at the local high school. Once I made it to high school, I followed in the footsteps of my older brother Ben (currently a senior outfielder at Dartmouth College), and I developed a similar intention to play college ball. I was an above average student, and my goal was to let baseball help me get into a school that I may not get into on my academic merits alone. I wanted to go to a highly-regarded academic institution with a respectable D1 baseball program.
I joined the Stars Baseball travel program at the end of my freshman year and started the showcase process with that program. I am an undersized athlete – 5’8” on a good day – so I knew I wasn’t going to impress anyone with my stature. And, being an outfielder doesn’t lend itself to great success in the showcase format. I knew my best chance of being noticed was having a college coach watch me play in games. This began the long process of writing to coaches and sending game schedules and videos.
With my size issue and being an outfielder, I did not get a lot of attention from college coaches until my junior year. My travel coach knew I was going to be academically selective and turned away some interest right off the bat. By my junior summer I had narrowed my list down to five schools. I won’t lie – it was a stressful few months. My top choice came to watch me play in my high school post season and I had a great game. Honestly, I couldn’t have played better. They asked for my academic scores and transcript and I thought I was done. Then they had a coaching change and after a long period of silence I was told “they went in a different direction.” This was repeated, with slight variations, with another school.
The process was confusing to me and my parents. We were so busy with the travel team schedule of tournaments and showcases that I didn’t focus as much on the school’s own camps. We were told they were “money makers” but I do think that if you have one or two schools at the top of your list it is worth the time and effort to get on their campus for their camps. Coaches have more time to evaluate you and focus on how you play the game.
Fast forward to September and I got an offer from William & Mary. The College was always in my top five and I was excited about the offer. I think things happen for a reason and I ended up where I was meant to be. The program felt like the right fit for me. I connected with the coaches and felt that I would have a smooth transition from high school to college.
One of my Stars coaches gave me the best advice during the recruiting process. He said to make the decision as a life choice instead of a baseball opportunity. For most athletes, your collegiate career lasts 4-5 years but your diploma lasts a lifetime. And, whether you go to a school of 2,000 or 20,000, chances are your lifelong friends are going to be those 30 guys on your team.
Looking back on the whole process, there were a lot of things I wish I knew. Your decision on where to play baseball should never be based solely on the coach. Collegiate sports is a business and coaches come and go. However, it is important that you do connect and respect their methods. Their values also impact the type of student athlete they recruit. So, a coach may leave, but the players stay behind and at the end of the day the most important thing is connecting with the team. Secondly, although you are making the decision to play a sport, you never know when your athletic timer will end. For some it’s because of a career ending injury and for others it may be that the time commitment is just too much. There are highs and lows, but it is a grind. It is important to weigh in the atmosphere of the school in case athletics do not work out. In the perfect world, you want to be at school where you could be happy even if you could no longer play a sport.
So, bottom line? I will tell you that the life of a college baseball player is hard. You will have a different experience than your non-athlete friends. Adjusting to a 50+ game regular season with constant travel and missed classes calls for a great work ethic. You are away from home and don’t have same the support system. It is up to you to find a way to succeed in the classroom while also improving your baseball skills. At the end of the day, I would not trade the experience for anything. The team environment is built on a brotherhood and has brought us all together to become better people. In my first two years, we have traveled to the west coast, opened against a top 3 powerhouse, won a conference championship, and knocked off the defending national champions. That makes for some unforgettable college memories.