Laren Eustace already liked the Indiana baseball program when he woke up Monday.
Then a phone call came that made Eustace fond enough of the Hoosiers to abruptly end his college recruitment.
The Indiana coaching staff sweetened its scholarship offer to Eustace, and later in the day the Batavia senior center fielder committed to the Hoosiers.
“They were already No. 1, just raising the offer made it like any other school, whatever they would have done, really couldn’t have done anything to change that because it really is where I wanted to go,” Eustace said.
The fleet-footed, 5-foot-9, 165-pound left-handed hitter chose Indiana over offers from Notre Dame, Illinois, Cincinnati and Southeast Missouri. He also had significant interest from several other Division I programs, including Oklahoma State, Michigan, Michigan State, Duke and Virginia. He was scheduled to visit Michigan State later this week before choosing Indiana, which is coming off its first College World Series berth in program history.
Eustace batted .381 with 21 RBIs and 21 stolen bases last spring as the Bulldogs’ leadoff hitter.
He visited Indiana last week and liked that the Hoosiers’ coaching staff was more personable and less businesslike than some of the other schools that were recruiting him.
“They were fun to be around and they could also be like that father figure for me, too, so they could guide me and give me direction when it comes to being a college athlete,” Eustace said.
Eustace’s decision brings some closure to a memorable summer of baseball. He said he and his travel team counted about 6,500 miles worth of baseball road trips.
Out-of-state events in Indiana, Ohio, New York, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee clogged Eustace’s calendar, and July 29, Eustace attended a showcase for 50 of the Midwest’s top high school baseball prospects, hosted by the Kansas City Royals.
“It was pretty tough,” said Eustace, who plays travel ball with Lemont-based Team DeMarini. “You’ve really got to like baseball if you’re traveling that much.”
College baseball might not be Eustace’s only option after he plays his senior season at Batavia next spring. At the showcase in Kansas City, Eustace and the other prospects were given extensive information about breaking in to professional baseball.
“It was really cool, because I got to see kind of where I stacked up among top Midwest players,” Eustace said of the showcase, for which he said he was recommended by a Cincinnati Reds scout.
The Kansas City trip made for a thrilling capstone to his summer, although rain that day forced the workouts indoors rather than at the Royals’ Kauffman Stadium as originally planned. He said all 30 major league teams were represented.
“They did a lot of stuff educating you on the [major league draft], just how that works with the selection process and every team gives you a questionnaire you have to fill out with your medical history. … Every time you’ve been to the hospital, they want to know about it because if they’re going to invest money, they want to make sure there’s nothing extremely eye-opening they wouldn’t want to draft you because of.”
Still, Eustace said he anticipates playing college baseball rather than attempting to filter directly into the pro ranks.
“I really want to get my education first,” Eustace said. “If I got drafted, I don’t really know if I’d be very highly drafted because those kids are already talking to agents and stuff. ... I think I’m just going to get my education and then if it comes junior year when I’m draft-eligible in college, if the opportunity comes, then I think I’ll take it and see where it goes from there.”