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I'll go on record saying I have and always will love American Legion baseball. Purest form of amateur baseball around. Requires excellent coaching and team play to be successful.

I have noticed over the past few years a movement toward "showcase" or "tournament only" teams. This is somewhat discouraging to an "old schooler" like me. While it makes sense in the Baltimore/Washington Metro area (traffic congestion, work schedules, etc...), it is still disheartening to see teams playing fewer nights and consuming entire weekends away from home.

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure it provides some great experiences...but what about the training regimen that is so part of teaching/learning baseball? Repetition, night in and night out...that was the way I could measure a player's development throughout the season. Are these "showcase" or "tournament only" teams practicing during the week? Are pitchers throwing bullpens and running polls, or is that left up for them to do on their own?

Remember, this is not a criticism...simply a message from a discouraged former coach.
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With all due respect, I don't want to think of this as a problem. I'd like to know why this is happening?

One of my major concerns is the number of high school kids who are suckered into thinking they are going to be able to move on to play college baseball. I hope someone doesn't start citing number of colleges/universities, roster sizes, blah, blah, blah.

I worry too many players and coaches are throwing away the great years you can have as 16, 17 and 18 year olds building commoraderie with a group of guys over the course of a summer trying to win a league championship. All for the sake of being seen by a college scout or coach.

It just makes me sad.
Larry - I would have to agree with you. As a fellow "old school" guy, I believe these showcase teams can help players, but mainly in the fall season. While they do get players in front of some scouts eyes, they do not instill the daily work ethic it takes to have longevity in the sport. Players need to develop their skills in the spring and the summer. Teams that practice the repetitions that a player must have allow players to develop more. Seeing a player once or twice a week allows for little time for character development and instilling good practice habits. While every great player needs to be self-motivated, it is our job as coaches to help our players see value in work and make sure they are practicing the techniques they need to improve on. Showcase teams show players - I do not believe they develop players. Having helped develop players as a HS coach, I have seen the importance of overseeing workouts and practices. Having coached at the D1 level, I have learned that a HS or travel coach is a better source of information about a kid's work ethic and character than a showcase coach who sees a kid once or twice a week. Travel teams may be dying, but I believe it will be detrimental in the long run for the next generation of players. In my opinion, showcase teams are better in the fall - spring and summer are better for player development. - Just a thought.
Last edited by hocobaseballfan
Problem?....ok, maybe not the right word.

But, there seem to be more and more of showcase, tournament only, travel far - kinds of teams. At the same time, there seem to be less and less of coaches and teams that really work and develop players. Teams that really hold an actual practice - where players learn new skills and get a chance to work on those skills. More and more players are left to develop their skills working with an individual instructor (at add'l costs, by the way).

I know I sound 'old school' but didn't a player's coach used to be his 'instructor'?
Starts younger and younger.

What once was rec/intramural evolved to community travel teams with three ages wrapped into one (i.e.13-15) wirh a limited number of teams in those elite travel leagues. The young ones learned from the older ones and often sat while they learned and became the stars as they developed.

This was a critical component to travel ball at the time. Could a player weather the storm of learning and growing while playing against better, older players?

Community travel teams popped up with 9-10, 11-12, 13-14 dual age leagues and produced good local rivalries that flourished for a time (most often sponsored by the rec councils) ultimately feeding into legion ball as the top of the food chain...again with multiple age groups, together.
Good local tournaments, community-based, and pretty good baseball.

The biggest change came with the advent of single age group leagues, which allow a kid to be a big fish ALL OF THE TIME. It actually fueled participation in travel baseball and arguably kept more kids playing longer instead of giving up the game at 12, 13 years old.

Age specific travel is primarily sponsored outside of the local rec programs and also begins at very tender ages--independendents playing in the Baltimore Metro and the like with leagues for 9's,10's, 11's, etc...and daddy ball becoming the "law of the land", starting new teams where junior can be the feature player, etc, etc... Now there are tons of age specific travel teams starting as young as 8 years old!

And coming full cycle...the whole travel thing is not much different than having motivated rec players because of the numbers of teams and the single age bracket is severely diluting the experience.

Naturally, there are kids who are the best in these watered down travel only, single age group leagues who are seeking (through motivated coaches and parents) higher ground.

