For college coaches, recruiting is a process that can take you down the back roads of America, hopefully finding a buried treasure along the way.
But for Mitch Thompson and his Highlander coaching staff, recruiting extended its way across the pond.
Thompson, the head baseball coach at McLennan Community College, fondly remembers the months it took to convince George Callil, his freshman shortstop from Melbourne, Australia, to come to Texas to play junior college baseball. As many things do, it all started with a guy that knew a guy that heard about a guy who saw a kid play.
“We basically recruited him from a friend that knew a friend that knew a contact,” Thompson said laughing.
Hailing from a city in a country with similar spring and summer weather patterns as that of Texas, Callil was looking for a place to play ball in the states that suited his climate needs. Florida, Arizona and Texas were on the mind of the teenage infielder from a place that was nearly 9,000 miles away.
“They suggested that if he wanted to go play junior college baseball in Texas, which he wanted to do because he wanted to stay in the weather, this climate would be a great place for him,” Thompson said.
So Thompson decided to take his friend of a friends’ contacts’ advice and go after Callil, not really knowing how to engage in international recruitment. It’s expensive to contact Australia, let alone hop a plane, so Thompson had to get creative. Modern technology allows processes like these to proceed with less difficulty than the past, so Thompson used what he could to reach out to Callil. He opened his computer.
“I only talked to George once or twice, due to the cost of international calls being high,” he said. “We did use skype, though. I think that made all of this a little easier.”
But with constant face to face contact out of the question, Thompson jumped at an opportunity to see his international recruit play in the United States. Callil traveled with the rest of the Australian National Team team to America to compete in a tournament. It was the only time Thompson would see Callil play.
“The one time he was here in the U.S. playing with the Australian team, we got in touch,” Thompson said. “I have never recruited anybody over video before so I was hesitant.”
Thompson didn’t let his hesitancy scare him away from the talent he saw in Callil.
“We were able to pull up some video of him and saw some unbelievable actions defensively,” he said. “So we got on the recruiting trail and trusted our friendships with the people we were talking with and trust what we knew and saw. It clearly worked out.”
Indeed it did. As a freshman, Callil has moved himself into the Highlanders’ starting shortstop role, appearing in 55 of MCC’s 62 games. Sporting a .310 average, Callil has hit three home runs and driven 25, becoming one of Thompson’s go to guys at the end of their hard-hitting lineup.
“George hitting at the bottom of our lineup gives us a good boost because he gets on base a good amount of the time for the top of our lineup,” Thompson said. “He and a few others are partly responsible for a lot of the big RBI numbers for the top of our lineup.”
Numbers aside, Thompson still believes he made the right move in helping Callil settle in Central Texas to further his baseball career. Seeing Callil play day in and day out has left no doubt in his mind that the time and effort it took to bring the young shortstop the MCC was undoubtedly worth it.
“He’s a very low maintenance player and is going to give his best effort every single day,” Thompson said. “He’s quiet, but at the same time he knows where he is supposed to be and is unafraid to make big plays in big situations. He is as good of a defensive shortstop that there is in junior college baseball. I have no doubt that he has a really, really bright future.”