Skip to main content

Are showcases and select teams hurting baseball? It seems as if all the best players --- and --- the parent's baseball money are leaving small town USA and headed to the showcases and big towns. If a kid throws hard or swings a big bat he no longer plays his summers here. Pro-active and supportive parents no longer work on our fields. They redirect their time and MONEY to the showcases and the select teams. Small towns are left with no financial support and no strong players. Fan support wanes. Baseball gloves in Wal-Mart here are cheap imports made of plastic. Skateboard sales increase. Video games become the important pastime of our youth. A lot of time, effort, and money is being directed to youth sports but it going somewhere else. If all this flurry of activity improved the college game and the professional game I would not mention this but in reality the same players will play at the college level and the professional level if all the showcases and the select teams vanished. Hey I was one --- guilty as charged.
Original Post

Replies sorted oldest to newest

I, too, plead guilty.

I think many of the good players and parents leave b/c of the P.C. politics that seem to be taking over wRECk ball. Why put up with the krapp when there is a viable alternative to the local league. In educational terms, this is no difference than parents getting their children placed in AP classes or moving to a private school which may offer (in some cases), a better educational alternative.
In educational terms, this is no difference than parents getting their children placed in AP classes or moving to a private school which may offer (in some cases), a better educational alternative.

JT, I think you bring up a good point. Possibly the educational comparison rings true here. While a particular student may improve by taking AP courses or attending private school, the overall level of education has rapidly declined in the US. Could it be that those pro-active parents of the AP/private students care less about the "other" student's level of education and public schools in general and have taken their support to where their kids has gone? Why should I support increased taxes to pay for free lunches, new school busses, new books and new schools when I'm paying thousands in private school fees and driving my kids to class everyday?
When my son was "growing up" and playing baseball "it" was much more about the advancement of my son than it was about the advancement of baseball.
Last edited by Fungo
The advent of Elite teams in our area have helped. The teams have provided much needed superior coaching for those who want They wouldn't exist if there wasn't a demand or it. The cheapest teams are now $5000. plus up to $12000.
There are all kinds of levels that you can play at but it is hard for parents who can't aford the costs of these teams. Many of these teams are registered non profit organizations and some are for profit. This area is strong in hockey, s****r, rowing,lacrosse tennis basket ball and several other sports like golf. This has significantly reduced the guys playing BB. The cost and required dedication to BB has put a lot of kids on the side lines but the serious ones are still there. One friend only played Elite in his final year and got a very good D1 scholarship.
The advent of Elite teams in our area have helped. The teams have provided much needed superior coaching for those who want They wouldn't exist if there wasn't a demand or it. The cheapest teams are now $5000. plus up to $12000.

BHD, How in the world does this help the game of baseball? Has it increased participation, fans, enthusiasm for the game. What should a boy do if he can't scrape up $5,000.00 to play? Play video games, skateboard?
Last edited by Fungo
BHD, How in the world does this help the game of baseball? Has it increased participation, fans, enthusiasm for the game. What should a boy do if he can't scrape up $5,000.00 to play? Play video games, skateboard?

If a kid can play, the team finds a way to get them on. I have seen this a few times. Parents have no money, but kid is on the team. It is not my business so I don't ask how. I do not have a problem with it, even if some of my fees are allocated to help a few that can't afford it.

IMO Travel and showcasing has made the recruiting and drafting system more efficient. I have not heard of it making the game or players better at the college or pro level. I have heard HS coaches comment that the level of HS play is higher due to travel and fall ball.
Right on! Due to recent events my family is no longer as well off as we were a couple years ago. Now I have a 15 year old son who is fantastic at base ball but the only way it seems that I will be able to help him get ahead is by dropping a load of cash I can not afford to spend. Now I know why only the priviledged or the under-priviledged children seem to have a shot at a successful life. The privilged children's parents can afford what they need and the under-priviledged get financial help. Us middle classers get nothing! I resisted the showcase and elite teams for many years but finally gave in this year as I see the trend and know it is the only shot he has. We don't vacation now and do without more to be able to afford it. I would love to see us going back to how it all began and play for our communities.
Originally posted by Fungo:
The advent of Elite teams in our area have helped. The teams have provided much needed superior coaching for those who want They wouldn't exist if there wasn't a demand or it. The cheapest teams are now $5000. plus up to $12000.

BHD, How in the world does this help the game of baseball? Has it increased participation, fans, enthusiasm for the game. What should a boy do if he can't scrape up $5,000.00 to play? Play video games, skateboard?
Last edited by BBISME

Yep...a simple numbers game that threatens baseball from top to bottom....But no one cares..Have been bringing this up for years on the HSBBW and in other venues...without any response other than a sound and engergetic shoutdown.

I will take your post one step further...