And "showcase" baseball is born....probably here to stay, too because there is a profit motive that fuels this very expensive choice and before you know it, you are budgeting the baseball season the same way you do the mortgage payments.

We did it all and it worked out...all the perks -national and regional summer championships, high school accolades and awards, D1 southern college player today -- but it was through a thin gateway that this all happened. A lot of luck and a lot of money (and that was WITH great and generous team sponsorship and a ton of acquired knowledge along the way.) Thank God we have just one son!

Absolutely that fall showcase is the best and certainly most productive of the showcase models. Keep your son's love of the game alive and that will help him go as far as his talent will take him. Really, that's all you can expect, so find the right model for energizing his passion and follow that path...
Good thread and good posts here. Some observations.

The market for personal instruction has been greatly enhanced by the very nature of the showcase and wide-area travel teams. Classic +/-. Given a good instructor, the one-on-one instruction certainly produces a mechanically sound player. However, without the daily grind of games and practices, getting the on-field reps and feel is being lost, as well as just learning the nuances of the game and learning how to overcome failure and how to win.

There are some quality organizations around that build very good travel teams from the younger ages and develop mostly players from their area. Once these teams hit the teen age groups, it is pretty hard to hold a team together at a high level for several reasons. Seems that more players are attending the private high schools. Most of the better teams have 2 or 3 kids that attend a private school. Once a player enters a private school, the coach can have control of that player's baseball activity, including summer and fall, for the next 4 years. This tends to start the falling off/falling apart process. Then, often times the better players that are left look for what they percieve to be a better team because they feel the team is not as good anymore.

Metro, Montgomery, and other strong leagues have become watered down (because of tournament and showcase teams)at the high school age groups, so players seek out better competition (on tournament and showcase teams). It has become a vicious cycle.

Too many parents think their player is a D1 prospect so they got to get out there, get to as many showcases as possible, got to get seen. Yet they end up on a minor showcase teams spending a fortune being seen by people that they have no chance of playing for. Don't get me wrong, their is something to be said for the showcases for sure, particularly the fall. But objectively determining a player's talent level, and then finding the right fit on a team that will get you seen by the right people for that talent level is the key.

For better or worse, the tournament and showcase teams fill the void, or the supposed void, for a lot of people.
Last edited by getagoodpitchtohit
Keep in mind that many "Showcase Teams" play in events during the summer that are a week in duration and most others are in prolonged weekend events--are you people saying you want the kids playing every day of the week during the summer

I also disagree on the instruction aspect--most good "showcase teams" have more than ample imstruction and keep in mind that the HS junior and senior players on "showcase teams" are very solid players and the instruction they need is more in fine tuning of their game than anything else. On their off days most of them are in a cage somewhere on their own hitting and the pitchers have a regular regimen they follow in terms of bullpens so as to be ready for the upcoming weekend tournament.

I do not know about other programs but with us we find a facility in the area of our tournaments so that we can work out during downtime or rain days.

My own feeling is that Legion got hurt and weakened themselves when they went to 19 year olds , not because of other programs

Just my two cents
TR -
I wish I saw more of what you are saying:
"most good "showcase teams" have more than ample imstruction and keep in mind that the HS junior and senior players on "showcase teams" are very solid players and the instruction they need is more in fine tuning of their game than anything else"

Just seems there are more and more teams that are really just groups of players who show up for a tournament or a showcase....or, teams that constantly play games with the idea that playing more and more games is the answer.

I just see less and less time spent on team practices and instruction/development. Your point on kids not throwing enough is true - and, I think comes out of this concept.

And maybe it is simply because there are too many teams, I don't know.
I think there have been a lot of good points made here. I think that things have changed tremendously in the last 10 years when it comes to summer baseball. In our program we try to find the right balance of offering kids college exposure as well as great instruction. That is why we play in showcase tournaments on the weekend, yet we practice twice a week as well. We are able to use our indoor facility for all of our hitting where a player to coach ratio is 3 to 1. Then we practice outside where our pitchers throw their pens and work with our pitching coach, while our other positions are broken down individually for their defensive work. On average we have 4 to 5 coaches with college or professional playing experience working with our players.

