BOOK REVIEW: An Insider’s Guide for Aspiring Baseball Players

The title of the book is JUST BASEBALL: A Guide to Navigating the World of Baseball Recruitment for Players and Parents.

And playing off the title is the author’s name, Mike Just, who was a star player at Liberty University before embarking on a career in professional baseball in the independent professional leagues. That  background suggests to me that Mike received a first-rate education at how college and professional baseball operate when it comes to scouting and signing talent.

And in his new book, Mike sets out to simply explain to any young and aspiring player what to expect in today’s new and unchartered jungle of travel teams, high school baseball, summer leagues, showcases, college baseball, and of course, trying to attract the attention of pro scouts. It’s a much needed guidebook; in fact, the only other book that comes close in terms of similar editorial direction is HOW TO MAKE PRO SCOUTS NOTICE YOU, written by Al Goldis, a Hall of Fame scout, with my son. But that book primarily focuses on pro baseball whereas Mike aims at the entire chronology of playing ball.

A generation of two ago, local part-time baseball scouts – known as bird dogs – were everywhere. I can recall always playing in front of scouts at American Legion games and, of course, in the legendary summer Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League. If you were a decent and serious player, you didn’t have to worry about scouts seeing you play. They found you. And the college coaches had a solid network with both bird dogs and high school coaches and high school umpires to seek out the best players to recruit.

But those days are all gone now, replaced by the internet, travel teams, recruiting services, and so on. The good news is that Mike’s book does a fine job at explaining how all of these new ventures work in terms of young ballplayers.

One of the most important chapters to read is Chapter 8 on getting an edge. This one deals with the tricky world of showcases and college camps. Each year, I receive all sorts of questions from sports parents about which baseball showcases are the best ones, and whether it’s a good idea for their son to attend them (showcases can be very expensive, and they make no guarantees about which college coaches will show up, if any). The other question is whether it’s a good idea to attend a summer weekend baseball camp at a college where you son is interested in attending.

The bottom line is this: even if you, as a parent, are a lifelong, diehard baseball fan, you really owe it to yourself and your son to read a copy of JUST BASEBALL. While the game of baseball may not have changed that much since you played, the truth is, the business of baseball has changed dramatically, and continues to change. And if your boy has hopes to keep progressing to the next level, JUST BASEBALL is a very solid guidebook.

JUST BASEBALL: A Guide to Navigating the World of Baseball Recruitment for Players and Parents, by Mike Just. Sports Publishing, Inc. $19.99.