..a great part of the sucess of baseball has been it's absolute and complete dominance of the numbers game at a youth level. For generations at least 80% of the male youth in nearly every community across this country embraced youth baseball as part of their community and their childhood. This insured that virtually every young man in America with athletic ability was introduced first to baseball. The result was that baseball to a great extent had "first pick". Not all athletes stayed but a large majority stayed with baseball offering it the best athletes and tying in the next generation of fans.

As community youth ball fades, there are two results. First,...the broad chain of baseball from son to father (whether they played at a high level or not)from community generation to generation is lost and youth baseball starts to look more like youth tennis...based more on the limited # who can pay and who can travel rather than who has the best atheltic ability.

The second result is s loss of fan base. This was nation that was raised and "built on baseball". It was the fabric of both communities and of families...and it carried on from generation to generation...building not only community support but a bulletproof fan base for MLB, from common folk, not just the families of high end players. No longer.

Now, I have no doubt that some/many players will benefit and develop much better given the new paradigm, but baseball will lose the numbers game which was it's biggest advantage both in terms of talent, and in terms of fan base. IMO, baseball lives large becasue it has such broad based appeal, baseball fans are families whose male memebrs played 4 years of yough ball, not just thsoe who starred in HS, college or beyond. Baseball prospers becasue until now it was the "first choice " of most every kid. No longer.

The argument that if we work the limited #'s harder and train them better ignores the natural bell curve of athletic ability. There are so many Nolan Ryans, and Sandy Kofax's out there, no matter how hard you try to create more. With all due respects Tim Licecum is a genetic anomolie, as much as he was his fathers "product".

IMO...Baseball is winning the battle (my kid) and losing the war (numbers game)...

Last edited by observer44
Are showcases and select teams hurting baseball?

I might have to answer this one with a yes (nice job bringing this up Fungo)
The biggest problem that I see right now is that the main, if not only, goal of many players and parents is exposure. Teams and coaches are being judged more by their perceived ability to "place" players than their ability to teach the game.(note: I think the term "placement" is not only way overused, but even somewhat insulting to one's intelligence)
What it boils down to is this. There isn't anything wrong with exposure, but if that's what you are looking for, you'd better have something worth exposing(that sounded bad huh Red Face )
I see too many players who are so focused on being seen that they forget to become players worth seeing.
Last edited by rbinaz
Originally posted by TripleDad: If a kid can play, the team finds a way to get them on. I have seen this a few times….

Fortunately, that does happen, but not on what I’d call a routine or normal basis, and certainly not to the point where the majority of players needing the help but not getting it don’t fall through the cracks.

What are some of the reasons a “club” team would pick up the tab for a player. Would anything change if there was a reliable way to determine how a player would develop?
I must say that this thread is very good and very depressing. It ties into other threads about the importance of showcasing and travel and it is making me a bit depressed. With the cost of travel ball and showcasing being as huge as it is, what is going to happen to the good/not great players who can't afford to go?

If you are the second coming of Roberto Clemente it won't matter where you play. But what if you are the second coming of Augie Ojeda? Would you even get a look now if you didn't showcase?
What I have seen over the ;ast 20 years has been unbelieveable. Elit teams firts hit the scene about 20 years ago in our area. We had organizations with 6000 kids registered with Ontario BB Assoc. It was mainly voluteer and still is. It was not always great ball and coaching depending on where you lived. However it did provide good competition and some very good training. Elite teams came along and depleted those teams as far as top players. They provided at a fee professional coaching and training. This was way suppirior to the general OBS teams
Why I say it is better. Well there are options for all levels of players that exist right through to senior ball. There are 3 senior leagues in my area that offer 3 levels of play . The top one is at thye highest level and provides ex college/pros and current college players a place to play. It is as exciting as any ball I have seen. A night at Christie Pits in Toronto during play offs is better than any pro game. Where can yo see players like Paul Spaljeric (Jays) chase a guy around the bases after he hailed his HR . He chased the guy step for step around the bases screaming at him all the way. It cost nothing to watch it and it was also televised.
So now we have 3 excellent senior leagues. We also have rec ball, OBA city teams, distric all star teams and a large HS venue. This was never available before. Yes the numbers overall are down but BB has flourished. With some marketing the OBA has had numbers increase and it just took a little effort. Can't sit back and exspect things to happen. (Sounds kind of familiar). Some parents made up sheets and handed them out to schools and BB membership rose. Also the OBA which watch their numbers erode got smart and instead of resisting the Elite proliferation started to cooperate with them. They even got the Ontario Youth Team to the top of Canadian BB again.
I also had some life changes in 2000 due to diabetes and sudden loss of vision. No longer making the big six figure income but still had 6 figure expenses. In 2000 my son made the Team Ontario which at the time was the rep team for the province and I had to tell him he couldn't play for them. I also had to cut deals every where he played so I know only too well how expensive it was. We managed and believe me it was hard on us. We had no money saved for college because I had kids to raise. My son had to get a big scholarship because we are out of state and are actually foreigners. We didn't attend any show cases other than one put on by his team and we already had several offers based on self promotion. My son understood and I told himright up front.
We were Elite team tryout junkies attending tryout for several Elite teams. They used to be free and would last several days. We learned more from those than anything. Some held 15 tryouts and we attended most of them. MLB players and coaches in attendance. The tryouts were better than the team workouts because they were trying to sell their program. Most tryouts had over 100 players in attendance and they were a blast He got used to competing and meeting people he didn't know and I credit his success with his ability to mingle. When you do this and play agianst the best players even ex pro and current college players from 15yo you know who you are and what you can do.
I can't say enough about how great BB is in our area and I believe it is due to the Elite ball and the fact that there are ball players who can play after their careers are over.
BB was so restricted before and there was no future beyond 19yo unless you played college or pro.
Not everyone is an Elite player and they have to face it at some point. Not every player on an Elite team is an Elite player but at least they have a place to play if they still love the game.
Our senior teams are expanding and that is a result of the supply of great ball players in the area.