I do think that there is a huge misconception with showcase teams that they are only good for players who are D1 calibur or that the showcase teams sell themselves as the only route for parents to get their son to the D1 level even though he is not a D1 player. Our program really tries to help the kids who are D2 or D3 level players who have extremely limited options here in the state of MD. Over the past 3 years we have sent over 70 kids on to play in college and less than 20% of those have been D1 players. If you play only in the Maryland summer leagues, you are really going to have a tough time being seen by schools in PA, VA, NC, and WV.

The summer should be a time when kids are not only playing a highly competetive level to get ready for high school next year, but also a chance for them to learn and improve on their weaknesses as well as be seen by as many colleges as possible if playing college baseball is their goal. If a legion, metro, showcase, or any other team can provide those 3 things for a high school player, then I think its a great fit for that player.
...and there are rare instances where a player headed for relative obscurity is noticed and featured when somebody sees him.

Kevin Jacob was headed for another year of local American Legion ball for the summer of '06 when he was invited to play with a team that had been dominant for several years in the metro and was going to spend a summer on the showcase circuit, instead of another Baltimore Metro season.

Kevin was properly promoted, demonstrated his ability and raw skills at a tournament in Atlanta and Georgia Tech stepped up to sign him. He is one of the best pro prospects on the mound who is draft eligible this June and may be a first round pick, earning life-changing bonus money.

Do not get me wrong--- with the schedule and the location of our kids we do not practice (per se) in between events but on the days of the events we spend a lot of time in the cages as well as working with our pitchers---I do not believe that Legion practices much more than we do because with all their rainouts they have games backed up all the time
I'm sure there are many showcase teams that do all the right things in terms of getting exposure, some coaching/instruction, etc. TR - I've read enough of your posts to know that you and your staff are genuinely concerned about the development of the player to hsi fullest potential. Unfortunately, I think there are many 'teams' that are just showing up...playing....and then moving on to play another game, tournament or whatever next weekend. The kids never really ever work on 'developing their craft'.

And, yes, I do agree that kids don't throw enough these days. Nor run enough ... pitchers are the exception here. Position players barely jog in the outfield....and when they throw, how much is beneficial long toss vs. throwing 90' or less to warm up?

When was the last time many of the showcase teams did any PFP? I better stop....I'm hearing myself sound so old school!
Now this is a great slights or slams, just good people exchanging good information and ideas. Allow me to get real old don't play enough sand-lot ball. As most of you remember when we played sand-lot ball we had to figure things out for ourselves, not rely on some one to tell us what to do. One of the things it promoted was PRACTICE, and we loved it....we had to figure out cut-stations, when to steal, when to bunt and when to swing away, in other words, we had to become Students of the game. I don't believe you can lay this off on coaching, or whether or not your son plays rec, or travel.In my opinion our kids are sometimes too afraid to make mistakes, they are afraid of letting us down. One thing I am certain of in baseball, is you can not be afraid of failure's part of the game. One thing as a coach, or a scout, that really stands out today is, when you see a good player, with INSTINCTS. As coaches you already know if we have to tell you what to's probably already too late. maybe we should promte a Sand-lot league....Larry Williams
My concerns are not with the rising Jr's rising Sr's who have shown that they are advanced at the game and are ready to be "showcased" to college coaches. My concerns are with these rising freshman Sophs who have not played a game of varsity baseball and are traveling across the country playing in tourneys every weekend. Some playing on teams that never practice , work out , or teach the game. Just roll out the bats and balls and play ball.

I think for many they think if they get out there early they will get a jump on the rest. The fact is they are falling behind the ones that are working to get better and actually learning the game. But that might not be the case in every situation on every team. Its just a concern I have for the younger players. I always thought showcase was for players that had proven they were ready to be showcased.

Good discussion.
Rising seniors and quality juniors showcasing in showcase events, I think makes sense.

It just seems that more and more, players - of all abilities - are playing on teams that simply are brought together to play in 'showcase-type' tournaments. Or, with more and more Fall showcase teams playing weekend tournaments at colleges....inevitably, this concept will (already is) creep into the summer season. You know the type of tournament I'm talking....every Thurs night, players heading off so they are ready to play on Friday in some far-flung tournament. Returning on Sunday (sometimes Monday). There's no practicing or working on skill developments. More and more, it's all about game competition. Where the money comes from to fund all of this is another whole topic.

