Many up and coming high school students throw their hats into the ring, as the University of Kentucky Wildcats enters another year of roster picks for their team. The athletic programs that Kentucky has are all vying for the hot talent that will help carry them into stronger years of competition than ever before. The university is especially interested in finding the best new talent for their baseball program.
While the team has never, at the time of writing, reached the college world series, this team is doing it’s best to recruit strong players who will give them the edge they need to break this long time slump. With this record, you may be wondering why players would jump at the chance to join this roster, but the university holds a lot of promise for students.
If you don’t believe us, then you may be asking a single question.
What is so special about The University of Kentucky?
Founded in 1865, The University of Kentucky (hereafter referred to as Kentucky), is one of the state’s two land-grant universities. With over 30,000 students as of Fall of 2015, the University has been ranked as the highest research university in the state. The university is comprised of 16 colleges, a graduate school. It offers 93 undergraduate programs, 99 masters programs, 66 doctoral programs, and four professional programs.
The school has a strong emphasis on research and boasts fifteen libraries on it’s campus, with the William T. Young Library hosting subjects related to social sciences, life sciences, and humanities. The emphasis on research is largely due to a 1997 mandate that is determined to make the university a Top 20 public research institution by 2020..
This means that students who are interested in honing their research abilities, especially with interest of entering careers related to the sciences, will have a very welcoming home on this campus.
At this point you might be wondering how the university treats it’s baseball program.
What about Kentucky’s baseball program?
The baseball program has often suffered, largely due to being a northernmost school that trains in colder climates in the, barring Missouri, largely warm-weather SEC division. The team stands in competition with large players like Florida, LSU, and South Carolina who have incredibly strong baseball seasons under their belts. In nearly 30 years, Coach Madison has only led the Wildcats to two NCAA Tournaments in 1988 and 1993.
The program hit their worst seasons at the turn of the century where it’s only had one winning season from 1997 through 2004 and several last place finishes in the SEC East. Kentucky later hired John Cohen as head coach who led the team to a winning season in 2005.
The team would see an amazing turnaround the following year in 2006, where they went to first place in the SEC, winning a regular season conference title for the first time in three decades and earning a ranking as high as fourth place in the country by a major baseball poll during the season.
What does this mean?
Kentucky’s baseball team may not have a high performance track record, but the amazing success it has shown with new leadership suggests that the team has the potential to make surprising seasons happen. But many persons who enroll in the university can expect a strong research focused education, which makes it ideal for any career where strong research skills are a major boon.
These include the sciences, of course, but also cover operations analysis, computer and data research, food and health research and many other necessary fields. Research skills are required to make the great breakthroughs that advance the world to the next era in many different facets, which is why Kentucky is such an important university in the SEC.
If this sounds like something you’re interested in, you’ll want to know how Kentucky’s team recruits their players.
How Kentucky Recruits their players
All universities have an annual process where the coaches use various means and methods to find the talent to replace graduating seniors. While Kentucky has a few individual quirks that mark it as unique, most universities use the following tools for recruiting.
Let’s take a look at some of these methods.
General Recruiting Tools
Every coach makes use of general recruiting sites to help them search name-by-name in the hunt for the talent that will fit their rosters. These sites are an easy way for coaches to collect information and are designed to make recruiting easier.
These tools are similar to the ones that students use to find athletic scholarships and they work with the same principle. By uploading information about a player or school, users will be able to best match players to universities who will best benefit one another.
Our advice, ask recruiting coaches and your high school coaches what recruiting tools they know about and frequently use and ask the site admins or contact us page about how you can help keep your information up to date. In Kentucky’s case, you’ll definitely want to reach out to your local coaches or call and ask the university coaches which tools they use.
University Camps and Showcases
Every university hosts training camps and showcases that are open for enrollment to the public. These camps and showcases are designed to give student-athletes the chance to train, compete, and show their skills.
Students who go to these camps have a stronger chance of being noticed by university coaches since they are performing on their home turf rather than on videos that can be edited to highlight only the best of your skills. Certain student-athletes will always stand out and thanks to hands-on observations and experience, coaches will know that the student is the real deal rather than snippets carefully chosen for highlight reels.
We’ll go into University camps and showcases more later, but for now, consider this to be one of your first and best options to get noticed.
An important tip
Before you show up at a university camp or showcase, reach out to recruiting coaches well beforehand and let them know you’ll be attending. This will give you a higher chance of Kentucky coaches looking out for you specifically.
Talent Scouting/Identifying Services
Coaching takes a lot of work and recruiting eats time into an already busy schedule. That’s why many coaches use talent identifying services to send them notices on promising recruits that meet their roster’s needs.