I am not against travel or showcaseing per se...they have their place...exposure and competition are important as players develop...But I do believe that it is not only shortsighted but potentially disasterious to the baseball community as a whole not to do everything in it's power to keep community leagues in place and prospering...offering exposure to the game and churning out large numbers of players and future least for a portion of the year.

Interesting that that while many discount the danger...MLB is putting money into the inner city, trying to regrow the game there where it has been lost to a great extent...Maybe it's just mainly PR but I think they understand that the loss of community leagues there (while not the result of Showcasing or travel) has hurt their ability to both find talent and connect with a historic fan base...

Cool 44
A lot depends on the showcase/tournament team you are playing on and how they handle the exposure aspect

This weekend, dead time for Division I , we are in a tournament where we have advised the kids to touch base with schools they have an interest in that region---in return we are getting phone calls regarding asking and when they will be pitching/playing etc as well as discussing the players ability et al

I do not know what other similar teams do but I know what we do--perhaps that is why our track record is what it is

I do not think the progress has hurt baseball in the least--I think the tournament scene has made it easier for college coaches to see kids--thyey are all in one venue
Baseball is flourishing. MLB games are often sold out and even better attendance is found each year at milb. They provide entertainment and a "cheap" night out for the whole family. College baseball is more popular than ever. More and more baseball discussion boards than I have ever seen. More and more books, videos, all kinds of equimpment to make you a better player. Young players taking to the gym, more dads with radar guns at the field. Smile

I see more and more travel teams holding out the helmet at Walamrt, Target and large grocery chains for travel to destinations to Cooperstown, Steamboat Springs, Disney tournies. Rec ball does not provide these options, and these are great venues for young players to experience, IMO.

I come from an average middle class neighborhood of hard working folks who want the best for their kids, just like everyone else, most likely spending more for travel ball all over the country than needed for their players age just to keep up with what the neighbors kids are doing.

Yet local recreational community ball is dying, I am not sure if it is the quest for better competition or a better quest to follow the dream. I do beleive that travel ball, showcases have their purpose, but for our youth, nothing wrong with staying close to home and enjoying playing the game in the neighborhood.
One other thing, I did read somewhere that the scouts felt that 2009 would be a down year in talent (HS) for the draft. I don't know if that was true, but how can that be with so many kids now playing elite travel ball, or has it actually become watered down talent, or maybe tired, hurt, etc.
Originally posted by rbinaz:
The biggest problem that I see right now is that the main, if not only, goal of many players and parents is exposure.

They do so at their own risk. I can name quite a few players whose parents sunk a lot of money into "exposure" events only to lose focus on the best bang for the buck: Specific training to improve the player's game. One kid I recommended to attend the PG Northwest showcase gets clocked sub-70. I had no idea. Those parents should have had their kid get a qualified pitching instructor and work out more to gain velocity. What is the point of showcasing a sub-70 fastball?

