For children, travel baseball is the key to the world of high-level college play. If you want your kid to excel in this sport or if your child shows serious interest in it, youth travel baseball is worth a shot.
With that said, what is travel baseball exactly, and how does it differ from other forms of youth baseball? Read on to find out!
What Is Travel Baseball?
Travel baseball is a form of youth baseball that is played away from a team’s immediate area. Travel teams may travel to another city or state to participate in baseball travel tournaments.
Generally, travel baseball is viewed as an intermediary step between Little League baseball and high school or college-level baseball. Travel baseball is usually much more competitive than recreational baseball leagues like Little League. Besides that, youth travel baseball allows for more exposure for a young baseball player, potentially providing a big boost to a child’s baseball career.
Travel baseball vs. Little League
The Little League embodies traditional youth baseball where children have fun rather than become engulfed in the tough training world of more “serious” youth baseball environments (like travel baseball).
Kids may start playing in the Little League from as young as age 4. LL games are very rarely held outside a local area, and in this league, children will be learning the basics of hitting, pitching, and other essential baseball concepts.
Little League was traditionally an intermediary stage between recreational youth play and middle to high school baseball. Back in the day, sticking to the Little League and other recreational programs was enough to prepare young players for high school- and then college-grade baseball.
These days, this is no longer the case. Middle school programs are now either subpar or non-existent. Little League is a viable alternative to recreational baseball, but when it comes to building the basis for elite-level competition, it pales in comparison with travel baseball.
With all that in mind, let’s conclude this section with these two points:
- For professional-level development, travel baseball would be a logical next step for children aged 11 to 12.
- Recreational leagues like Little League or local adult baseball leagues are a great choice for non-competitive baseball players who want to have fun and don’t want to make their life revolve around baseball.
The Benefits Of Travel Baseball For Aspiring Players
My overview of travel baseball and its benefits was kind of vague so far. Now, let’s look at the specific benefits of playing at travel teams compared to rec baseball.
I’d say that exposure is the biggest advantage of travel baseball. Getting yourself in front of the right people is important for a child’s long-term success in this sport – travel baseball allows you to leverage this.
At the very least, travel baseball gives children the opportunity to show their worth to high-level college baseball coaches who may have substantial influence in the sport. College scouts also often attend travel baseball meetings. In case your child has what it takes to succeed in baseball, a scout will identify their talent and perhaps give your kid a chance to establish themselves at a higher level.
More competition and thus motivation
Players in travel baseball are better-versed in baseball and are more competitive than rec players. This is actually a good thing – young players will have someone to look up to and will be more motivated to improve.
Children will also learn to face and hopefully overcome challenges that they wouldn’t encounter in recreational baseball. Fierce competition from better players forces weaker athletes to adapt – this is arguably the best aspect of travel baseball, though I still think that exposure is its #1 benefit.
Travel baseball team coaches are typically more competent than their colleagues at recreational leagues. Although travel baseball coaches will put more strain on a young player than a rec coach, the results will accordingly be considerably better.
Not only that, but travel baseball teams often employ former professional coaches who may have strong networks in baseball. Such coaches not only know how to make a skillful player but also may be able to connect athletes with other teams.
More eye-opening experiences
And finally, travel baseball is laden with eye-opening experiences.
People – and even more so kids – often don’t realize that there is an unexplored world beyond the limited horizon they have become so accustomed to. Throughout their travel baseball engagement, children will be able to meet people with different backgrounds, characters, and views of sport and life in general.
Some encounters with other players will help your kid appreciate sportsmanship, while others will teach them how to ignore fan hate and how to stand up for themselves.
The immense load of the sport itself will also help children get used to investing effort to get results and make them understand that life has its ups and downs.
The Disadvantages Of Travel Baseball
Travel baseball is far from perfect – it has a few disadvantages that parents ought to know about:
- It’s really expensive. Traveling costs can rack up to $5,000 or even $10,000 a year, though in most cases, families seem to spend around $2,500.
- It’s stressful for parents. Parents will have to plan ahead to accommodate their children’s play schedule. Frequent travel can put a toll on any parent, not to mention the financial dent it makes in parents’ wallets.
- Mental and physical strain on children. Tougher and more frequent workouts will undoubtedly produce better players, but they also strain children considerably – both mentally and physically.