Sites such as National Preps may not be for students, but they can be a powerful tool to getting your name in a coach’s inbox.
Our next tip actually goes into how you can best take advantage of this.
Recommendations from High School and Club Coaches
Coaches rely on the recommendations of high school and club coaches to help them make recruiting decisions. High school and club coaches want to see their best athletes succeed and will make a good faith effort to be upfront about your statistics to recruiting university coaches.
This matters, because even the highest level player won’t get very far if a high-school coach doesn’t announce and verify their skill level and physical attributes to a university coach.
Student-athletes can take advantage of this by getting on their coaches good side. Building a rapport will lead to more frequent assistance since, professionalism aside, everyone works harder for those they are on good terms with.
Similarly, if you are on great terms with your coach, you can direct them to talent scouting sites and organizations and their referrals will help scouts deliver your name to university coaches.
But it’s not just scouting and referral websites that get in on the action. Thanks to the Internet, you have a powerful tool at your disposal.
Everyday, more and more companies look at a prospective employees social media page to get the scoop on who they are when they aren’t at the office. So it stands to reason that recruiting coaches will look up prospective students online as well.
Not only will recruiting coaches check out student-athletes of interest to see whether they would be a strong fit for their universities, but they’ll also look for posts about you from rival schools and competitors.
To take advantage of this, we recommend that you put your best face forward on your social media page and carefully curate what goes to your feed. Another strategy that is riskier, but may pay out well in the end, is being open to what universities contact you.
Some schools pay attention when they notice that their rivals have taken an interest in an athlete and may work harder to get your commitment first.
We always urge caution when attempting this strategy, since showing too much interest in a school that contacts you or misrepresenting the facts, may get your applications tossed away.
For many coaches and players, there has been no more immediate method of finding success than a personal rapport. When you are on great terms with a coach, then you’re far more likely to appear favorably on their short list of potential recruits than on faces they’ve never met or names they’ve never spoken to.
So reaching out to your potential coaches through phone calls and emails are one of the most powerful methods of finding recruiting success. You will have to be aware that there are certain parts of the year where NCAA mandates prevent coaches from speaking with you, so be sure you are aware of these dead periods, so you don’t mistake a coach following the rules with a lack of interest.
If you’re asking yourself whether you are the kind of player Kentucky wants, then let’s see if you meet the cut.
What types of players does Kentucky look for?
You might be thinking that all you need to get onto a recruiting list are great grades and great game statistics. While those certainly help, as we’ll discuss below, Kentucky expects quite a lot more from their potential recruits. The following is a short list of what you must have to appear high on this university’s list of potential recruits.
As stated previously, Kentucky’s baseball program has not found stellar success in the NCAA Tournament series. But the team still manages to push on for high performances every season. But this low track record can make a player perform at less than peak performances, which is a mark that would disqualify you from being chosen by this team for an athletic scholarship.
It’s easy to see why.
If a player isn’t willing to give their all no matter what, then that same student may let their studies slip and lose track of what it means to be a student-athlete. Any player who will falter or buckle when the going gets tough will not be reliable in the least and will not be desired by the coaching staff.
So if you can keep your chin up no matter how hard it goes, then you’ll find a home in Kentucky.
A huge part of being determined lies in knowing what your responsibilities are and being able to keep up with them. This means keeping up with your training, keeping focused on your studies, and being reliable no matter what. But it also means being able to accept when you are at fault whether on or off the field.
Kentucky’s coaching staff isn’t interested in awarding scholarships to students who may be flakes. So if you have a strong sense of personal responsibility, then you are likely to do well on this squad.
Speaking of what current players may say, they’ll likely tell you that coaches work hard to foster a family feel in their teammates. They want players who can help each other out both on and off the field and help create a positive environment that more toxic players and attitudes would simply not allow.
For that reason, coaches prefer positive players to join their squads. This doesn’t mean that you have to be bubbly if you aren’t naturally so. Instead you should be ready to play and you should be supportive of your fellow teammates.
This mix between encouraging and serious also helps in another facet that coaches look for.
On the same token, even if you have dreams of graduating and jumping right into a professional baseball career,. With Kentucky’s focus on research and learning, you would do well to focus on your studies.
Keeping up your grades will keep you with your scholarship and will keep you in a place of honor on your team. It also shows the kind of drive and determination to succeed that is very attractive to coaches from all universities, including Kentucky.
If you have trouble with maintaining strong work habits, we recommend finding a counselor who can help you find a training or time-management program that works for you.
