How Division III Players Become Draft Prospects | The Golden Sombrero Baseball Blog | MLB, Fantasy, College & High School Baseball News

How Division III Players Become Draft Prospects

This year thirteen players were selected from Division III institutes, which is fairly typical of most drafts.  The highest D3 player selected was Ben Hughes of St. Olaf, who was taken by the Rockies in the 10th round (their fifth pitcher selected).  The lowest was Ken Wiser, another pitcher, of Linfield who was selected by the Rangers in the 50th round.

Division III baseball and athletics in general are fundamentally different than either Division I or II, and not even on the same wavelength as NAIA or NJCAA athletics.  The difference likely begins with the nature of the institutions themselves.  Whereas D1 and D2 universities tend to be on the larger side, some D3 schools enroll less than 1,000 students.  Committing such a large percentage of the budget to a full D1 athletics program would grossly misinterpret the needs of most of these student bodies and therefore relegates these institutions to a lesser financial commitment.

While that is seen largely as a disadvantage to most Neanderthalic morons, student-athletes at D3 schools are also typically provided tremendous educations capable of sending their graduates to fulfilling and unique careers in and out of athletics.  That’s typically the draw, and many of these students receive very large scholarships.  While they are not technically deemed athletic scholarships, many financial aid packages are distributed based on likely contributions to campus life.  Athletics is included in these contributions.

Typically, however, players recruited by D3 schools are of the late-blooming type and/or have zero interest in professional athletics or have never seriously considered it a possibility.  Instead these players tend to recognize that they are good, love the game, and want a quality undergraduate education.  For many of these athletes, baseball has never once been the most important thing in their lives and likely never will be.  That in no way makes them lesser baseball players, however.  Many of these players are high achievers in all walks of life and refuse to half-ass anything.  Recent All-American selection Mike Nodzenski fits this profile well.  Robbie Unsell comes to mind too.  Robbie is currently in vet school in London and was a tremendous D3 baseball player breaking numerous school records and picking up an All-Region selection as well.  He also majored in one of the toughest departments in school and received tremendous grades in the process.

So then how does a guy like Jordan Zimmerman go from a D3 school to the 1st round, or a guy like Billy Wagner go from D3 to the HOF?  Well, most importantly, it takes a scout willing to take a chance.  Most D3 players are not draft prospects, so results tend to be completely meaningless in player evaluation.  It also takes a terrific coaching staff to ensure that players are developing properly despite tremendous academic workloads and likely other interests.  Perhaps most important is what the player does in the summer.  Selection to a top league like the Valley or Northwoods can greatly boost a player’s resume.  It unfortunately can also shatter it.  In Hughes’ case, it boosted his draft standing considerably.  He was an all-star last summer with the Duluth Mustangs of the Northwoods.

D3 baseball is different.  That’s beyond debate, but every single year a collection of players are selected from tiny schools in unusual corners of the United States to begin professional careers on the baseball field.  What likely also is beyond debate is that whenever these players’ careers end, however, is that they will have some very interesting second careers ahead of them after their days at the yard come to a close.  With that in mind, these players are not unlike the thousands of other D3 athletes who compete every season.  Hopefully as we settle into our second year writing here at the Sombrero, you’ve enjoyed reading what a handful of Division III players have written over the last year or so.

1 Comment

  1. Kim Broyles says:

    I have a son who plays DIII at Bluffton University. He is in his senior year and has broken many school records for individual season and the overall records. He was named First Team HCAC, 2011 All-Buckeye State Team, 2011 All-Buckeye State Dream Team, 2011 Third Team All Region and was recently named 2012 Pre-Season All America. He also just received an invitation to play baseball in Chicago this summer. Baseball is my son’s life as well as getting his education. So to say that “Typically, however, players recruited by D3 schools are of the late-blooming type and/or have zero interest in professional athletics or have never seriously considered it a possibility. Instead these players tend to recognize that they are good, love the game, and want a quality undergraduate education. For many of these athletes, baseball has never once been the most important thing in their lives and likely never will be” is completely false in my son’s case.

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