The issue of instincts and the assessment of players' instincts is a very interesting topic. Again, I say that there is way to much importance placed upon pitching velocity in 60 times. A high school coach once commented to me that if you took the radar guns and stopwatches away from most of the college recruiters, the wouldn't be able to do their job. I tend to agree. Sorry to wander a bit.

I just think that players play to many games and do not have nearly enough practices. Today's 'travel' teams almost don't allow time for practices. They are too busy playing in games or heading to the next big tournament.
Last edited by baseballguy
I also want to say that there are still 'some' teams whose coaches are conducting practices and trying to teach fundamentals. Teaching skills such as great base running, squeeze bunts, or double-cuts from the outfield may not be the sexiest things to practice, but they:
A) help to win games;
B) teach players to become better 'students' of the game;
C)probably develop that instinct thing; and
D) place greater value on the little parts of the game of baseball.

But, sadly, these coaches are fewer and fewer.
If I may...I'd like to mention three coaches in the area who probably had the greatest influence on me as a coach. We competed against each other, shared our philosophies on coaching and just generally got along because I knew we were all doing it for the love of the game.

Jim McCandless - his Severna Park Legion teams were unbelievably well coached. His first practice of each year was done with no bats, helmets or gloves. They would work on baserunning for 2-3 hours...and it showed year in and year out. A game manager with few equals (in my experience).

George Richardson - talk about a coach who knows the finer points and can communicate them to a new crop of players each and every year. Double-cuts, rundowns, delay steals, 1st/3rd offense or defense...his teams are prepared for any situation.

Randy Kail - I witnessed this man get more out of the players he coached then perhaps anybody I ever coached against. An evaluator of talent par excellent...and a fantastic game manager.

These guys all ran great practices...sometimes on off nights for 2 hours...other times for 30 minutes before or after a game. Sometimes in large groups, other times one-on-one.

But back to the original topic...I'm sure many showcase and tournament teams do a fine job of coaching the players...but nothing can be the same as night in and night out contact, bonding and repetition.
Heres our Travel Team vs Legion story.

Son played Legion two years ago (end of Soph yr), team went to North East regionals (lost in Championship game). We saw a few scouts at states and regionals, mostly from North East, he got the usual questionaires etc.

Last summer played on travel team that went to East Cobb and the exposure to college and pro scouts was unbelievable. End of story, ended up signing NLI to Maryland last month. He never would have got this opportunity with Legion ball unless got to nationals which is hard to do.

When I played Legion in 1969 and 70 it was the best BB in the NE, we played close to 50 games. Now they play half that amount because, I am told, Legion schedule is cut down due to sourthern states who start school earlier and football comes into play.

If you have son who can play and wants the greatest exposure, at least in NE, its travel ball if they go to major events.

One guys opinion.
Baseballson never played Legion ball, but my general perception is that Legion ball here is down, both in terms of number of teams and the quality of those teams. Others more knowledgable than I can comment on that.

As far as exposure goes, I think many of the travel teams really do a great job of that, especially if you go to certain tournaments such as Johnstown, East Cobb, Jupiter/WWBA Championship. I fully understand and agree with that. I even understand players attending showcase events/camps to gain exposure.

I guess where I fall off a bit is when a team or a player's focus seems more on simply gaining exposure, more exposure, and, eventually, even more exposure. It just seems that, increasingly, today's travel teams hardly ever practice and when they is a few rounds of BP, very little throwing, and - maybe - a round of infield/outfield. Pitchers may throw a bullpen here or there. I just believe that players spend less and less time - especially on summer/fall travel teams - learning and practicing the finer points of the game. Travel teams used to be something special....special teams with special, not so much.

I understand that there are still some great quality travel programs out there. But, my guess is, PG could make the WWBA event in late October a month-long event if he wanted to open it up to an unlimited number of teams. That is, of course, if he didn't care about the quality of the teams.
American Legion Baseball enjoys a reputation as one of the most successful and tradition-rich amateur athletic leagues.

