By Bob Behre
Where else can you go to get hands-on instruction from college baseball coaches and critically important direction on the recruiting process?
Day One of Diamond Nation’s College Elite Showcase Camp for high school players proved to be a gold mine of high-level instruction interspersed with a valuable how-to on making that important college choice.
The 75 or so players received valuable input by coaches from such diversely different schools as Vanderbilt, SUNY Oswego and Rowan College at Gloucester.
Add Maryland, St. John’s, Lafayette, Villanova, Princeton, Richmond, Quinnipiac, Fairleigh Dickinson, Binghamton, Fordham and Stony Brook to that field and the campers were able to experience a well-rounded college experience in a daylong instructional camp.
The long running College Elite Showcase Camp has been fine-tuned over the years under the guidance of Diamond Nation’s baseball director Kevin Cust and recruiting coordinator Steve DiTrolio and just gets better and provides more value to the participants each year.
“The bottom line is we, as coaches, are teachers,” said Vanderbilt pitching coach Scott Brown. “Kevin and Steve have made adjustments to make it more of a growth camp for the players. We wanted to do more teaching and bring our energy to that process.”
Brown spent his time working with the pitchers on the specifics of their position.
“We were trying to give them a normal day for a pitcher, what their cycle will be like,” Brown said, “be it college or high school. We worked with what they do actively and with their movements, their PFP, holding runners on and just improving their overall game.”
The first day of the two-day camp was spent primarily on positional fundamentals and hitting before the group joined up again for the college recruiting seminar led by Princeton University head coach Scott Bradley. Each camper was also timed in the 60-yard dash.
“You need to know your game and your ability,” Bradley told the campers. “We want you to go to a school where you can play.”
Bradley discussed the importance of finding a match that works both academically and athletically. “Make sure you look at the schools and the coaches closely. For example, many Division 3 schools are really good. And many of the high academic schools, if that’s what you are looking for, have very good programs.”
Maryland pitching coach Corey Muscara said, “Every school has its niche, it’s value. You have to find which one matches your needs. There’s a lot of factors that go into making a college choice and baseball is just one of them.”
Scott Landers has been the head coach at SUNY Oswego seven years and has steered a highly successful program that sits north of Syracuse geographically and is part of the attractive State University system in New York.
“We are the second largest Division 3 school among the SUNYs,” said Landers. “We are strong academically and reasonably priced.” In fact, the SUNYs’ out-of-state tuition is highly competition with the New Jersey state colleges’ in-state tuition.
Pat Regan, a first baseman from Montville High, will be a freshman at Oswego this September and the only New Jersey player on Landers’ roster. “Now that we’re successful the out-of-state students will come,” said Landers, who hopes to land more New Jersey recruits.
Rob Valli is the head coach at Rowan College at Gloucester, the former Gloucester County College, and is a former assistant at Temple. “I have the perspective of having experienced those different levels. There are a lot of variables for why students choose our school. Player development is very important to us.” Valli’s team won 50 games in 2018 and remains one of the top JUCO baseball programs in the nation.
The players return at 9 a.m. on Tuesday for Day Two of the College Elite Camp and will begin the day with a defensive showcase. The group will be broken into four teams in the afternoon as the camp concludes with a pair of games at Diamond Nation’s state of the art facility in Flemington.
Bradley, who played nine years in the major leagues as a catcher with, primarily, the Yankees and Mariners, worked with the catchers with Coastal Carolina assistant coach Kevin Schnall. Bradley gave some simple advice for the campers.
“Go watch a college baseball game,” said Bradley. “See what that level is like. There are plenty of great programs right here in New Jersey. Go take a look.”
NOTES: Vanderbilt’s Scott Brown and Oswego’s Scott Landers both pitched collegiately at SUNY Cortland (N.Y.). Brown, a 1999 Cortland grad, was an assistant at St. John’s for nine years before he was hired seven years ago at Vanderbilt. Landers, a 1998 Cortland grad, was an assistant at LeMoyne (N.Y.) for nine years before taking the Oswego head coaching job seven years ago. … St. John’s assistant Josh Ake was one of the camp instructors. Ake is a former Diamond Jack and played scholastically at Hunterdon Central in Flemington.
… Stony Brook assistant Jim Martin threw the group of players and parents a curveball during the seminar, not for a Long Island accent but rather a Boston accent. “I’m from outside of Boston,” said Martin. … Coastal Carolina’s Schnall is a frequent instructor at the College Elite Camp. Coastal, of course, won the College World Series in 2016. Brown experienced the same joy in 2014 when Vanderbilt won the CWS.