Bus Trip: Four Days, 20 Colleges
Monday, nearly two dozen aspiring college baseball players
hopped on a bus to start a four-day trip around Virginia, a trip
that will take them to 20 colleges and universities.
tour started at Randolph-Macon College, a Division III school,
before making stops at D-I schools Richmond and VCU. Christopher
Newport University and William & Mary followed, with an on-field
workout on the Tribe’s field capping the day. For those keeping
track, that’s two private schools and three public schools; two
D-III schools and three D-I schools; schools ranging from
enrollment of about 1,300 to more than 31,000.
all by design.
Prado, who played two years of baseball at William & Mary, had
been running video production business Play In School for a
handful of years to assist high school athletes in their pursuit
of landing college attention when he came up with the idea of a
bus tour to get kids on college campuses big and small, rural
and urban. While there, the players are sure to see the baseball
field – but they’ll also see the library, a dorm room, a lecture
hall and other parts of campus often forgotten in the hustle and
bustle of summer travel ball schedules.
is in his second year of offering his tours, which currently
take place in Virginia and North Carolina (Play In School
featured its first softball tour earlier this summer). He took
some time to answer some questions from CBI about the concept.
did the idea of a bus tour come from?
Ask a high school baseball player a very simple
question…“Besides baseball and a ‘good education’ what are the
five most important things you want from the college you
The most popular response is NO
Next to purchasing a home, paying for college is
the second-largest financial investment the average American
family will make, and arguably the most important. Yet the trend
I’ve seen is that many families are being totally reactive in
the process. A player’s list of potential schools is determined
by the first three or four schools to show a little interest.
To me, that seemed like a pretty naïve way to go
about the process. Think about it, when you buy a house, you
walk through a 10 or 20 homes before making an offer. But a life
decision of college choice gets left up to a 25-year-old
recruiting coordinator who likes the way a kid swings a bat or
throws a ball? To me, that’s a lot like buying the house that
the realtor likes!
What is different about your tours? What can a
Remember this, playing on a college field is not
the same as touring a college.
Our tours put an emphasis on research. Our
itineraries are super aggressive (up to 20 colleges in four
days) on purpose. We want to show kids colleges with lots of
differences…public, private, big, small, beach, mountains, city,
high academic, more “social,” etc.
Giving players a chance to see such variety helps
them narrow down their ideal type of environment. It also helps
them eliminate types of colleges, which is very important!
At each school we visit we are given a private
tour of both the academic and athletic facilities. We’ll see
things like dorm rooms, classrooms and libraries. We also get
behind-the-scenes access to the athletic facilities such as
weight rooms, training rooms, locker rooms and the fields.
The cherry on top is that we do two private
workouts on each trip. As opposed to the standard combine with
200 players on the field, we work out on college fields with
just the players on the tour (tour limited to 35). Our workouts
are very well attended by college coaches, so it’s a great
opportunity for coaches to see a kid in a small group instead of
a cattle call.
was the response from players and parents from last year’s
If the response from the parents and players
hadn’t been completely positive, I would not be offering any
more trips. One, every kid learned a ton about the schools we
visited. Two, every kid learned a ton about what THEY are
looking for out of their ideal college. Three, they had a ton of
We had some pretty cool things happen last
year. We had couple of D-I offers and commitments during and
immediately following the trip. We also had a couple of kids
make college choices to schools they first saw on our
trip! After the trip, they made more in-depth visits, but they
first saw the school with us. We also had a couple of surprising
college choices from kids that I wouldn’t have originally
matched up. But that is why visiting a bunch of schools is so
Your two tours this year are going through
Virginia and North Carolina. How have the tours been received by
College coaches, first and foremost, are
ambassadors of their institutions. They all recognize that and
see the big picture. Every kid on a tour is not necessarily a
prospect. And that’s OK. The reverse is true, too. A prospect
may not get a good vibe from a college. And that’s OK. Actually,
that’s really important. It doesn’t help a coach to recruit a
kid who is not excited about that school or type of school.
The coaches have been really accommodating and in
most cases have really rolled out the red carpet for us. Some of
that has to do with the relationships I’ve built over the last
six years working with ball players. But the bottom line is
coaches want kids to see their campus early in the process.
You also did a softball tour this year? How did
It went fantastic. Same goals, same plan, similar
itinerary. Two major differences though. Boys ask questions. But
girls ask questions AND take very thorough notes! I provide each
player a booklet with info on each college and a questionnaire
for them to fill out on each school. The other major difference
was choice of movie on the bus. The boys watch “Bull Durham”
while the girls watched “Frozen.” That took some getting used
your videos and tours, you meet a lot of college baseball
prospects. What kinds of mistakes do they make when looking at
Not knowing what THEY want out of
college. Perfect example, I spoke to the father of a D-I
prospect. Kid had some offers coming in already, but I thought
it would be a good idea for him to come on my North Carolina
trip to see those schools and for those coaches to see him. When
I asked what schools he was considering, the list was all over
the map literally and figuratively.
The dad tells me they have it narrowed down to a
school in a giant downtown New England city, another school deep
in the mountains and a third school in a small, very southern
coastal town. All are decent schools. But all are VERY
different environments and experiences. That kid has no idea
what he’s looking for. I hear the same thing every week.
Do your research.
What are your future plans for the bus tours?
My plan over next few years is to continue adding
trips in different states and regions. These trips are not
designed as “cattle calls” and never will be, but I’d like to be
able to offer families multiple options to choose from.
Part of our growth will also come from strategic
partnerships with travel teams, high school coaches, industry
leaders and nonprofits like The Cannonball Foundation that are
looking to give their players a strong value-added service.