- Not everybody will make it in travel baseball. Travel baseball is highly competitive, and usually, only the best players find a place in a travel baseball team. Not everybody will thus make it in this sport.
With commitment, skill, and some luck, travel baseball can be a gateway into professional sport. However, before you decide to have your child join a travel baseball team, you must consider its advantages and disadvantages – both for you and your kid.
What To Consider When Looking For A Travel Baseball Team
Now, I’ll outline a few things that you should be looking for in a travel baseball team – in case you are thinking about it as a future for your child.
Costs are going to be the #1 consideration for most parents.
I can’t tell exactly how much you’ll have to spend on entry fees, travel, and equipment – but it will most likely be under $2,500 per year. But depending on certain factors (more about these below), your costs may climb higher – in 2011, CBS News reported on parents who paid $4,000 for their kids’ participation in travel baseball.
You won’t find accurate cost estimates easily – you’ll have to dig deep for that. But one thing is certain – bigger teams with higher-quality coaches are going to cost you more.
To hopefully set you in the right direction, here are some major factors that will affect how hard travel baseball will hit your pocket.
- Your location. Teams based in rural areas will have to travel often and far. In contrast, travel baseball teams in important baseball hubs – like California – won’t have to drive or fly to another city or state too often.
- Whether the team will provide equipment. Bigger and more successful teams may have sponsorships with baseball gear brands. In these teams, players get their equipment for free or at a significantly reduced cost.
- Access to baseball facilities. Some teams have to rent baseball facilities to train. Needless to say, rent is going to be covered from your own pocket – whether in part or entirely. With teams that have their own facilities or train only at public fields, this will not be a concern.
- Coach compensation. Some teams pay small compensation to their coaches or cover their travel costs. Again, a team with such a model will transfer the responsibility for covering compensation to you. This will increase annual fees, but paid coaches are also likely to do their job better.
Travel tournaments in which the team participates. Teams participating in higher-level tournaments will have to pay higher entry fees. More competitive and “serious” teams are therefore going to cost you more.
What about coaches? Some people may, unfortunately, overlook this crucial aspect.
Here are a few questions that you need to find an answer to regarding coaches:
- Does the coach encourage their players?
- Does the coach give tips and advice tailored to the player’s personal strengths and weaknesses?
- How does the coach handle mistakes? Do they scream at players?
- Does the coach treat all players equally? Or maybe they have favorites in the team?
Don’t become captivated by clean facilities and promises of success in the sport – you may overlook jerk coaches if you do.
Your location will matter if your child wants to compete at the highest level in the future.
The thing is that major baseball states like California, Florida, Georgia, or Louisiana have plenty of elite travel baseball teams to choose from. You won’t have to travel far from home to find a worthy team for your kid.
On the other hand, in areas where baseball isn’t that popular, you may have few to no options. Even if there is a baseball team in such a place, it probably isn’t a super-competitive team with excellent baseball coaches.
Suppose your kid is unlucky enough to both want to play competitively and live in a baseball-less area. In that case, you’ll have to travel to another city or perhaps even state to find the opportunities you or your child desire. Not only is travel time-consuming, but it is also costly. You will have to make compromises – either play in a low-grade team or spend time and money to travel to another area.
4. The reputation of the team
The reputation of the team matters as well – for the athletic future of your child. If your kid plays in a team known for unfair plays, they may have trouble getting into a better team down the line.
Beating bad sports habits out of a baseball player can be challenging, and unless coaches are dealing with remarkable talent, they’ll prefer to work with someone who has the right foundation for their team’s goals and values.
5. Competitiveness and skill level
Is your kid looking just to have fun? In that case, more relaxed, less competitive Baseball travel teams would be ideal. Children who don’t intend to reach exceptional heights in baseball will feel out of place in a super-competitive team where everybody works at their limit.
In contrast, if your kid is ready to compete seriously, a more “upper-class” team with skilled players and a demanding coach will immensely motivate them.
In the end, youth travel baseball provides entry to competitive high school and college baseball. Consequently, it gives children a chance to try themselves in competitive play.
Travel baseball is a costly endeavor, and it requires plenty of planning and compromises on your part. Weigh the pros and cons and try to determine what would be the right choice for your child – more light-hearted, recreational leagues, or an astronomically competitive travel team.