A player should play at the highest level he can afford.. within reason. What is the marginal benefit of playing for an "elite" team for $5,000 or a "super-elite" team for $20,000? Not much, and I'd say the $15,000 difference would have been more wisely spent on specific training and a few PG showcases.. and I'd still have nearly 10k left over.
Parents should focus their player's efforts on physical and specfic training, and when he has an elite talent (or projected elite talent) only then should "showcase" that kid. Then put the kid on an affordable travel team that competes against quality teams. Don't necessarily have to be on the best team.
Good points but...I know of a player who as a HS player made headlines in his small town. The parent was definetly convinced that he was top D1 material.
Attended one showcase, he didn't fair well compared to others of his age group. The parent then realized that their son's talent is what it was, and that he would be at best a lower tier D1 player or best chances to go to JUCO to improve. I think that helped to save lots of money by keeping it simple.
Sometimes it's just good to have your son evaluated by those that don't see things the way you do, even with great stats.
If a player showcases and throws 70's, that should help the player and his parents to define where he needs improvement or open their eyes to save money before they spend it. JMO.
My dad played baseball. He signed me up to play baseball. I signed my son up to play baseball.

When I was the commissioner of the 7/8 rec baseball league I told some over the top parents to relax since from the ages of 7-12 we are more likely to develop baseball fans than high school baseball players.

What happens to interest in baseball with the next generation where far fewer dads (our kid's generation) played spring s****r or lacrosse and summer s****r, lacrosse or basketball rather than baseball? Will they sign their kids up for baseball? Probably not. Will these kids be fans if they never have a taste of the game? Probably not.
Last edited by RJM
I have pushed travel/elite ball, showcases, etc as hard as anybody on here. But I will agree there are a lot of parents out there who need to play rec/local/community ball. People where I live say you think your kids are it. I tell them we have been (Out there) tournaments around the U.S. I know where my kids fit in the whole scheme of things. I watched a 12 year old put 7 of 10 pitches in the stands at the Devil Rays stadium (now known as Rays) in a home run derby. I have seen 8 year olds hit 250 foot home runs.
There are those who need it but as many have said there are those who don't. But for those who do, it is the place they need to be. Kids need to be pushed to compete against equal or better competition. To beat up on the rec ball teams and throw no hitters or hit home runs (Or worse get walked every time they come up so they won't hit the home runs) is not good for anyone, the kid on top or the kid on the bottom and neither ones parents.
Showcases and elite ball is good for the player that needs to be showcased and the elite players. The problem is many parents have bought into this idea that they can put their rec player on an elite team and they will become elite or they can showcase their rec player and he will become a showcase player. Money can't buy talent but it could be used to develop talent. I agree that many need to spend their money on good teaching not the showcases and elite.
My middle child is a good player. We have been very selective on the money we have spent since we are the middle class family with three players. I believe many of the individual showcases are a waste of time and money. Our vacations are baseball and always have been. But we have become creative in these vacations and will never forget them. It is a question of what is important to you.
Showcases and elite ball is good for the player that needs to be showcased and the elite players. The problem is many parents have bought into this idea that they can put their rec player on an elite team and they will become elite or they can showcase their rec player and he will become a showcase player. Money can't buy talent but it could be used to develop talent. I agree that many need to spend their money on good teaching not the showcases and elite.

Why do we just focus on the INDIVIDUAL players and IGNORE baseball?
I believe it is good for baseball. High school and rec ball is the community stuff. For me as a fan, I like to see the best play. I don't enjoy the LLWS because it is not good baseball, in my opinion. I enjoy watching the best players play the best baseball. I can't stand to go see a t-ball game, it is a travesty to the game. What is good for baseball is producing a good product.
I know some will disagree. The higher the level is suppose to be the more I like to watch it. I will not watch a bad football, basketball, or baseball game. I don't think more players playing is good for the game. I believe having the players that play better is good for the game.
When was the last time you saw people go to a rec game just to watch the game. They go to see the players they know and laugh at them or cheer for them.

There are no simple answers to this question.
After 25 years of International Baseball [8,000
players], 18 years with the Area Code Baseball
and coaching SSU and one of the first travel teams in Northern California, I can only offer the following questions for the players and parents to ask the Travel Team coach or promoter and the Showcase Director.

1. What will you teach me?
2. Do you have scholarships?
3. What is the background of the Coaches and Director?
4. Names of college coaches and pro scouts who watch the games or "showcase".
5. Do you have training sessions between games.
6. Do you teach defense?
7. Have you [coach] read "Nines Sides of the Diamond", "Living on the Black"and "Pure Baseball"?
8.Do you have a personal contact with a college coach?
9. Will you provide a preliminary evaluation of my tools before I sign up?
10. Will you involve my parents in your teaching?

Please have the player not parent ask the questions by phone, e-mail or in person.

