BY MARK LERNER
Major League Baseball recently held its annual draft of college and high school players.
Most of those players will never play in a big-league game, including many drafted in the early rounds who signed contracts worth six figures or higher. Evaluating young talent in baseball, more an art than a science, may well be the most challenging of all sports.
Yet one Eden Prairie resident has turned doing just that into a thriving business. Justin Musil founded Elite Sports Advising in 2011. His clients – the families of high school baseball players – seek his assessments and connections to college coaches.
“What makes us successful is how good we are at evaluating players for each level of college baseball,” Musil said. “I can walk into a high school game and tell which players are Division I, Division II or Division II talent.”
Musil has helped more than 100 players receive college athletic scholarships. Mike Fischer, father of Edina shortstop Charlie Fischer, has high praise for Musil.
“Within weeks of hiring Elite Sports during April or May of Charlie’s sophomore year, the Notre Dame baseball coach was here watching him play.” Charlie, who will be a senior this fall, recently committed to the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg.
“No way a Southern Miss coach would know about a Minnesota kid but for Justin,” Fischer said. “There are a lot of shortstops in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama, but Justin is able to match players with programs.”
It’s from his connections to more than 400 college coaches that Musil was able to identify where Charlie, a left-handed hitting shortstop who hits with power, might fit in.
Musil and three colleagues attend about 50 college ballgames at all levels each year.
“We’ve put a lot of effort into visiting campuses and building relationships with college coaches,” said Musil, who pitched and played shortstop for UW-Eau Claire.
Of course, not all of the players he recommends succeed in college ball. Commenting on the credibility he’s established, “It’s not my job to get it right every time, just to get it right more often than anyone else,” such as club coaches and high school coaches, Musil said.
While strongest in Minnesota, Elite has clients in 19 states, including the baseball hotbeds of California and Florida. Elite advisors attend about 200 high school games per season, with Musil himself watching about 10-12 games each week. At them, Musil both evaluates players under game conditions who are already under the Elite umbrella and seeks out possible new clients for his services.
An associate scout for the Texas Rangers, Musil also helps families weigh options on whether their son should sign a professional contract coming out of high school. Most players, he said, benefit from the experience and exposure they get playing college or junior college ball.
To make his point, Musil might have mentioned a Southern Miss shortstop who led his team to the 2009 College World Series, eighth-round Minnesota Twins draft choice and future All-Star second baseman Brian Dozier.
An Edina resident, Mark Lerner is the father of two college graduates and two current college students. He may be reached at [email protected]