It is a truth universally acknowledged that every college baseball coach must be in want of players. However, there is one obstacle for both players and coaches when it comes to recruiting.
“If they’ve never seen you play, they can’t recruit you,” former Baltimore Orioles prospect Jake Luce said. “If they don’t know anything about you, they can’t recruit you. If these guys have never tasted chocolate, they can’t miss it.”
Luce was one of those players who initially fell through the cracks and fought us way to playing in college and ultimately making it to minor league baseball. He started The Luce Prospect Group in 2014 to focus on helping the same type of players get their shot at college ball.
“Going to a big high school and earning the accolades that I did, you would think that I would get a lot of offers and attention and that wasn’t the case,” Luce said. “That’s what we try to tell these parents. It doesn’t matter if you go to a big high school or a small one. It doesn’t matter if you hit .400. If they don’t see you, they can’t recruit you.”
Luce has built trust and credibility with coaches across baseball, which has helped him find places for LPG prospects.
“It was cool because I’ve been developing the relationships with all of these coaches for something that years later I never knew I was going to be doing. I know a lot of these guys because they did recruit me,” Luce said. “In the wonderful world of sports you’re judged based on how far you went and what level you got to. I’ve seen what it takes to play on every level. When these coaches call me asking about players, that does hold weight.”
He added that while LPG focuses on helping players, their goal is to also help college coaches and recruiting coordinators.
“We want to do everything we can to make the coaches’ jobs so much easier. They don’t have the recruiting budget to send guys all over the country. They just don’t have it. This isn’t football,” Luce said. “We have to be able to cater to that and if college coaches want access to top prospects in the DFW area, they’re going to get everything they need through LPG. That’s why college coaches and I have relationships and they keep calling back.”
One of those coaches is Erik Gaston, the recruiting coordinator for The University of Texas At Tyler, who has brought on Graham Welch and Blake Ross, two LPG prospects.
“With Graham, I saw him at a camp in San Antonio and saw him play in a few games. I liked what I saw and went through the normal process of doing some research. Through that process is how I found out about The Luce Prospect Group,” Gaston said. “Jake had reached out to talk about Graham and that’s where we started our relationship.”
Gaston said UT Tyler has had nothing but good things to say about the pair.
“With Graham, he made the transition fairly quick and is successful in both the baseball field and the classroom,” Gaston said. “With Blake, it’s been the same type of impression. They have both met and exceeded the expectations we have for our program. We’re confident about them and it builds confidence with Jake. When he recommends a player or says hey, this is a good kid that I believe can help you guys out, we’ve got some background and experience where we’ve had success in the past.”
Head baseball coach Chris Bertrand echoed Gaston’s sentiments.
“We wanted Graham because we knew he could play but how fast he picked up the college game and a lot of the intangible things like body language and the ability to make adjustments, he didn’t struggle with,” Bertrand said. “I think that’s a product of where he’s come from and being part of LPG and what they teach those guys. With Blake, it’s the same thing. We have the utmost confidence knowing that he comes from the same program and that we’ll get the same type of results from him.”
With these types of players, the future of the UT Tyler program looks bright.
“When you bring in young players of that caliber, it allows you to be in a position to have sustainability and success,” Bertrand said. “It means they can come in and compete for your program right away and you know you’ll have those guys for four years. If we can continue to bring in those types of players, we don’t ever put ourselves in a position to rebuild. We just reload and go onto another year and we think that’s where we are.”
Part of the success of LPG has been its honesty when approaching coaches with scouting reports of their players.
“There’s no reason for us to do bad business. If we send players that can’t play just to make our numbers look good, then these college coaches will never call us back again,” Luce said. “It’s all about reputation. We want to make sure we give 100 percent accurate scouting reports so these college coaches know they’ll be getting a report from guys that have been there, not an Internet database, mom and dad, or even high school coaches.”
And with coaches having low recruiting budgets, Luce said LPG wants to help the coaches find these players.
“These college coaches have the ability to say hey, we’re interested in you. Come pay $500 to come to our showcase camp. That’s nothing against the college coaches but that’s simply to say they don’t have the recruiting budget. When they invite prospects to come on campus, yes, they do want to do evaluations but 95 percent of those camps is all about money,” Luce said. “Confucious said that real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance so when parents get to that point of ignorance, who do they go to? Their high school coach isn’t paid to help them get recruited. They are paid to win. It’s not the high school coach’s fault these kids fall through the crack. It’s not the college coaches’ fault because they don’t have the recruiting budget. They can only be at one place at one time.”
By doing this, Luce said he sees LPG as a higher quality prospect company.
“There’s other companies out there that are much bigger than us and that make a lot of money but the question is what is their sign rate,” Luce said. “If you have 150,000 kids a year and 20,000 get scholarships, yeah, that’s a lot of money but what about the other 130,000 kids. What happened to them? They can look through videos all they want but that doesn’t do anything compared to somebody like me or someone on my staff who has played professionally.”
With the trust of parents and coaches, Luce said he hopes his company continues to grow and ultimately help people make the same jump he did.
“In life, you don’t get what you deserve. You get what you negotiate,” Luce said. “So my questions to the people that are out there is who’s negotiating for you. All we’re doing is helping these kids and that’s the main thing. What better job is there?”