Bob Williams
I think it is important to have grass roots players in the rec and lower level ball. The more you have playing T Ball/coach pitch the more chance you have of inspiring a great ball player if that is your goal.
The best players will emerge from good grass root teams and go on to seek higher levels of coaching and competition. Many kids never get a chance to experience BB so they may never play.
Our local organizations are attempting to get more kids into Rookie ball/T Ball inorder to supply the next generation of elite players. BB is a game of development.
We have all seen the guy who shows great potential only to drop out at midget of sooner. Many of the local OBA teams could not field a team for a couple years because there were no good players moving up and most good players played elite. At one time most local orgs would not let elite players play with their team. It was one or the other. Now they have smartened up and permit them to play both. It took a few years for them to see the writing on the wall. Co exist or fold. My son's local team always allowed him to play. Some of the teams have bounced back and are now very competetive. The high cost of elite ball has driven some back to the local teams. They have also tried to get better coaching and formed relationships with MLB teams.
There are lots of guys who don't have the ability to play beyond HS but they still love to play. I think that it is very important to have venues for them.
I am very pleased to see what is taking place locally and BB is much better off for it. I do attend games that are not as great as I like but I enjoy watching former friends of my son still enjoying the game. I get asked all the time why I am at a certain game and I tell them I love seeing guys I have know still smiling and enjoying the action.
Playing and decent coaching are the main things. The Waipio team that won the LL world series was a rec ball team that had to beat some very good travel teams along the way. The quality of their coaching was shown by their ability to get better as the tournament went on-getting no hits but winning against Northern Ca, hitting better as the tournament went on, beating Nevada after losing badly to them, coming back against Louisiana. Waipio is a small town with a population of about 12,000 and its rec ball or nothing in Hawaii. The TV announcers were constantly talking about how the teams from Nevada, Florida and Louisiana had been playing travel ball but in the end Waipio was the champion.
"to beat up on rec ball teams ..... is not good for anyone."

I'm sure there are plenty of posters on this board with my background. Travel ball did not exist when I played. I played LL and BR. I beat up on the opposition. I pitched a lot of no-hitters. I hit a lot of homers. The closest thing to travel quality ball was Legion in high school. I played college ball. The bottom line was I had the talent to play the game.

If travel ball didn't exist now and kids play BR ball (or equivilant) through age fifteen, they would still have the talent they have. What ruined rec ball at the middle school ages is the entitlement everyone has to make the team. When I played we had to make teams. Today rec ball needs a separate level for teens who can't hit, field, and throw yet want to play the game. These weak players are why my son and players of his skill level play travel after LL.
If travel ball didn't exist now and kids play BR ball (or equivilant) through age fifteen, they would still have the talent they have. What ruined rec ball at the middle school ages is the entitlement everyone has to make the team. When I played we had to make teams. Today rec ball needs a separate level for teens who can't hit, field, and throw yet want to play the game. These weak players are why my son and players of his skill level play travel after LL.

Excellent point, RJM.
The high investment/cost of participation is not exclusive to just baseball. Just talk to any competitive hockey, s****r, lacrosse, basketball, tennis or golf family and you might find that showcases and travel baseball is a bargain compared to the cost of playing other sports. I was amazed at what some families paid per year for their teenager to play on the junior golf circuit in California. My daughter used to be in competitive dance… now there is a money pit. Smile

I am not so sure that travel and showcases are hurting baseball as much as other sports have become popular and are drawing kids away from baseball, especially at the youth levels. I find that most boys that quit rec league baseball move on to play lacrosse, s****r, tennis and golf. Not because they went to a travel baseball team.

Travel ball is just as prevalent where I live as anywhere else however for the last few years our rec baseball league participation has been at all time highs. When you consider that our small town has over 900 boys in our rec program, I bet there are less than 2% to 5% of players that have opted out of rec ball to only play travel ball. If anything, it is the rec league boards’ members that are forcing players from being allowed to play on rec teams if they also play on a travel team.

After the 12 yo season we all know that we lose many players from rec leagues for a multitude of reasons however I don’t think the majority quit because they are showcasing or on an elite travel team. Even when I look at the middle school and high school teams I would say less than 50% of those boys play travel or do showcases (HS age players). Maybe our area is different but I don’t see how travel teams and showcases are hurting baseball. Now if you want to talk about the quality of rec vs. travel that’s a whole different discussion.

As TPM mentioned, baseball seems to be at an all-time high with popularity and attendance at the college and professional ranks. So are showcases and travel really hurting the game or do some just wish it would go back to the “old days” when rec and legion was the only option available? I for one don’t know that it is better or worse, just different. I think most of us on this message board are probably part of that 2% to 5% that make a commitment to our sons to pursue baseball at higher levels so it makes sense to me that we might sometimes think that what our families are doing is the norm. Obviously that’s not the case.
Last edited by jerseydad
In my community there is one rec league. They have teams from 5-6 7-8 9-10 11-12 13-15 16-18. There are around 400 kids that play in this rec league in any given year. All of these players attend the same Middle School and High School.