Finally, coaches are looking for players who excel at their positions and are ready to push beyond their own limits. As we said earlier, even the top local stars at the high school level have a world of improvement to make once they reach the collegiate NCAA level of competition.
Coaches therefore are looking for accomplished players who display talent and a willingness to learn. Because even the most naturally gifted athletes will struggle to keep up with players who show superstar dedication to training and fitness.
Let’s take a look at what you can expect when you play for Kentucky.
The Coaching Staff at Kentucky
No team can succeed without high quality leadership and guidance and for many teams, that guidance comes in the form of a rock star coaching staff. To share what you can expect from Kentucky, we’ve compiled a list of the names to know on this team’s head staff starting with the head coach.
It may be surprising, given the team’s record, to hear that head coach Nick Mingione has been named the 2017 National and SEC Coach of the year, but when we look at his history and accomplishments, it will make a lot of sense. Mingione was named Kentucky’s head coach on June 13, 2016 and he made an early mark and became an unmistakably core element for the team.
In his rookie season, Mingione carried the team to a trip to the NCAA Tournament Super Regionals for the first time and finished in the Top 10 of every major college baseball poll. With his leadership, the Cats scored 43 wins, which were two shy of the school record and the most for any first-year coach in the program’s history.
His leadership and player grooming has also led to 21 players being selected in the past two MLB Drafts, the most of any program in the country. Furthermore, 13 players taken in the draft in 2018 ranks this university as having the most taken in the nation.
Mingione’s leadership may see drastic changes in the Wildcats’ performance, especially when we look at his assistant coaching staff.
Assistant coach Jim Belanger developed is now entering his third season guiding the Kentucky pitching staff. Under his guidance, Kentucky had an amazing 2017 season with a program wide record for most strikeouts, most innings pitched, and lowest batting averages against. Two of his pitchers have earned All-American honors to include a freshman.
With his help, four of his players were drafted in the first 11 rounds of the MLB Draft.
Assistant Coach Roland Fanning wins over players and fans with a tireless work ethic and an impressively unique personality. He enters his third season with Kentucky for the 2018-19 season. He impressed Mingione and settled into a role as recruiting coordinator as well as his other responsibilities. Mingione was quoted in saying that, “I was really impressed with his energy and his ability to communicate…He has had tremendous success in recruiting and developing players throughout his career.”
With great men like these steering Kentucky’s course, you may be wondering what it’s like to play for this team.
What is it like playing baseball for Kentucky?
As we have seen from looking at the coaching staff, despite the long history of losing seasons Kentucky has had, it’s standing poised and ready for a turn around. The energy and determination that this requires means that the players are hungry and ready for success. But this hunger doesn’t mean that the team has lost it’s heart, as assistant coach Fanning’s focus on player development would suggest.
When you play for Kentucky, you are joining a roster that has a strong family feel to it. Even with the university’s underdog status, this makes it an excellent choice for players who want to feel like a part of a community. But don’t let that lead you to believe that the team doesn’t know how to work, as Mingione seems ready to push his players to the next level of competitive ability.
Does Kentucky have any notable rivalries?
Kentucky may be best known for it’s rivalry with the Louisville Cardinals, as both schools have hotly contested bouts, especially in their respective basketball programs. This rivalry may be caused by the relative close proximity between the two schools as well as the cultural differences between Louisville and the rest of the state.
You may not know that before Kentucky was pressured into playing against Louisville every year, the university’s biggest rivalry was with Tennessee. The hottest period of rivalry between these two schools was between 1966 to 1985.
What’s interesting to note is that Kentucky had originally made it a point to avoid playing against Louisville believing that playing an in-state team would be bad for either program, but fans and Louisville itself pushed for the rivalry to take hold, and as we see it stuck ever since the rivalry began in the mid 80’s.
If you’re interested in joining Kentucky’s squad at this point, let’s look at what you have to do to get recruited.
How can I get an invitation to play for Kentucky?
Like most universities, there are several must have requirements that must be met in order to receive a scholarship to play for this prestigious team. While every university has their own slight variations on these themes, they cover three main areas that we’ll go over below.
The reason we list Academic Requirements first is that, by NCAA standards, scholarship winning students must be Student-Athletes. This means that their primary purpose in coming to this university is to complete their studies and perform excellently in the classroom.
The NCAA proves their dedication to this goal by requiring all Division I schools to meet the following academic minimum requirements to get their foot in the door.
- Complete 16 core courses to include…
- Four years of English
- Three years of math (Algebra 1 or higher)
- Two years of natural/physical science (including one year of lab science if your high school offers it)
- One additional year of English, math or natural/physical science
- Two years of social science
- Four additional years of English, math, natural/physical science, social science, foreign language, comparative religion or philosophy
- Complete 10 core courses, including seven in English, math or natural/physical science, before your seventh semester.