American Legion's Baseball numbers have been declining and for several reasons which include:
- Eliminating the first year player draft August Legion draft and January draft in 1986.
- Age eligibility change in 2003.
- Lack of Financial support at local lodges.
- Small roster sizes
- Districting requirements
- Junior American Legion available in a few areas

For the last five years, Maryland American Legion Baseball may have been affected most by the age change (19U) (from 18U). Personnally, I enjoyed watching the games for the 18U High School kids, and especially the rising 15U-16U (and paying their dues). Of course I maybe spoiled from taking advantage of watching a few memorable 15/16U in Legion Baseball around here. (One is playing 1b for the NYY Yankees today)

Maryland has several counties whose Legion teams are quality programs, yet do not draw well, nor are they successful at the Regionals or National level of play. Montgomery County and Frederick County American Legion teams first come to mind. Howard County does NOT have Legion Baseball. Baltimore County and Baltimore City Legion teams has been in decline. Arundel County Legion Baseball, which was dominate in the 90's, is in decline, and has to join Calvert County and Baltimore Legions (Dewey Lohman) to have enough teams in the AA County Carey League to represent the State Legion rules...and primarily due to several reasons.....

....better management and control of the bending of the districting rules

...agressive recruiting of Legion players for "travel" ball teams.

The quality Maryland Legion programs will typically play 35-40 ball games a summer. In addition, these programs will practice once or twice a week when not playing games.

I believe 17U should stay local, practice close to home since that in itself builds many life-time experiences and relationshps and becomes the foundation for competing at the next level, whether collegiate or pro. I also believe Legion Baseball graduates are proud contributors throughout our society and often are the most successful people in their respective career fields.

My son in 2003, worked out a couple of times with my friend Randy Kail. Last year, Kail tracked me down to teach his teenage son to throw a curve ball. Kail was not associated with American Legion. My son worked out with George Richardson in the fall in 2002. McCandless has not coached Severna Park Legion the past couple of years nor next year.

Do I think Legion Baseball requires some adjustments?. Yes
Last edited by Bear
Originally posted by Larry Williams:
Now this is a great slights or slams,

My son also played with Larry 'Woody' Williams......when was that ...1987-89?

Woody has recently asked my son for an
autographed 8x10 picture of him to hang at his BATT Academy in Glen Burnie. (I am humbled).
My monthly phone call with Woody the other day, I mentioned I have the 8x10, yet no frame. Woody said he would supply the frame. It's going in the mail this week, if I can find a big enough envelope.

OBTW: When can I tell the story about when and where I adopted for you, your nickname? Is that a slam?
Originally posted by Bear:
Originally posted by baseball12532:

Kevin Jacob

So is bb..532 Kevin's Parkville HS Coach or his Dad Larry?

Neither, and not his summer coach, either.

If Kevin had played another year of legion ball instead of the showcase experience that was afforded him, he might have ended up at MD or Towson. Instead he's one of the reasons that GT is the pre-season ACC #1.

That's probably why MD used to be good back in the day. They got good in-state and neighbor-state talent because kids weren't otherwise exposed to higher profile programs.

Also, one of the reasons that quality of northeast college baseball is on the decline is a huge part of this change in travel baseball. Good players are getting exposure and heading south to ACC, SEC, SoCon, Sunbelt and a boat load of top notch D2 programs.

Schools that get to watch these kids in showcase, particularly in the fall, have a chance to make their case, and it's rather compelling compared to many of the alternatives.

BTW, Jacobs was named the top prospect from the Alaska League last summer.
My comments are not intended as a slight to Md (I understand that the Terps are on solid footing now and that the coach is a real dynamo)or Towson (Coach Gottlieb did a great job last year with the injuries that the Tigers sustained).

It's simply that the travel/showcase deal has had repercussions that extend beyond the summer in which the games are played and are influencing the highest levels of amateur baseball.
From a tournament hosts perspective, we see mostly "showcase" or "travel" teams attending our events during the summer and fall but that has not put out all legion ball programs from attending events that are hosted around the country. My personal opinion is that the travel ball and showcase event atmosphere has drastically improved the opportunity for student athletes to get recognized and seen by scouts and coaches looking for the right players. For the most part, the competition level is better at these events than in a league atmosphere as well. Don't forget that there are still quite a few of these select teams that are in leagues that play mid-week games on Tuesday's/Wednesday's through out the summer. Because of that and the tournaments/events over the weekends (which are typically Thursday/Friday-Sunday) I can't believe that today's players are not getting enough game or practice time in on the fields.