The 5-5 7-8 9-10 11-12 leagues are full every year. The 13-15 and 16-18 struggle to have 5 teams each year. The league has around 400 kids playing in it each year. Each year we have around 10-15 freshman come out for baseball. I do not believe these guys leave the game because of travel ball. They leave the game because they move on to other things that are just more fun to them.

When they get to HS for the first time in many of their lives they have to compete to make the team. Many have never had to compete for a jersey in anything in their life. Some have never had to compete for anything in their life. They are told that they can not miss a practice and they have to be on time. They are on the field with players that are so much better than them it is intimidating to say the least. They bring a rec ball mentality to the ball field around serious baseball guys and it just does not mix. You already know what can happen to these guys when they find themselves in this type of situation.

Players move on. Some love it , breathe it , sleep it and want to be the best they can be. Some just want to play some ball if its "FUN" and then move on to something else. And some are not going to put any work into a "game". Add in Cars , Girls and all the other things that are coming into their focus at these ages.

Travel baseball started because some peoples kids wanted more than the local rec league afforded. Some wanted to get better coaching than the local rec league afforded. Some wanted to compete at a higher level than the local league afforded them. Some kids get frustrated by not having but one practice a week for one hour and half that time is taken up in the parking lot walking up to the field and half the kids dont even show up.

I know one thing alot of people are spending a whole lot more than I ever had to spend on showcase baseball. The cost was 500.00 if you made the team. The tourneys were all in state except for East Cobb and Jupiter. Instead of going to the coast or the lake for vacations we just did baseball because thats what our kids wanted to do. We sacrificed some things to allow our kids to have some things they wanted to do. The other kids did as well. Instead of working at baseball and being good at it they decided they would rather hang out with friends , go to the lake , go to the coast , have a ATV etc etc. My kids got new bats and new gloves. Their friends got ATV's and fancy clothes.

If the local league does not provide for your son what he is looking for in the game and then a parent decides to go find it for him I dont have any problem with it. No more than I would have a problem with a kid moving from a public HS to a private HS to get a better education if that school did in fact provide a better education.

I tried the local league thing. I just got tired of kids that did not want to practice. Showed up late for practice and then the parents got mad when you said something to them. "We dont want to burn him out. After all coach its just a game. And we have other things in our life we do." Yeah I know its tough to make a practice each week. And I got tired of the better players being penalized for being better. The hard throwers strike zone was legit. The kid that couldnt get it to the plates strike zone was huge. On and on I could give examples of why some people move on.

I believe that if your son is a kid that is very competitive and really loves the game you need to get him in an environment with like minded players. If he is better its probaly because when he is at home he is wanting to throw , catch and hit and someone is taking the time to do it with him. When you put these kids in a league with players that are bored by the game , dont want to practice , can not catch or throw it just doesnt mix. It does not hurt the kids that can not play and do not have the desire to get better. It hurts the ones that do.

The best thing imo you can do as a parent if your child wants to be the best he can be and loves the game is get him around coaches that want to teach and love the game. And get him around players that feel like him about the game. If not he will not have any fun. And he will be frustrated. And I do not believe he will reach his full potential.

When people say "If he had played rec ball he would have still been the player he is today." How do you know? I believe you are wrong. Why? Because the players that I have had in HS over the years that have been my best players and my players to get scholleys have been the ones that got very good coaching before they got to hs. They were the ones that played at a high level before coming to hs. The other ones were playing catch up for four years. When you are used to hitting legit pitching and facing legit hitters all the way up to HS you are not overwhelmed by the competition.

I have guys that are out classed by 75 mph fastballs in JV games. Then I have guys that it is just plain meat to them. On and on I could go. Rec Ball is the problem not the players who seek out the best baseball. The fact is there are two types of players. Rec Ball minded players and players that want to compete , learn and be the best they can be. The fact is they do not mix. And they never will.

Are there guys that have played rec ball and moved on to being great baseball players? Of course there are. The thing is they are few and far between. And they will continue to be few and far between. The the gap will continue to widen. It does not take any money to get out in the yard and work at the game. It does not take any money to get better at baseball. It takes a desire and a work ethic. That can not be bought. The thing is the players that are giving up their weekends and sacrificing to play travel ball are the ones with the desire and work ethic.

It kills me when I hear someone say "We just can not afford to do it its just too expensive." Yeah but that Lexus sure is nice. And that ATV sure is nice. How was your vacation at the coast? And man that sure is a nice car you just bought your son. Wow those rims are killer dude. Nice stero system Jimmy! Yeah its just too expensive when its really not that important.

My rooms are free when I travel. My meals are too. I make sure any kid that can not truly afford to play in fact plays. They stay with me. I hook them up with what they need. I find someone to give up some cash for the ones that need it. No one is going to be turned down. If you want something you can find a way to get it. The fact is parents will do what they have to do if its important enough to their kids. Could it be its just not important enough to the kid? Too many excuses for me.