- Earn at least a 2.3 GPA in your core courses.
- Earn an SAT combined score or ACT sum score matching your core-course GPA on the Division I sliding scale, which balances your test score and core-course GPA.
Even if you have met these requirements, you have to remember that there is a competition for a limited number of spots on the team each year. So if you want a higher chance at successful recruiting, you have to surpass these standards. You can never go too high. Given Kentucky’s focus on research, you can bet that recruiting coaches lean towards these requirements.
Every position has particular requirements to excel in those roles, but what it all boils down to is staying match-fit and keeping up with your skills training. Once you enter the Kentucky roster, you’ll be able to work with your coaches to find a training routine that works for you and your role.
But what you might want to do now is talk with your coaches about your strengths and weaknesses as a player and ask about exercises and training programs you can use to improve. You should also get accurate measurements of your player ability and physical attributes (height, weight, etc) and ask your coaches if you’re playing for the right position for you.
Personality and Management Skills
When you enter university level athletics, coaches are going to require a lot more of your soft social skills than you ever thought possible. You’ll be expected to not only show a willingness to learn, but you’ll also have to become a positive and supportive member of your team.
You’ll also need to be able to master managing your time, because at the university level you won’t always have someone hanging over your shoulder reminding you of what you have to do.
Specifically, you’ll want to show some of, if not all, of the following skills.
As a member of The Wildcats, you will be expected to work with your team to pull everyone through even the roughest spots. There is no room for self-centered players when the team is entering the final few innings behind on points or barely ahead of their opponents. So the coaches want to see that you can work with your teammates, helping them stand when they fall.
Athletic competition is difficult. That much is always true, with the long hours of work that you can expect. Coaches know that even if you falter, that if you’re willing to get back up and keep moving forward, then you’re far more likely a strong fit for their team.
This hunger for success has helped the team start to turn it’s record around under Mingione’s leadership, so it’s reasonable to see that this value is important to the program.
With only so many hours in a day, you can’t afford to waste a lot of time. One of the biggest struggles that incoming freshman often face is knowing how to prioritize what they have to do against what they want to do, which can lead to messed up sleep schedules or missed appointments and assignments.
So start getting your time management skills on point now.
As the season and semesters grind on, it can be overwhelming to think about all the responsibilities that will fall in your lap as a player. When the pressure is high, many players have to stand up and find strategies that will help them overcome. But the trick is to make sure that your stress relief doesn’t get in the way of any of these other goals.
Hobbies and extracurricular activities that don’t take you too far away from your athletic and academic work are a great way to do this.
If you can manage to keep up with these traits, then you might be ready to get recruited to play for Kentucky. But here’s a few final tips that will get you started on the right foot.
3 Tips to Getting Recruited for Kentucky Baseball
Contact your local coaches and Kentucky’s recruiting coaches early and often
Local coaches are often the trusted source for accurate assessments of your skills and value as a player. So if you want your name to make a stronger impression then you should talk with your current coaches. Build a rapport with them and ask them for honest feed back about your areas of improvement, strengths, and talents.
Your interest and enthusiasm for improvement will often show up in their feedback letters and emails that Kentucky’s coaches will see, which will only make you look better in their eyes.
As far as the university itself, if you are interested in playing for the team and want the university to watch your growth and performance, you’ll want to talk with them. The team website lists Fanning as the recruiting coordinator for the team, and he can be reached by the email address on this page.
When you speak with him, just remember to be respectful of his time and position, but enthusiastic about learning more. Also be sure to let him know if you are showing up at any tournaments or showcase camps. Be aware that there are certain periods of the year where coaches cannot speak with you at all, so be aware of those dates.
Start gathering clips for your highlights reel
An important part of making coaches notice you is to have a stellar highlight reel that shows your performance in a game. You’ll want to get lots of clear shots that show you at your best, because it will give you more room for later video editing and clip collection. Find someone who can record you playing on a high quality camera and use that to enhance your application.
Participate in the Wildcats Baseball High School Prospect Camp
University run showcase camps are an excellent way to get noticed by your potential future coaches. Not only will they see you perform in-person, but you’ll also be able to see for yourself if this team is right for you.
As we said before, make sure that you reach out to recruiting coaches to let them know you’re on the way. Ideally you’ll do this after you’ve built up a rapport with the current recruiting coach so that they are already eager to meet you.
You can learn more about their camp by checking out our write-up on this page.