The prominence of travel baseball has exploded over the past few years. The following are five of the most common disagreements you will hear against travel baseball:
1.Purely money driven: There are plenty of quality teams and events out there, who while having a higher price tag when compared to playing Little League or high school ball, are justified in doing so because they offer a better product in competition, coaching, and exposure. One look at Perfect Game’s website (www.perfectgame.org) should convince you their events are every bit legit, as well as those of teams who have long lists of college commitments. Be wary of teams, tournaments, and showcases about whom there is little known about, but don’t discount all of travel ball in the process.
2. A lot of Baseball: A full summer travel baseball routine can be difficult and is not for the faint of heart. Your love of the game and commitment will become apparent soon after just a few weeks in- this past summer our team played around 40 games throughout the Southeast. For many years a frequent criticism of travel ball is that it is just “too much baseball”. There are many reasons associated with this idea, like: “kids have to have a summer”, “I need more time to work out,” “I need to rest,” or “I need more tactic and not just playing games”. All of these reasons are valid for younger players, but high school aged players who adore dipping into the next level cannot have this attitude. My feedback to this is how are you going to stand the early morning workouts, brutal conditioning, and a 60+ game season if you can’t even dedicate your summers to the game? There is lots of time in the fall to work out and practice for baseball players, so these are not good enough reasons to miss out on the opportunity and experience that playing a tough summer schedule provides. Especially in areas where high school baseball is weak, going out and facing different competition too can be invaluable. In relation to recruiting, I think of it this way- if you are taking time off in the summer, there are thousands of kids who aren’t, and they are getting the leg up on you every day. No college coaches or scouts can see you if you at Disneyworld or the beach. Especially during sophomore and junior years, it can be now or never for some players, so would it be wrong to miss out on any opportunities for any of these reasons. Considering that the bulk of recruiting is done in the summer through travel ball, not partaking just because it is “too much baseball” is not a good strategy,.
3. High School More Important: Many high school coaches available have their own summer programs, and many of these play a schedule just like that of a travel baseball team. Many parents and players feel obligated to take part in this, with the thought that this it is an opportunity to make an impression on the coach. What will really make an impression on the coach is showing up when school starts as the best player you can be, and a number of times this requires avoiding your high school and gaining experience elsewhere. There are some great people out there coaching high school baseball no doubt, but sometimes it’s better to put yourself in front of another set of eyes and gain some new knowledge of the game. What wins high school baseball games does not necessarily develop players into what college coaches are planning to recruit, simple and plain. If your coach requires you to play on his team only to learn his “system” or tries to discourage you from playing travel ball during the summers, you may want to find a new coach.
4. Dominated by Few Elite Teams: Over the years there has been a perception that there are just a couple of elite travel baseball teams who secure all of the best talent and go around beating up on everyone all summer, and therefore if you can’t make these teams it’s not worth playing. While this may have been somewhat true in the past, there are more and more quality programs coming into existence every year challenging this idea. Examining the variety in the results of the World Wood Bat Championships over the past few years backs this up. Keeping that being said, you shouldn’t be discouraged if you don’t make one of the “elite” teams- there are many other quality programs that go to the same events and provide opportunities to be recruited. This past summer we were told by certain people that our team wasn’t “good enough” to warrant travelling the distance to certain tournaments, because we would lose and not attract any college coaches. Well, although we didn’t win the tournament, we played some quality opponents and a lot of our players gained the attention of some Division I schools, with two committing later on in the summer. While belonging to certain organization includes a certain “prestige” that attracts college coaches, it is certainly not necessary to get recruited. See our previous post Top 5 Recruiting Myths.
5. It’s Just “Daddy Ball”: As a general rule, try to find a program who is coached by individuals without any personal stake in the team, but at the same time don’t assume that all teams coached by parents will automatically be bad. Be wary of teams with coaches who have frequently changed teams, because this could be a sign of constant conflict. A majority of travel teams are coached by good people with good intentions, so it is important to not let a bad experience, either personal or from another; discourage you from playing on such a team.