Blaine Knight / Photo: ArkansasRazorbacks.com
When you consider that it’s part of the nature of most college head coaches to seek and exert control, recruiting has to be the most frustrating aspect of their jobs.
A coach can make a fantastic recruiting pitch, but ultimately the decision rests with the young person. Mommas, daddies, girlfriends, and mentors generally have more influence in where a desired recruit ultimately opts to attend college and play than the college coach who extended the offer.
Truly coaches are in a vulnerable position when they offer a scholarship.
As torturous as recruiting can be for football and basketball coaches, what college baseball coaches have to deal with is even worse.
Not only are they taxed with coaxing talented young men to make a pledge to their program with way too little scholarship money (11.7 full scholarships divided among 30 players on the squad) compared to football and basketball, but they also have to deal with the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
Major League squads drafted seven members of Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn’s most recent recruiting class this week.
The Kansas City Royals selected pitcher Daniel Tillo in the third round. The New York Yankees picked outfielder Canaan Smith in the fourth round. The Florida Marlins drafted pitcher Dakota Bennett in the 11th round. The Chicago Cubs took Bryce Bonnin in the 26th round. The Cleveland Indians selected catcher Casey Opitz in the 27th and outfielder Cole Turney in the 34th rounds. The Seattle Mariners picked outfielder Heston Kjerstad in the 36th round.
Any or all of them could sign Major League contracts, but the players taken past the 12th round, usually find their way to campus. The signing bonus is usually too good to pass up for the players drafted higher, although the player and is his advisors can certainly opt against conventional wisdom.
Of course, this is nothing new for a veteran coach like Van Horn. No doubt, he had an idea which of his signees stood to be selected highly in the draft when he signed them and planned accordingly. This is just par for the course thanks to the program Van Horn has built.
It would be a lot worse for him and Razorbacks fans if none of his signees were deemed worthy enough to be drafted.
Once the drafted players begin to sign, Van Horn and his staff can begin to fill in holes by looking at other players or simply assign more scholarship money to other Razorbacks.
The uncertainty, though, has to be a little bit irritating, but then again, uncertainty is part of every decision in life.
Even if college baseball coaches could offer 30 full scholarships, there would be no real way to fend off a determined franchise for a drafted player. If a Major League team truly wants a prospect, there is enough money on hand to make it happen.
However, with the influx of television money into big-time college athletics for broadcast rights for football and men’s basketball, sports like baseball and track should be afforded more scholarship money to spread out among athletes.
While the money is there in the Power Five conferences, compliance with Title IX is a hurdle that can’t and won’t be negotiated unless college baseball becomes enough of a moneymaker to get the lawyers involved to find a loophole.
While programs like LSU, Arkansas and some others actually generate profit from baseball, most programs don’t break even.
Starting the season in March instead of February would likely help with ticket sales because of improved weather conditions, but there are too many other considerations for that be a point of discussion in the near future.
College baseball is highly entertaining, but there still isn’t enough money involved to make drastic changes to the system.
The good news for Hog baseball fans is that appears right-handed pitcher Blaine Knight will be back on the mound for Arkansas next spring.
The Texas Rangers selected Knight, a draft-eligible sophomore, in the 29th round, but Knight’s upside with another year of college experience and physical growth is considerable.
If Knight can craft another season like his sophomore year or actually improve upon it, there’s a possibility he could be an early round selection as a junior.
Second baseman Carson Shaddy of Fayetteville and junior outfielder Luke Bonfield will be back for their senior seasons with the Razorbacks after going undrafted.
Knight, Shaddy, Bonfield and returning underclassmen like catcher Grant Koch, outfield Dominic Fletcher, and shortstop Jax Biggers give the Hogs an outstanding returning nucleus for next year’s squad.
The New York Yankees drafted junior pitcher Trevor Stephan in the third round, and the Colorado Rockies picked junior slugger Chad Spanberger in the sixth. Both will begin their quest to make it to the Big Show shortly, rather than returning to Arkansas for their senior seasons.
The San Diego Padres picked up senior pitcher Dominic Taccolini in the 10th round and the Florida Marlins nabbed senior pitcher Josh Alberius in the 36th round.