My son cut grass during the summer to pay his way to every PG event he ever went to. He weed eated and put up hay for the neighbors. I have not cut the grass in years. No you want it find a way to make it happen. I tell all my players if you want to go call me. You want to go to a showcase and Pops wont foot the bill what are you doing to pay for it? You can get those CD's right? You can take that sweety on that date right? You can pay for that prom right? No , cut the BS son you dont want it bad enough.

I know many here will say "Coach May is a nut." Well I am. But I keep it real. All I know is a person that really wants something will find a way to make it happen. And when people see that he is doing everything he can do to make it happen they will step in and help him make it happen.

The problem today is people want someone to give it to them. Rec ball players are doing exactly what they want to do. Other players are going to do what they have to do.

OK Im done. Bash the hel out of me. I can take it. It will not be the first or the last time thats for sure.
This is obviously a hard topic for us. We are "deeply" involved in both showcases and "travel" baseball. So I guess people would say we would be partial and discount what we might say.

Our main mission has been (from day one) to promote baseball at all levels to the best of our ability.

We should have gone bankrupt each day during the first 5 or 6 years we were in existance. What kept us going was the thought that we were helping a lot of young kids. If we were in the hardware business we would have been gone the first year. You see, believe it or not, it really never was about money.

I have seen many great advances in amateur baseball over the last 15 years. Just the other day we saw 5 kids playing in the Major Leagues who were all on the same team in our Iowa Wood Bat League while in high school. Jeff Clement, Ryan Sweeney, Joel Hanrahan, Matt Macri and Brad Nelson. That might not be so unusual in California, Florida or Texas, but it's unbelievable for Iowa! 15 years ago there wasn't much more than 5 players from Iowa in the Minor Leagues.

The one bad thing that has happened is that Legion Baseball has suffered some from the travel ball popularity. The best players in some areas are going to travel vs legion.

Several years ago before we started WWBA and BCS we went to Indianapolis to talk to Jim at Legion Headquarters. Our suggestion was for Legion to go to wood bats and we would become the Legions Scouting Department, getting their players as much recognition as possible. Jim (the president) was all for it, but the board wanted us to pay them in order to become their Scouting Department. So we started our own Wood Bat Association (WWBA). I was an old Legion guy, I love that program. It's still very popular in some areas.

I actually see more popularity in amateur baseball than ever before. Just in the past year we've been contacted by several people who are planning to build big, new complexes. The number of indoor facilities in northern states is growing fast. More and more kids are having fun taking baseball serious.

The LLWS, along with all the new televised events for amateurs is at an all time high. College baseball is more popular than ever. Minor Lrague baseball is more popular than ever. MLB is breaking attendance records. High schools are building new fields or fixing up their old ones. There's sites like this one to help educate people. I think baseball is making a big comeback and is better than ever.

On the negative side, and I think we are partly responsible, it seems like every Tom, Dick and Harry see easy money and start their own showcases, tournaments or recruiting services. The ones who are legitimate understand that there is no easy money if it's done right! Those in it for just the money, get out when the money doesn't add up.

If I thought what we were doing was ruining baseball, I would quit in a heart beat!
Great post Coach May,

I agree the two do not mix. When they are 5-6 7-8, even 9-10 they can mix. By the time my son was eight years old he was frustrated with a kid who couldnt catch a routine fly in the outfield. He would go out with my husband every weekend and take grounders and fly balls.
When my son was 10 he wanted to go up to majors. that was normally 11-12. Anyway he was drafted by his best friends dad. The first day of practice my son asked the coach if he could try out for 2nd base. he did and coach told him your not ready at this level to play 2nd. The dad smashed balls at him because first he was his sons best friend and he wanted my son who was youngest on the team to understand the work required.
So for the next two weeks on top of his three day a week practices we took him out every night and worked on grounders for hours. he had bumps and some bruises from misjudged hops etc. I played the infield as a young girl in softball I myself taught him(no Money involved at that point) every day Saturday and Sunday we went he begged us.
So 2 weeks later he goes to the coach who is still trying to find his 2nd basemen for the year.My son took grounders, the coach was stunned, he stopped the practice for a minute and said to the team I now want to introduce our second basemen.He played there all year, started and did very well. some of the 12 year old parents were ticked because it was their sons last year in majors , their kid deserved a shot, well they had their shot, they couldnt beat out our son. ANyway the point I am trying to reiterate is rec ball players for the most part dont put in that extra work. they dont eat, live and breathe baseball.
I am totally in favor of LL, rec ball for some boys but when you hit about 11-12 and you want to really excel its time to move on. It is too hard to try and coach kids who half the time forget their hat and glove, who are there because they need exercise, at some point the two do not mix.
There are players like a lot of our sons who work hard and always have. The more competitive ball they play , the better the competition the better they learn what it will take to continue to be competitive.
It becomes a job at some point. a job they love but none the less there is a lot to work on in baseball, always to be better, stronger, quicker etc. There is not a parent that can force this on any kid. the kid most of the time drives the parent into competitive baseball.
When I watched the Olympics I knew that each of the athletes representing America had all received excellent coaching, the latest training techniques and equipment for years to achieve at the highest level. Do you feel sorry for the youth shotputters, fencers, gymnasts, swimmers, and runners who will never make it that far? How about the BMX competition? Gee I rode a bike too!

