For some programs, summer camps are a last resort to fill out rosters. For Wolverines baseball head coach Eric Madsen, they are a steady source of legitimate talent.
“The camp’s a big part of our recruiting process,” Madsen said.
The results support the argument. Senior Jake Rickenbach was recruited after attending a summer camp. Three years later, the shortstop was named to the Great West All-Conference first team. That year saw Rickenbach hit .390, average 1.51 runs per game and hit 19 doubles on the season.
Jace Brinkerhoff was another camp product. The six-foot third baseman hit at a .456 rate in 2010, good for second in the nation. His 88 runs scored were the most in the U.S.
Not only were Richenbach and Brinkerhoff both camp products, but they also came from Madsen’s local recruiting ground. Rickenbach is from Pleasant Grove, Brinkerhoff from Spanish Fork.
The need to see players up close keeps Madsen’s camps a relatively low-key affair. As opposed to larger camps featuring many players and little actual coaching, Madsen and his staff make the camp a smaller affair to promote more personal communication.
“It’s open to everybody, but we hope some of the better kids are coming that we have seen,” Madsen said. “They get a chance to meet us, we get a chance to see them more than just on the field. We see how they interact and how they fit in our program.”
It’s an approach the high school players appreciate, as opposed to being lost amidst hundreds of other campers at other universities.
“I think they try to spend more time with you, just teach you more,” Maple Mountain senior Weston Carter said.
The up-close exposure over a the three-day camp can help confirm what Madsen’s staff thought about a certain player. Redshirt freshman catcher Court Zollinger was one such case.
“Court came to our showcase and prospect camps in the past, and he was a guy who we liked,” Madsen said. “When we saw him and how he handled things, how he handled other players, pitchers and guys he didn’t know, we thought that guy would be a big asset for us.”
Others have the opposite experience when the camp exposes character flaws not initially known after simply watching a high school player compete.
“We’ve had kids who we’ve thought a lot of, and once we got them into camp, it kind of went the other direction,” Madsen admitted.
The fact they are being evaluated constantly during the camp isn’t lost among the camp attendees, who go out of their way to apply what Madsen’s staff teaches.
“Yeah, there’s a little [pressure],” Carter said. “The’re looking at you a lot. You just have to stay calm, do your own thing.