Joey Tepper

Editor’s note: Joey Tepper, who is a senior mass communication major from Fort Mill, S.C., is a member of the Winthrop University baseball team.

(Rock Hill, S.C.) – Recruiting visits — including campus and facility tours and meetings with future coaches and teammates — are all things that transpire when high school athletes are trying to decide what school to attend.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it turned the world on its side and changed life for most Americans, but it also changed how college programs were able to recruit their future players.

The NCAA extended the recruiting dead period, when coaches aren’t allowed to have in-person contact on or off campus with student-athletes or their parents, during the pandemic.

For college baseball, the dead and quiet periods typically last half of the year from October until March, but during the pandemic it lasted from March 2020 until June 2021.

“When COVID hit, it changed the whole face of recruiting for just about a year. We were not allowed to go out and see kids play, there were no visits allowed, and everything turned to sending in video and evaluating over the internet,” said Robbie Monday, recruiting coordinator for the Winthrop University baseball team.

As the pandemic made the evaluation process more difficult for coaches who could not travel to watch players compete in person, it was also difficult for high school players who were trying to find a college home.

A number of players from out of state said the inability to make a campus visit made their decision to come to Winthrop even more difficult.

“This decision was tough for me. I was not allowed to come see the campus, meet the staff or even see the Rock Hill area. Being from New York, COVID made my decision to choose a southern school like Winthrop a rather tough one,” said Chris Ewing, a freshman infielder from New York, N.Y.

Nate Chronis, a freshman catcher from San Marcos, Calif., said he had a similar experience.

“For me, the recruiting process was a long difficult one. Being all the way from California, the first time I saw the campus was the first day of class in August. I never got to see the campus, see where my classes were, meet any of the coaches formally. It was tough,” said Chronis.

Despite the difficulty for coaches evaluating recruits based on video footage, Winthrop pitching coach Austin Hill said he was able to adapt to the situation.

“Recruiting pitchers during COVID was a bit easier than position players,” said Hill. “Pitchers can be evaluated more, over video than position players. So I took that time to break down arms I wanted for my staff. It was a nice change and I feel I brought in some guys who can help this program.”

In April, the NCAA announced it was ending the year-long dead period, due to the pandemic, and recruiting has since returned to a normal schedule.