Rather than sayig baseball is "ruined" how about "changed" ? Compare it to other youth sports. Basketball has changed because of youth and AAU leagues with big shoe sponsors as well as showcases. S****r and hockey have changed because of travel teams which offer superior play and coaching as well. Young tennis players attend academies and travel with personal coaches and trainers.

There is no doubt that Babe Ruth baseball has suffered as a result of travel ball, and that playing elite baseball is more expensive. Has it created a more efficient 'weeding out" process, or just cut off the chance of many kids to play? Both things seem to be true. Look at Latin American countries. Kids are taken out of school as young teenagers and sent to baseball academies to concentrate on the development of their game. Is that preferable? They clearly do NOT have a philosophy of everyone getting a chance to play as we do here in the United States. Perhaps that is the basis of the initial complaint in this thread.

It seems to me the losers in the process are the Rec league players as well as inner city youth who otherwise would have got a chance to develop their games and/or say they once played with a major leaguer.
I am with coach May on this one.
When son was 7 we decided against LL for Khoury (which was the local rec ball the next town over), where he could pitch at that age, it worked well for us as we felt it was more competitive, liked the rules and he could learn more.
At 10, some coaches came up with a plan to have some of the more talented players stay within the league yet play better competition. So we became a travel team in a rec league, and that meant traveling to the next towns to play the best of their rec league. We did this for years and it worked out great. We still traveled to local tournies and occassionally an out of towner somewhere in Florida, but remained part of the league, paid our fees, and did the snack bar, just like everyone else. We left when son was 13 going on 14, the time we felt it was time to move on from that leagues politics until he reached HS (two years) and joined a new league that was formed in the next county but not far away. Our travel was all local, there were many leagues and teams to play against. I liked it because it also gave son an opportunity to do other things, and costs for baseball were minimal.
So essentially my son would be considered a "rec" player until he was 13 going on 14, and he made out fine.
I am not sure of the status these days of the recreational leagues in our area, but I suppose they are still in business, not everyone can afford expensive travel teams when their kids are 8,9,10, etc.
This is a very interesting "food for thought" topic.

My initial reaction/answer to the question might be a little "politically incorrect", so I sat on it a bit before posting, but here goes:

I think we can all agree that far more young baseball players end up watching MLB games than playing MLB, or for that matter, any baseball beyond HS.

Now, think about the roster of your favorite MLB team. How many players were born in this country (or in North America--for BHD's sake, I'll include Canada)? Probably the majority of your team's players were born in the U.S., but there is a growing percentage of foreign-born MLB players.

I definitely don't object to players from other countries on the roster of my favorite team, the Twins. I love to watch Carlos "Go-Go" Gomez (Dominican Republic) speed across the field to catch an uncatchable fly ball, or zip along the base paths, beating out the throw. And I'm excited about Francisco Liriano (also from DR) returning to the mound after surgery. But I also feel connected to "my team" because of hometown heros like Joe Mauer or up-and-coming pitcher Glen Perkins, both from Minnesota. Ten years from now, I still want to see a strong mix of American-born players on my MLB team.

But just as foreign students are pushing young people in the U.S. to keep up in math and science or risk losing their future jobs...foreign players are working hard for the opportunity to play professional baseball in the U.S. I think that youngsters in this country have to keep seeking the best competition and good coaching in baseball, or risk having no chance to compete at the highest levels. Most of us will be sitting at the ballpark or in front of the TV watching MLB baseball, not playing. But if my grandchildren watch the game and dream of playing on that stage, I'll be all in favor of helping them seek the best opportunities and competition in pursuit of that dream.


P.S. I do apologize if I've said this in an incorrect way. I have no objection to seeing the best foreign-born players compete for spots on U.S. teams in any pro sport. And personally I work very closely with many professionals from other countries (computer/Web industry), and my work life is enriched by their different backgrounds, stories of their home countries, their interesting accents, and their friendship. But in baseball as in business, I think that U.S. born children who want to compete at the highest level need to work very hard to remain competitive.

Add Reply

Link copied to your clipboard.