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The Various Levels of College Baseball

Many of us, especially high school athletes, often have many questions regarding the different levels of college baseball. Does a Division 1 player have to hit .430 in high school? Do you need to stand over 6 feet tall to play at this level? What is the difference between NCAA and NAIA competition? These questions are generally not easy to answer, however many college coaches and recruiting coordinators have a very good idea as to which level a player should aim to play at. Here are some of the guidelines one can follow regarding players at the various levels of college baseball.

*This guide is designed to give players and parents a general idea of the different levels of baseball. It is by no means a concrete guide, and should not be used as a citeable reference.


Division 1:

The typical Division 1 freshman has been recognized as a "college ready" player, and possesses the physical requirements of a Division I athlete. The position player has proven to various college coaches that he can hit both for power and average, while demonstrating strong defensive skills as well. A pitcher at this level will have also proven to be dominant in high school, putting up very solid stats throughout his junior and senior years. Many of these players also possess strong athletic capabilities, such as good sprint times (60 yard dash), and impressive numbers in the weight room. These players do not ALL necessarily have a height advantage or powerful body build, but the majority of them will look the part of an athlete. It is common for players who do not get much playing time at this level to transfer either directly to another division, or to a junior college. Transfer requirements for the various divisions can be found in the "Transfer requirements" page.

As expected, you will find many big-name schools at the Division 1 level. It is the center stage of college baseball and by far gets the most professional attention. As with all levels of baseball, not every team is a successful one. Some schools will consistently have players drafted every year, while other schools will not have a very successful year. The level of competition between Division 1 schools is fairly consistent.  While it is obvious that the Division 1 level is the highest level of college baseball, it is important to remember that not ALL schools get the cream of the crop players. There are plenty of schools from other divisions who would beat some division 1 teams. Division 1 schools usually are allowed 11.7 full athletic scholarships, which can be partitioned among their players. The minimum amount of money that can be given for athletics is 25% of a full ride scholarship.

Division 2:

The typical Division 2 freshman is also one who has proven to be ready for a high level of college baseball, but still has some  improvements to make. Players might be lacking in the physical aspect of the game, but can still hit for average and power, and are strong defensively as well. If a player is polished athletically, he most likely has some work to do concerning his mechanics. Pitchers, for the most part might have displayed dominance in high school, but again do not have the height or body build to compete with other Division 1 pitchers. Many division 2 schools, especially on the west coast or in the southern states, will attract very polished players due to the schools' well-known success. The D2 level has a very broad range of competition.

Unlike the Division 1 level, there is a high degree of discrepancy between D2 schools throughout the US. Many will say that the level of competition is best on the West Coast, or around the southern part of the United States, despite the fact that the East Coast is loaded with division 2 schools. Most schools at this level are smaller schools, and focus mainly on academic performance. Division 2 schools are only allowed 9 full athletic scholarships, which is why most talent will funnel to the D1 level. Some southern D2 schools will begin their seasons early, while most northern schools cannot play until mid-march due to weather conditions. It is common for these schools to play double headers every weekend, due to lower travel funding and weather conditions.

Division 3:

The division 3 level is generally considered to be lowest level of college competition. Starters at this level are typically upperclassmen (juniors & seniors), who have put in the time and effort over their college careers to improve their mechanics and athleticism. Many starters have also been those who transferred to a D3 school after a successful junior college career. Incoming freshman have some work to do in nearly every aspect of the game, and will not get much playing time until the players above them have graduated. Players who end up getting drafted from the Division 3 level (a VERY small number) typically show dominance throughout their college careers.

Division 3 schools place most of their emphasis on academics as well, and typically do not have a large student body. D3 athletic teams usually are very small in size as well. High school and JC players are typically not very attracted to the D3 level based on the fact that Division 3 schools give out a total of 0 (zero) athletic scholarships. Many students find their way to these schools through academic scholarships, and a good portion of financial aid. These schools generally are expensive to attend, so the school will have the proper funding to aid students in need.


The NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) level of baseball is typically similar to Division 2. Many players find themselves on an NAIA team after having successful JC careers. Players have shown the ability to play, and possess athletic qualities as well. http://www.brenautigers.com/images_web/logoNAIA.jpgDue to the somewhat "loose" nature of NAIA eligibility requirements, many teams have players who would not be eligible at an NCAA school, or did not meet certain requirements at the D2 level. Overall, the quality of player at this level is in between a Division 2 and Division 3 athlete.

Fully funded NAIA schools have the ability to give out 12 athletic scholarships, which is more than the Division 1 level. Eligibility requirements are far less strict than those in NCAA schools, and players can typically find a good amount of financial aid to go along with an athletic scholarship. For these reasons, many players who cannot land themselves a scholarship on a division 1 or 2 team will pursue an athletic scholarship from an NAIA school. Some NAIA players are those who chose to play another sport in college, and did not play baseball. Others have simply taken a few years off, and came back to have successful JC careers. No matter what the case, NAIA schools are very attractive to any type of ball player due to scholarship opportunities and a somewhat strong level of competition. NAIA baseball is an extremely unpredictable level of baseball, with some teams dominating (and performing like some Division 1 teams), while other teams cannot even manage to win a game. If considering going the NAIA route, do some heavy research into the prospective program.

Junior College

Junior college baseball is by far the most populated level of college baseball in the US (due to the large number of junior colleges available). Many players, even those with scholarship offers to 4-year schools will choose to play at the JC level instead. Junior colleges allow many players to stay (somewhat) close to home while keeping tuition costs low. They also allow players who have no offers out of high school more time to improve their game and work towards a scholarship elsewhere. The range of talent at the JC level is very broad. Many players get drafted from successful junior colleges, while others might simply try to walk on at a local 4-year after concluding their JC careers. The academic requirements of JC athletes are much less strict than those of 4 year athletes, so the JC option is very desirable to all ball players. In some states, Junior colleges are separated into division I, II, and III. JCs in all states EXCEPT CALIFORNIA offer athletic scholarships. Due to the high number of Junior colleges, it is a good idea to visit the NJCAA Site to get more information.