Indoor instructional facilities, too, are popping up all over the place for players and coaches to use in order to host practices or hitting/pitching sessions through out the year. With high school baseball taking place, in most states, from March through the end of May (and in to June here in the frigid Midwest) and no more than a few days break before your travel teams first tournament in late May or early June which in return extends in to August at which point showcase/camp events begin taking place before Fall ball starts up and lasts through the end of October when the best event of the year (Perfect Game WWBA) final concludes the travel ball scene ::insert breath here:: again, I see there being more than enough time on the field and at events where players are in deed getting coached and honing skills.

Finally, to stop the rambling, I simply think that the travel ball scene continues to open the opportunity of playing the greatest game in the world to everyone. The difference now is that teams travel to be seen by more coaches within the region that may not have been coming to league games before, players and teams are getting experience competing on college and minor league facilities across the country at these events, and in return they are replacing OUR "building commoraderie with a group of guys over the course of a summer trying to win a league championship" with building camaraderie with a team while trying to win tournament events that bring in 30-200 teams from across the country while playing on college and/or spring training complexes while spending time with family and friends during the greatest traveling/vacation experiences of there childhood.

I enjoyed the sandlot ball I played when I started, loved the league championships my teams won, but nothing compared to the tournament championships we won while competing against teams and players from all over the country during events like this knowing that when the game was over we were in a different state this weekend and we got to experience a trip that we likely wouldn't have been able to if we were at home at the park. There are pros and cons both ways but I wouldn't change anything from the way I experienced the game.

::two cents::
I may be wrong, but it seems like 'back in the day' teams came together, practiced, played in (and usually won) whatever league they happened to play in....and then traveled out to play in regional or national tournaments. I think their are still a few teams that follow that sort of route.

However, more and more it seems that now the term 'travel or showcase team' is applied to teams that come together to simply to play in regional or national tournaments. In putting these teams together and taking them on the road, there is no doubt benefit to playing out of area teams. However, often sacrificed is the practice sessions where the game is learned. If the player doesn't happen to play for one of the better high school programs....where is he supposed to learn and develop?

I may be wrong in this, but it also seems to me that there are fewer and fewer good baseball coaches in their 20's and early 30's. Where are the great coaches of tomorrow being groomed? With fewer practices being held, where do the younger coaches get the opportunity to develop their coaching skills?
Obviously it is only a small percentage of those guys but I see a LOT of guys that fall in that age range that are trying to break in to the college coaching ranks. So those guys are now volunteer coaches for collegiate programs and may not have the time now to coach a team during the summer, other than maybe coaching a collegiate league team somewhere. These young guys are "volunteering" through out the year and look to the summer for money, they have to.
Coach May as well as yourselves, have reason to be concerned, in my opinion. Many of the kids I see at showcases, are showcasing they are not ready yet. My opinion is they should spend their money on good instruction, with quality baseball men, and get better....then showcase. By the way, the scout I broke in with many years ago, once told me you don't need a gun to tell if a kid can pitch....but if your not sure the hitters will let you know pretty quick......Larry Williams
When you go to a "Showcase" tourney and you see kids that do not know how to take a primary or scondary lead. Pitchers who have no idea how to hold a runner. Outfielders and infielders who have no idea how to run a cut play. Hitters who are overmatched by mid 80's velo and cant hit anything that breaks. Fielders who sit back on everything and have no idea how to actually field their posistion at the proper level. What are you supposed to think?

Kids that have not reached the level of ability in the game to warrant college coaches wanting to see them have no business playing in "Showcase" tourneys every weekend. They have this idea if they get out in front of enough coaches then someone is going to recruit them. They would be much better served working to become a player that is ready to be showcased instead of spending all that time and money hoping someone likes them.

Of course a couple of kids will get benefits from this. They will be the one or two kids with outstanding tools that stand out. But the majority are not going to get any benefit out of it. I am talking about younger kids that have not developed properly yet. JMO
I agree with you almost 100%.... Jim is a class guy who is a class of his own. George was one of the finest JuCo guys I have ever come across. I must disagree though after that. Not ever have I observed one person alter so many.. Might be a good guy ( though I would have personal issue to that fact) but have rarely seen a person run more people from a place... A extremely twisted sole to say the least

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