With all of the recent posts, I thought I would chime in with my experiences in my son's journey.
Mine started playing organized "coach pitch" at 8 years old. When he was 8 or 9, a coach asked me to allow him to play for his travel team. I initially said no, because he was only 8 and I wanted it to be just fun. Same coach asked me again when he was 10. This time I allowed him to do it, and it was a disaster. Wrong type of coach, and my son was just not ready for that pace of tournament play and competition. I put him back in local league play and the smile returned.
When he turned 11, HE asked to return to travel ball. This time, I carefully researched a team and coach, sent him to the tryout and away he went. This time, he thrived. Throughout the years, I saw good teams, bad teams, and good and bad coaches. I strongly believe that the quality of coaching and competition that he received throughout travel ball best prepared him for high school. I don't think he would be the player that he is today (now a Varsity player) if he just played local rec ball. One of the things that the HS coach raved about was his "baseball smarts" and that he KNEW HOW TO PLAY. I credit travel ball for this. He has also done his fair share of clinics and private lessons. Private lessons are just that. They tweek and enhance what is there, but nothing replaces natural ability, desire and real game experience. So, for a pre-high school player, I would highly recommend the travel route PROVIDED you do your research and pick the right coach and team. Once he gets to HS tryouts, the coach could care less how many AAU/USSSA/etc tournaments that he won. He will care about how he can help his team win, and does he KNOW HOW TO PLAY THE GAME.
Be wary of the private lesson stuff. Remember, that former minor league or college player is looking for income. If he tells you the truth, you won't bring junior back. There are however, former players who will give you an honest evaluation good or bad. Find that guy and use the lessons as an additional tool, not a replacement for practice or real games. Same with clinics. I know a parent who has spent thousands of dollars on private lessons for her son. He has yet to crack the Varsity squad. Why? Because she confused private lessons with valuable real game experience against the best competition you can find. It's easy to look great in a lesson, but no one is swinging at your pitches.
Finally, don't get wrapped up into the whole showcase and "exposure" stuff. College coaches are not interested in players 4 or 5 years away. Showcase what at 10, 11 or 12 years old? Something that MIGHT BE, in a few years? Just have him play, play, play and get valuable experience. Better still, have him learn and play as many positions as possible. Most guys who played SS during travel ball don't even play there now, so don't get wrapped up into the coaches kid playing there. Daddy ball has been with us for generations and is not going anywhere. Also, you don't have to go to Myrtle Beach, Disney, or the Super Mother of End All Nationals each year for him to make his high school team. Keep it realistic and keep it fun and do your research. Remember, it should be HIS dream, not yours. Hope this helps.